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True romance is universally sought after, but it is found by very few.

— Karmayogi


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Level 6 Compromise

Partners at this level have learned to discuss and disagree on specific issues without disturbance to the underlying positive feeling between them. Relationships at this level are characterized by good manners and behavior at all times.

Most people regard good manners as something to be saved for formal occasions, for our dealings with people outside the family and for personal interactions during the initial stages of a budding relationship. Many couples are not as willing or able to maintain the minimum standards of courtesy after fully committing to a relationship. Good manners are the first casualty in most relationships. Their absence is one of the principle causes for relationships to become contentious and negative.

Many relationships fail not for a lack of love and affection, but simply because the partners fail to maintain minimum levels of good behavior with one another in the privacy of the home. Manners imply respect and consideration for the other person as a human being, which is the very basis for positive, lasting human relationships. The best way to increase harmony and joy is to focus attention on strengthening the bonds of trust and goodwill in the relationship. Then other matters will naturally become less important. Friction between partners can be reduced to a bare minimum if both partners decide to maintain at least a minimum standard of good manners toward one another at all times. Even if your partner is unwilling, your own commitment to good manners can dramatically reduce occasions for unpleasantness.

Relationships in which major disagreements are avoided and minor ones are quickly dismissed attain level 6 status.  Even when the partners strongly disagree with each other, they do so without expressing intense emotions or personal reaction, then quickly put the issue behind them. This ensures that the issue does not escalate and rupture the harmony. Partners at this level recognize that their opinions, preferences, attitudes and habits are not necessarily better, truer or more valid than those of their partner. They are just different. They may not always like or appreciate those differences, but they learn to be tolerant and give a wide latitude of freedom for those differences to co-exist and express. Giving freedom for your partner to be different than you are and patience with your partner, even when you know or feel they are wrong or unfair, is a hallmark of smooth relationships. 

Charlotte and Collins (Pride & Prejudice)

Charlotte and Collins married because they both found it convenient. She was a sensible 27 year old, well past the age when most women were married in her day. She needed the social and financial security that marriage to Collins could provide. Collins, a foolish and pompous man, sought marriage to round off his social achievements. There wasn't much love or affection between them, indeed they hardly knew one another. But they did succeed in offering each other mutual cooperation and a reasonably happy, harmonious relationship that was satisfactory to them both. Collins was always courteous and polite in his interactions with her. She in turn gave him plenty of freedom and ignored his foolish comments and acts without reacting. They never quarreled and rarely disagreed, both playing their roles with perfection. They recognized the good in each other, and ignored or overlooked the rest.

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Level 5 Judgment

Relationships at this level are characterized by superficial politeness but underlying disapproval. Even when partners strongly disagree, they do so without expressing intense emotion or personal reactions. Disharmony may express in a more subtle form as teasing, making fun of one another, mockery or sarcasm.

At this level partners do not openly disagree on every issue or frequently quarrel over major and minor things, but they still constantly judge one another and quietly find fault with their partner's behavior. Judgment is a mental faculty and the very nature of the mind is to find differences and accentuate them. It's a perpetual perfectionist with respect to other people's behavior, though it applies more lenient standards to itself. We all like to think that our judgments are rational, reasonable, objective and unbiased. But the truth is that virtually every opinion and conclusion we formulate is based on our own prior assumptions, preferences, attitudes and points of view.

The idea that other people should accept and conform to our opinions, attitudes, preferences and habits is a fundamental misconception that undermines the harmony and stability of many relationships. The basis of harmony is tolerance, adjustment, compromise and, most of all, patience. A relationship is not private property. It is a public domain, a commons, shared by two people. Love and romance do not come from finding a person who is similar to you or agrees with you on every issue. It comes from finding someone whom you can accept, respect and cherish in spite of and because of the natural and inevitable differences that distinguish you from one another. We do not find fulfillment in relationship by cloning ourselves. Our partner can only fulfill us by supplementing, completing and complementing our character and nature with what we lack.

Mr. and Mrs. Bennet (Pride & Prejudice)

Verbal and non-verbal combat are a way of life in some relationships. There is a constant struggle of wills and underlying tension between the partners that permeates all aspects of their relationship. In some relationships the combat is open warfare that can be heard down the block. In others, it takes the form of a subtle exchange of quips and glances that communicates disapproval or disdain for our partner's conduct. The Bennets conducted their turf battles silently and politely, but their relationship was warfare nonetheless.

