Linda: In Eli Finkel’s book The All or Nothing Marriage, he gives us background starting with the founding of our country until 1850, where the dominant form was the PRAGMATIC MARRIAGE designed to help spouses meet basic survival needs. In 1850, the Industrial Revolution relieved couples struggle to meet basic survival needs, so from 1850 to 1965, the LOVE BASED MARRIAGE was dominant, where love was the basis for a fulfilling marriage. Since 1965, we are firmly planted in what Finkel refers to as the SELF-EXPRESSIVE MARRIAGE. When I teach my classes, I refer to the latest model of marriage as the PERSONAL GROWTH MARRIAGE, which includes self-expression, but also includes healing from past traumas, addressing intimacy needs, creativity, purpose, meaning, and contribution.
Abraham Maslow defines self-actualization as the realization or fulfillment of one’s talents and potentialities, which is a drive and need present in everyone. As more and more people grasp the concept that personal growth is possible for them, the self-help industry is exploding. More people are purchasing therapy and growth-oriented workshop and making self-actualization a central component of their lifestyle.
The explosion was fueled by a number of occurrences. When the birth control pill became available in 1961, it marked the launch of the sexual revolution. The Feminist movement sent women into the workplace in massive numbers. The Civil Rights movement brought attention and focus to individual rights. Large numbers of people began quests to find meaning by investigating their inner life. Individuals who were passionate about self-discovery naturally gravitated to partners with similar areas of interest and that’s when personal growth marriages were born. Their contracts with each other are to help each other to evolve into who they can become. Healing, growth, authenticity, and self-actualization are their mutual goals.
It was Abraham Maslow too, who eloquently described the hierarchy of needs that have to be met before we can attain self-actualization. Level one is our most basic needs are physical (air, food, water, and shelter). Once we are secure, we can move on to level two that is safety (physical and psychological safety, economic security, predictability, and a sense of control). Level three is the need for love and belonging (friendship, to love others, and be loved by others to trust and romantic love including sexual intimacy). Level four is Esteem, both self-esteem, and esteem from others, (self-respect and a sense of mastery). Level five is the highest level attainable: self-actualization (composed of autonomy, spontaneity, self-expression, meaning, purpose, and developing our signature strengths).
Eli Finkle, in his informative book. All or Nothing Marriage, like Maslow’s hierarchy of needs to climbing a mountain. Any mountain climber who has a goal of climbing a peak that is a formidable challenge knows that they must train for the event. They consistently climb lesser mountains to stay in shape, have good equipment, and even receive advice from climbers that have reached the summit before them. Those with experience give them useful data about what to anticipate so that they can be prepared to meet the many challenges that lie before them.
One way to train to be eligible for attaining the summit of personal growth work is to learn to ask the right questions. As we delve deeply until we are satisfied that we are coming up with answers to profound questions, we strengthen ourselves and become hearty, ready to summit.
Here are some questions to use for our emotional fitness workouts:
- Are there significant parts of myself that have atrophied due to my neglect that need to be revived and reclaimed?
- Is there a person that I visioned in my teens or early twenties, that I gave up on, still awaiting release?
- Have I deemed myself unworthy of living a life of true authenticity?
- Am I living a lie or am I living my authentic life?
- Have I faced my mistakes and learned from them so I can make wiser choices in the future?
- Is there something of crucial importance that I have placed in the denial zone because it would upset my orderly life?
- What might I have overlooked, missed, neglected, or left untried, that would serve me if I risked exploring it now?
- Am I living a script someone else wrote for me rather than writing my own script for my life?
- What are my unique gifts to give my community?
- Am I fully giving my gifts?
- Is there a path beckoning to me from which I have turned away?
When a couple takes on the challenge of doing personal growth work together, they have a chance to identify the ways in which we may be settling for less than is actually available. We all have the opportunity to put a correction before it’s too late. When we are blessed to have a co-creative partner, our commitment to support each other’s growth will take us into the higher reaches of what is possible. Together, we can make changes so that we are living a life of development, authenticity, and well-being. Discovering and developing our previously underutilized potential brings fresh life not only to us as a couple, but also touches all those we interface with. It is work and it is worth it! Why don’t you find out for yourself?