When he married her two decades earlier, Mrs. Bennet was the beautiful, vivacious daughter of a wealthy country lawyer. Swept away by her lively cheerful personality, Mr. Bennet overlooked her lack of education and intelligence and the differences in culture between their families. He was the son of a landed aristocrat with a substantial property to manage. A thoughtful, educated, intelligent man, who preferred the company of a good book in the quiet of his library to the chattering gossip that occupied his wife and their five daughters. Having been raised in gentility, Mr. Bennet had not anticipated that his marriage would become a constant battle of wills between him and his wife. Although she obeyed him in all important matters, she worked incessantly behind his back and under his nose to have things her own way.  They have common goals and problems, but do not attempt to work together. They need to get their five daughters married and cannot afford to give dowry, but they are always busy fighting one another. She is always taking initiatives, many of which are inappropriate, never paying any attention to her husband's sound advice. Although normal custom at the time required that the elder daughters be married before the younger could start mixing in public, Mrs. Bennet took a liberal view and succeeded in freeing even fifteen year old Lydia to gallivant with the handsome young military officers in town. She prodded and plagued her husband till he reluctantly agreed to arrange introductions to the wealthy young neighbor, Bingley, who moved into the area. Mr. Bennet knows that doing so could open up an opportunity for his daughters, but refuses simply because his wife orders him to. When Bingley calls at their home seeking to be introduced to his five lovely daughters, Mr. Bennet speaks with Bingley but never calls his wife and daughters into the room. Her husband is more preoccupied with stymieing his wife's initiatives than getting his daughters married. When she and her daughters attend a party where Bingley is present, he hopes his wife will return disappointed by the outcome. What is important is his own petty victory over his wife.

In every act throughout the day, their rivalry plays itself out. She connived with Mr. Collins to force their second daughter, Elizabeth, into a ridiculous marriage alliance, without prior warning to either her daughter or her husband. She pressed so insistently that he reluctantly permitted Lydia to travel to Brighton, where she eloped with a scoundrel and nearly ruined herself and the whole family. She constantly worries about their future, he constantly mocks and makes jokes at her expense. Their entire day is spent in her efforts to dominate and his to undermine her in issues great and small. Being quiet and cultured by temperament, Mr. Bennet never once raises his voice in loud protest against his wife's incessant interference and foolish initiatives. He responded only by a quiet mocking sarcasm which she was not intelligent enough to even understand. He enjoyed teasing her and laughed at her irritation and frustration.

To raise your relationship to a higher level of harmony, see Strategies to Increase Harmony in Your Relationship

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Level 4 Reaction

Relationships at this level are characterized by an underlying tension, irritation and intense reactions between the partners. Partners are extremely sensitive to each others words and behavior and react strongly to what they find disagreeable.

Fixed habits, intense emotions and strong opinions evoke intense opposition in other people. Insistence on our own habitual ways of thinking, feeling and doing things is the main source of disharmony between otherwise compatible and complementary individuals. Reacting to another person's behavior invariably makes it worse and initiates a spiral of tension that can snowball from a tiny seed to a big explosion.

Each of us naturally considers that our opinions and attitudes are the right ones and expect others to accept and embrace them. Opinions are like sharp needles than sting when we express them with insistence. Vigorously projecting our attitudes conveys to others the feeling that what they feel does not really matter to us. We value our preferences and want other people to defer to them. We insist on our own fixed habits and get disturbed if anyone tries to change or disrupt them. That is the prison of ego that each of us lives in. No matter how strongly you feel something should be done in a particular way, it is better to know that it is only one point of view. Learn to express your preferences as mildly as possible and do not to expect or insist that your partner think or feel the same way.

Disagreements are natural. We disagree even with ourselves on many things! But that is no reason to get emotional. We get emotional about issues because our egos are involved. Egoistic reaction inevitably spurs reaction in the other person and sets in motion a snowballing effect that keeps building over time. When people do not understand or accept our viewpoint, we may feel rejected or of less value. Learn to separate the issue from the person and deal with the issue impersonally. Deciding an issue one way or another does not make you a greater or lesser person. Even if your partner makes it a source of egoistic pride, your objectivity will gradually help them to acquire a more mature attitude.

No doubt, it is pleasing to be around people who share our thoughts and feelings and defer to our preferences. It makes life smooth, easy and comfortable. It satisfies and gratifies our ego, but it does not necessarily lead to growth and lasting fulfillment. It is also no guarantee of harmony. Opinions, attitudes and preferences change with time. We may start out in the same place and end up in different worlds. It is much more important for partners to agree on how to disagree than it is for them to share the same opinions and attitudes. Good manners is the basis, but there is much more too it. The real secret to harmonious relations is to give up the habit of reacting to each other whenever your partner says or does something that you do not like or approve of.

When Harry met Sally

The story of Harry and Sally depicts a couple who discover how to convert a level 4 platonic relationship based on intense reaction into a close friendship love and finally marriage. Harry Burns meets Sally when they share a car ride to New York City upon graduation from the University of Chicago. During the drive, they explore many topics including friendship, sex and death and discover that they have absolutely nothing in common and everything to disagree about. Over the next 13 years they meet repeatedly, find fresh topics to argue about and then drift apart. Each passes through several failed relationships. Eventually they develop a close, platonic friendship and find that they understand, like and enjoy each other's company more than any other relationships they have been in.

Harry and Sally’s friends Jess and Marie are attracted to each other from their very first meeting. After a whirlwind courtship, they find themselves madly in love and are engaged to be married. They are excited about setting up a new home and are busy decorating the house. Jess brings home an unfashionable Wagon wheel coffee table which does not suit Marie’s stylish tastes. After having gone through the cycle of being in love, building a life together with his partner, seeing it torn apart and ending in a nasty divorce, Harry is cynical about the entire process and advises them not to spoil a good relationship over trivial issues. Even though Jess is not entirely convinced, he throws the coffee table out of the house ending the argument in order to preserve the harmony of their relationship.

As they watch their friends have this disagreement, Harry and Sally quarrel over his reaction to it. But even when they have disagreements over trivial or serious issues, they find they can quickly resolve them by being themselves and by being honest with each other. Their feelings of mutual respect and affection help dissolve their differences and settle arguments. Finally it dawns on them that their life together is far happier and more fulfilling than any other of their romantic pursuits have been and an intense intimacy grows between them.

To raise your relationship to a higher level of harmony, see Strategies to Increase Harmony in Your Relationship

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Level 3 Domination

Relationships at this level are characterized by a constant struggle of wills between the partners. One or both partners tries to dominate the other. On or both tries and hopes to make the other person change.

Each of us looks at the world through our own special set of colored glasses from our own vantage point with ourselves as the center. That is the essence of ego. Ego regards itself as the most important character and superstar in is own mega-movie, the story of its life. Everyone else is part of the supporting cast. According to the ego, life is a battle and every relationship is an opportunity to enjoy the exercise of power or authority over others. Or when it meets a person who is stronger and more dominating, it agrees to subordinate itself and submit to that person, basking in the security or glory of the other person's strength and importance. Ego gives us that special feeling of self-importance, superiority and the right to dominate over those around us in any way we can.

Domination is natural to human relations. Leaders dominate their followers. Bosses dominate their subordinates. Nowadays, customers have become powerful so they dominate over sellers by making endless demands. Domination is a natural urge but it can be poisonous to intimate human relationships. Harmony, affection and romance are founded on mutual respect, admiration and self-giving, not on domination and submission. Where there is domination there can be no true love and romance. People dominate one another out of selfishness and out of the enjoyment that comes from exercising power. In many relationships, there is a constant struggle of wills between the partners, one partner establishing authority in some areas or activities. The other partner exerting power in other areas. Conflicts and quarrels invariably arise over issues in which one person unilaterally insists on being right or having their way and the other refuses to give in or go along.

Human relationships are an occasion for mutuality and self-giving. Yet often they are reduced to a struggle of egos for domination over one another. Relationships based on domination may last for a lifetime, but they can never generate true love and romance. Romance is born only in an atmosphere of security, freedom and respect. Harmony and joy are possible only when the ego's urge to dominate is removed and when the basic motive is to please and help one another rather than exercise control over the relationship.

Quarrels regarding who is right, what should be done or I told you so usually arise because one or both partners seek to dominate the relationship and prove their superiority over the other. Some partners openly resist domination leading to violent quarrels. Others resist by silently opposing their partner's will and intentions in their thoughts and feelings and taking satisfaction when things go wrong. Neither of these will ever generate harmonious, fulfilling relationships. The best response to a partner's attempt to dominate is to completely give up the corresponding urge in oneself and to accept and submit to your partner out of commitment to the person and the relationship. Trying to correct the other person never works. Changing the corresponding behavior in oneself never fails to evoke a change in the other. Focus your attention on pleasing the other person, take joy in making them happy, even if it means doing everything the way they want to do it, even if you know that way is not the best.

Giving freedom to the other person to be as they are without trying to change them is the very opposite of the urge to dominate. It is an act of affirmation, acceptance and self-giving that will surely evoke a positive response from the partner. The happier you feel in doing it, the more quicker and more dramatic the results.

The Proudies (Barchester Towers)

Bishop Proudie and his wife are among the most famous characters among the seventy odd novels of Anthony Trollope. When Mr. Proudie was appointed to the prestigious and powerful post of Bishop of Barchester, no one realized that behind the man was a more powerful woman, the real power behind the throne and sometimes even sitting on it. Mr. Proudie was weak, vain, mild man who cared for nothing as much as regular meals, timely tea and a drop or two of alcohol within permissible limits. Left to himself he would have done his best to avoid controversy of any kind and allow the world to go on its way without leaving any impress of his own personality upon it. Mrs. Proudie, on the other hand, was a born leader, an avid reformer, a dogmatic ideologue who was determined to root out sin wherever she found it, establish a the reign of heaven on earth by the benevolent exercise of absolute power over all church underlings within her grasp and as many of the lay public who would submit to her authority.

The two partners perfectly complemented one another, at least as far as Mrs. Proudie was concerned. She wanted a free hand to govern wisely on behalf of her husband. He was inclined to be guided by her forceful convictions, so long as it did not impose hardships or generate confrontation that he would find it difficult to manage. Unfortunately, almost everything Mrs. Proudie did provoked controversy, resentment and, occasionally, outright rebellion. This compelled the mild-mannered bishop to temporarily wrest power from his mate and act against her advice on many occasions. Discovering that the task of dealing was his wife was far more onerous than that of running a large clerical establishment, he frequently dreamed of ruling the roost single-handedly like the absolute monarchs of old. The bishops dream was a futile one, for whatever influence his wife failed to exercise during the day, she more than made up for when their heads lay next to each other on the pillow at night. So tortuous and demanding was her dominion over the good bishop, that he found himself praying frequently for a stroke of fortune that should make any honest clergyman blush with guilt and shame. His prayers were answered when his wife died an early death and he hastened immediately to eat his next meal in peace and quiet.

Jenna’s Endurance (The Waitress)

Domination is one issue on which neither of the sexes has a monopoly. Either partner can be the dominating one in the relationship. Mrs. Proudie dominated the bishop by her strength of personality. Earl dominates his wife by brute force and physical tyranny. A dominating partner may succeed for long without significant resistance and then find the tables suddenly turned. Jenna has been living for years as the psychologically abused wife of a dominating, suspicious, possessive, jealous husband, so jealous of her attention that he fears even his own baby will steal it away from him. He controls all the money so she has no freedom of action, demands that she agree with his every thought and sentiment, and forces her into a self-defensive shell of passive conciliation and submission. Although she is oppressed and resentful, she maintains the outer semblance of acceptance without openly protesting.

A careful observation shows that it is really Earl who is dependent on the relationship, starved for attention and affection, which Jenna pretends to give outwardly but has long ago ceased to feel. Aware that something is lacking in her attitude toward him, Earl constantly demands more. The more he demands, the more she submits outwardly and withdraws inwardly as the relationship spirals downhill. The true weakness of his position is revealed when he discovers she has been hiding part of her salary earnings from him. He feels betrayed and falls on his knees asking for her affection. After conceiving and giving birth to a baby girl, she finally decides to assert herself. When Earl learns of her pregnancy, he expresses his deep need for her attention.

With strength Earl never imagined she possesses, Jenna finally banishes the tyrant from her life with a power and decisiveness he is unable to oppose. Life responded to the strength and purity of her decision, as it always does. When her externally rough and ornery former employer passed away, he left her a large inheritance and ownership of the restaurant where she worked. Jenna’s is an instance of a failed relationship in which a woman had the strength and freedom to escape domination. Many are neither in the position to do so or willing to subject their children to the pain of parental separation. For them another solution is needed and there is one. The key lies in understanding the inner psychological dynamics of Jenna's relationship with Earl and the way to reverse it. For more on their relationship, see the Movie Forum discussion on Dominating Partner.

To raise your relationship to a higher level of harmony, see Strategies to Increase Harmony in Your Relationship

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Level 2 Conflict

Relationships at this level are characterized by frequent quarrels, anger, resentment, and emotional confrontations, which make the overall relationship very unpleasant. Partners at this level relate to each other through fear, suspicion, resentment and mutual accusation.

Conflicts and anger arise when our demands and expectations are not met. Harmony arises when we actively strive to accommodate the needs and expectations of the other person. Disharmony raises its head in relationships the moment one or both partners wants to be accepted as and for what they are without having to make an effort or pretense at being better. Before making a commitment, both partners are on their best behavior. Afterwards they may lapse to show their worst. The challenge does not end with courtship, marriage or the honeymoon. It really has only begun. Maintaining harmonious relationships requires constant and continuous effort.  The more effort the partners are willing to put into their relationship, the more rewards they get back. Wanting to take and get from the partner without investing sufficient care and effort in the relationship is a sure basis for conflict.

Ben & Katie (The Story of Us)

Some relationships degenerate into intense disharmony after the initial period of getting acquainted is over, or years later when the dullness of routine family life replaces the novelty of the initial period. Ben and Katie Jordan began their married life full of enthusiasm, love and affection for one another. They gave birth to two beautiful children, moved into a comfortable house and achieved financial security. Fifteen years later they found themselves at each other's throats and ready for divorce. Neither of them had a clear idea what had changed or how it had happened. The very traits that they had initially admired in each other had now become a source of constant irritation, conflict and recrimination. Every issue became an occasion to highlight their differences and lapse into arguments.

Like many real life couples, Ben and Katie came to the conclusion that they were no longer compatible or in love. The truth is that they had come to take each other for granted and they had stopped taking the added effort to make each other happy. The initial out-going attitude of joyous self-giving, which is the kindle for romantic attraction, had turned inward and become selfish and self-centered. The very differences they had cherished now reminded each of them of their own insufficiencies. Rather than tolerating their differences and admiring each other as complements, they became defensive and critical.

Ben and Katie had forgotten the simple truth that no human being responds positively to criticism or becomes a better person because they are criticized by others. We become better when we are loved and accepted, never when we are criticized and rejected. Fortunately, they realized before it was too late that neither of them could ever hope to find a better partner than they already had now. By a conscious decision and commitment, they moved back up the scale of harmony striving to recover the sense of romance they had known years before.

Elizabeth & Darcy (Pride & Prejudice)

Some relationships start negatively and move gradually from disharmony to high levels of harmony as the partners get to know, understand and admire one another. Almost from their first meeting, Elizabeth Bennet developed a resentment and prejudice against Fitzwilliam Darcy, when she observed his stiff, aloof social behavior and accidently overheard him tell a friend that he found her appearance only 'tolerable'. Conscious that he comes from a higher level of society and perceiving that he looks down on people with lesser status and wealth, her prejudice grew in intensity each time they met.

In spite of his rude remarks and her inferior social status, Darcy found himself increasingly attracted to her. After much inner struggle to overcome his own objections to a socially disadvantageous marriage, he was finally driven by the passion of his attraction to propose to her. In the course of his proposal, he explained the serious objections to her family which he had struggled to overcome. She took his explanation as an insult and offence, and rejected him. When Darcy demanded to know why she rejected him without explanation, Elizabeth seized the opportunity to accuse him of spoiling her sister's marriage to his friend and cheating Wickham of his rightful inheritance.  With each exchange, they both grew more angry and resentful, until she finally declared to him that he was the last man in the world she would ever marry.

The relationship between Darcy and Elizabeth began negatively and remained contentious and resentment for months. Ultimately they each discovered that their disharmony arose from their own egoistic and assertive ignorance, pride, and prejudice, not from real deficiencies in the other person. Elizabeth discovered that the source of her resentment against Darcy was completely unjustified. Darcy realized that he had in fact behaved in a most offensive and ill-mannered fashion. Both had the sincerity to recognize the truth and change their attitudes. When they did so, intense and bitter conflict was transformed into the intense sweetness of romantic love. Their story shows that even intense negativity can be converted into equally intense positive relations when partners are genuine and sincere in their willingness to change themselves, rather than to change or condemn one another.

Maud & Roland (Possession)

English poetry professor Maud Bailey meets American researcher Roland Michell in London and together they strive to unravel the secret romance between two Victorian poets. Neither of the moderns seem made for love and certainly not for each other. They are opposites bordering on contradictions. Bailey is guarded, stiff, irritable, almost frigid British academic, who wants to be addressed as Professor and has a prejudice against all things American. Suspicious of any man’s sexual intentions and eager to avoid relationships, she conceals her beauty to avoid attracting attention to herself. Roland is a casual, friendly, irreverent American who distains British formality. He has had enough of unfulfilling and sometimes hurtful relationships centered around sex and is leery of any intimacy. As they uncover details of the passionate love affair between Ash and LaMotte, the poetry of that relationship infiltrates their cold hearts and awakens a flame of real emotional intensity. Maud’s heart melts and she feels tempted by the lure of sexual relationship. Uncharacteristically, it is Roland who pulls back for fear of spoiling a relationship he has come to value far more than physical pleasure. Maud feels confused and rejected. Her old fears and suspicions of intimate relationship resurface and they quarrel, yet the real basis for their quarrel is their deeper emotional attraction to one another which ultimately prevails. Delving beneath their surface differences, they discover bonds of genuine attraction and admiration that elevate the whole relationship to a far higher level.

To raise your relationship to a higher level of harmony, see Strategies to Increase Harmony in Your Relationship

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Level 1 Opposition

Relationships at this level are characterized by shouting, mean accusations, deceit, and threats or actual acts of violence. Disharmony can increase in negative intensity until even an insignificant act, a casual word or glance triggers a chain of unpleasant reactions, acrimony or hostility.

Relationships become strained to the breaking point when partners exhibit offensive or mean behavior that intentionally or unintentionally hurts the other person. No positive relationship can ever be built by conscious meanness or intentionally inflicting pain, no matter how justified we may feel in 'hitting back'.

Partnerships at this level are caught in a destructive blame game in which the main objective is to find fault with the other person and put them down. All relationships are based on intensity. We feel intense about people who matter to us. No intense feelings arise when we are not closely related in feeling with the other person. The mother scolds her child who misbehaves, another's child doing the same does not elicit the same reaction. It is her concern for her child that comes out as scolding. Similarly, when a strong negative intensity is visible on the surface, it shows that there is a deeper attraction underneath. A couple living in the slums of Mumbai invariably quarreled every night after the husband returned from work. When the husband suddenly died of heart attack, a few days later his wife also died because she simply could not live without him. Attraction that expresses negatively can be converted into positive intensity. Indifference is the opposite of relationship. It is indifference that is more difficult to change. Disharmony on the surface is proof that there is scope for creating harmony.

Blaming one's partner for bad manners or offensive behavior never solves the problem. It only provides a very temporary satisfaction to the ego which inevitably prompts reaction and retribution. Putting another person down and gloating over one's success is a sure formula for a failed relationship. It takes two people to dance but only one to improve a relationship. Inevitably each partner blames the status quo on the other and expects the other to change first. That never happens. Relationships improve only when one of the partners resolves to take unilateral initiative and sticks to that resolution. The first thing necessary is for one of the partners to totally eliminate any and all expressions of meanness or spitefulness without expecting or demanding any change in the other partner. That effort is sure to bring about a substantial improvement in the relationship for as long as it is maintained. If it fails, it is only when the habit or urge to fall back overcomes the commitment to be positive.  

Many people enjoy the intensity that comes from complaining, quarreling and even from getting angry. As long as you enjoy it, it will continue and grow more intense. Others have a way of relating negatively to the very person they find most attractive to get their attention or assert their own value. If you are experiencing intense disharmony in your relationship, try to become conscious of the underlying attraction that expresses as negative intensity between you. Often anger is a disguise for feelings of not being loved, respected or appreciated.  Try to shift your attention from the sources of quarrel to the sources of attraction. Even when you feel most intensely negative, remind yourself it is only an inversion of a deeper positive attraction and need for one another. Negative intensity can be addictive because it makes us feel alive and it is easier to generate than positive intensity. Adopt at least one strategy for generating positive intensity in the relationship and work seriously to achieving it.


Scarlett & Rhett (Gone with the Wind)

Rhett and Scarlett are a classic example of a relationship based on intense energy and turbulence, which never manages to become stable and harmonious. The partners go through brief periods of pleasantness, interspersed with frequent quarrels and occasional violence. Both are high energy, head strong, selfish and opinionated people who look for fulfillment from relationship by taking rather than giving and end up frustrated, empty and disappointed. Scarlett is immature, impulsive, self-centered and totally selfish. That leaves no scope for harmony, let alone the romance she so passionately longs for.

Both harmony and romance require self-giving, accommodation and patience. Rhett tried to win the heart and possess the body of a woman he knows is in love with someone else by providing her the financial security and luxuries she longed for. Gifts and material security may satisfy a customer in a business relationship, but it is not enough to win the heart of an intimate partner. Scarlett thought merely of taking what suited her from the relationship and simply ignoring the rest as far as possible.


Mr. & Mrs. Smith

The degeneration of a marriage from harmony to violence and its remarkable recovery are humorously depicted in the spoof thriller Mr. and Mrs. Smith. After six years of polite and seemingly harmonious marriage, Jane and John Smith suddenly discover that they really do not know each other at all. Both feel betrayed when they find that their spouse has concealed fundamental truths about themselves. When distrust, suspicion and fear compound their difficulties, the relation lapses into violence and a seeking for vengeance, in spite of the fact that each is still intensely attracted to the other. Eventually they learn to accept and admire each other's true personalities and reunite more happily and genuinely than before. Though the story is pure fiction, the process and stages of relationship they undergo resemble the course of some relationships that drop to level 1 and then ultimately recover.


Serge & Josephine (Chocolat)

Serge and Josephine Muscat own a small tavern in a small town in rural France. He is uneducated, stupid and brutal. She has intelligence and refined taste but has been reduced to fearful submission by Serge's heavy-handed, authoritarian dominance and the conservative values of the society in which they live. When Serge drinks, he is likely to take out all his bitterness, frustration and disappointment in life on Josephine, occasionally even becoming violent. The arrival of a newcomer, the spirited, independent-minded  Vianne Rocher gives Josephine the strength and courage to stand up to her brute husband and cast off his oppressive domination. Soon Serge repents his violent, dominating behavior and promises to reform, but Josephine seems bent on freedom. Violence destroys not only harmony. It undermines the very foundation of trust and security that is the bedrock of human relationship.

To raise your relationship to a higher level of harmony, see Strategies to Increase Harmony in Your Relationship

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Strategies to Increase Harmony in Your Relationship

Harmony is the foundation for lasting relationship, affection, love and romance. If your relationship suffers from quarrels, anger, tension, or disharmony of any description, your first step should be to remove those negatives from the relationship. Please follow these steps to raise the level of harmony in your relationship.

1.      Review the list of strategies below. If you find any of them apply to your relationship, take steps to practice them.

2.      If you find that these strategies are not sufficient to address the problem, you may wish to consult the IRES expert system for personalized advice on how to solve your specific problem.

3.      Once you have applied these strategies, you are ready to raise the level of affection, love and romance in your relationship. Then see the list of Unfailing Positive Strategies to Improve Your Relationship.

1. Stop Complaining

Blaming and complaining against one's partner - either directly to the person or to other people or to oneself -- is a natural, frequent and in some cases a full-time occupation for many people. Partners often become experts in observing and pointing out the defects in one another. Unfortunately, those that acquire the habit often do not realize a universal truth about complaining. Complaining always aggravates the traits we complain about! So unless you enjoy complaining more than you enjoy harmonious relationships, it is better to give up the habit - no matter how justified you may be or think you are in voicing your complaints.

When we complain about a person's defects or deficiencies, we give attention to that aspect of their behavior or personality. Attention energizes. Whatever becomes the object of our attention is energized and grows because of that attention - good things multiply when they are noticed. So do bad things. Complaining aggravates the very behaviors that prompt us to complain, even when the complaint seems rational and fully justified! This is true even when our complaint is never expressed in words.

If you really want to eliminate bothersome behaviors in your partner or anyone else, the best means is to totally ignore them and not even take notice of them. If you find that too difficult, start by refusing to complain about those behaviors to other people. Later try to stop complaining about it even to yourself. This strategy is very powerful. Those who successfully practice it are sure to generate a positive response from your partner. Often the response is instantaneous.

The Bennets (Pride & Prejudice) 

The Bennets are constantly at odds with each other. Mr. Bennet makes sure he loses no opportunity to criticize and complain about his wife. He always talks to her teasingly, mocking her and pointing out her mistakes. To him, she is a silly and foolish woman who is incapable of behaving sensibly or responsibly. When she is in raptures over a wealthy suitor's interest in their daughter, he cannot stand to hear her and rudely asks her to stop. When she complains about her health, he makes a joke of it. When she is heartbroken over future title of their hereditary property going to their neighbor's daughter, his words hurt her more than they console. When he has had enough of putting her down, he locks himself up in his library where she is not permitted entry.

Mrs. Bennet is not intelligent enough to catch her husband's quick wit, so most of his sarcasm is lost on her. But that does not dampen his efforts to taunt her. His complaints serve no purpose except to irritate her further. And the more she is irritated, the more she acts in ways that attract his caustic remarks. In spite of all his cajoling efforts to enlighten her, she never realizes her mistakes or change her ways to win her husband's approval. If anything, things deteriorate at home. She becomes more bold and aggressive in her schemes to get her daughters married. Having exhausted his energies complaining, he prefers to submit to her whims rather than take a more responsible attitude. As a result the family is brought to the brink of public disgrace. Yet even when her mistakes stare her in the face, she blames everyone except herself. Mr. Bennet's complaints do not change Mrs. Bennet. They don't even fall on her ears. They leave her and their home a shade worse than they were.

2. Don't try to change your partner

Wouldn't life be simple and easy if all we had to do is ask our partner to change? Chances are you have already tried that approach - once, twice, ten, a hundred times or more. So you already know the simple fact that people do not change for the better because we complain against them or ask them to. Even when they accept that we are right and agree to act accordingly, the result is almost always to make things worse than before. However sincerely we accept our defects, something in us is always offended by being blamed or corrected, leading to a conscious or subconscious reaction that makes things worse. Even in instances were your partner changes for the better as the result of your advice, you can observe that either they acquire another behavior that is equally disturbing or they become more critical of you than before. Either way, the level of harmony goes down, rather than up. The only exception is when the person who offers the advice does so without even a tiny trace of egoistic assertion or superiority, which is extremely difficult to do.

The validity of this principle can best be demonstrated by examining your own personal experience. Examine the relationship between your parents and other couples you know to determine how far complaining and trying to change the other person has yielded positive results. List down all the behaviors in your partner that you have complained about in the past and see how many of them have actually changed for the better. In instances where you have been successful in changing some behaviors, look to see whether new and even more disturbing behaviors have arisen since then. If indeed your partner has accepted your advice and followed it, examine the overall sense of harmony and warmth within the relationship. Has it really improved? Love and affection grow through acceptance of the other person, not by trying to make the other person a better partner.

3. Don't react

Whenever a partner does something we dislike or disapprove of, the natural tendency is to react, either verbally by complaining or silently to ourselves. Reaction arises out of weakness, lack of self-control and lack of power. As long as we react against any quality in another person, we have no power to change it. At best, our reaction may compel the other person to control or suppress the disturbing behavior, but it will always surface elsewhere, usually in an aggravated and more aggravating form. If you want to eliminate disturbances, the very best strategy is equanimity, non-reaction. Do not let the other person's behavior disturb you. Better yet, do not even take notice of it in your own mind and sensations. Non-reaction is not submission or approval. Nor is it a method for ignoring or rebuking your partner. It is giving your partner the freedom to act without opposition, resistance or reaction.

If you succeed, you will see that in most cases the disturbing behavior immediately becomes less frequent and intense. That was the experience of a married woman with two children who was frequently irritated by her husband's negative, pessimistic way of speaking. When all her attempts to correct him failed, she decided to stop mentioning, noticing or reacting to his negative ways of speech. Within a few days she was amazed to discover that his disturbing behavior had nearly disappeared. There are cases in which your non-reaction may actually result in greater expression of the disturbing behavior by your partner. Giving your partner the freedom to express it will eventually lead to complete elimination of that behavior. When you do succeed, you will find the situation complete reverses and your partner will bend over backwards to please you.

Kate's Patience (The Family Man)

The tremendous power of non-reaction is wonderfully portrayed by the character of Kate Reynolds. Jack Campbell is a successful businessman who wakes up one morning to discover he is married to his college girl friend Kate Reynolds and lives in New Jersey with two kids. Kate and he had split up thirteen years earlier, when he flew off to London and left her behind. Now he finds himself living in an alternative reality in which he married her instead of leaving the country. Instead of being a wealthy high flying Wall Street, billion dollar deal-maker, Jack is a tired salesman with a big mortgage living in a modest middle class neighborhood.

Kate is completely happy, supportive and affectionate. She and their marriage are regarded by all Jack's friends as the ideal others can only dream about. But Jack finds this financially poorer, less successful version of his life a great disappointment and cannot help expressing his views quite crudely to Kate, who is unaware that Jack joined their 13 year marriage only a few days ago. In spite of Jack's harsh, resentment and crude behavior, Kate remains calm and understanding. She never reacts against him or faults him for what she obviously perceives as his strange and mean behavior. Gradually Jack awakens to Kate's remarkable qualities and realizes this other version of his life is far more rewarding and fulfilling than closing mega-deals in New York.

Darcy’s Equanimity (Pride & Prejudice) 

When the very rich and famous Mr. Darcy proposes to Elizabeth, Bennet, a woman of lower social status and minimal wealth, the last thing he expects is to be accused of unscrupulousness and abused for bad behavior. Indeed, he has taken for granted that she is expecting his proposal and will welcome it. Instead Elizabeth makes unfair allegations about his character and faults him for the rude way in which he has addressed her. She accuses him of ungentlemanly behavior. Calling him arrogant, conceited and selfish, she concludes her lengthy abuse by declaring that long ago she had concluded that he is the last man she would marry. Darcy reels under the impact of her attack, yet he remains remarkably composed. He is startled by her accusations and defends himself mildly, but he does not hit back or even rebuke her for her unjustified assertions. When he has had enough from her, he takes leave, apologizing for having taken up her time. He does not give vent to his feelings in scathing language. He does not attack her personally in return. His maintains his cultured and polite language and behavior, and departs after politely wishing her health and happiness.

In less than six months, the same girl who refused him so angrily comes up to him, calls herself a selfish person, thanks him for the help he has rendered to her family, and opens the conversation that leads to his second proposal and their engagement. By not reacting when he had legitimate grounds, Darcy left open a possibility that could easily have been cancelled forever by an angry reply. Against all odds, his equanimity ultimately enables him to achieve just what his heart most desires.

4. Don't try to impose your will

Ninety percent of relationship problems can be traced back to the fact that one or the other or both partners want to dominate the other, control the relationship, prove they know more, can do things better, have earned the right to lead, or are justified in making demands on their partner that they are unwilling to meet themselves. Romance cannot be attained by demanding more of the other person. If you are one who employs that approach, the first thing to do is stop. Harmony can never be achieved by trying to dominate the other person. If you are on the receiving end of a dominating partnership, the best response is to completely give up the corresponding urge in yourself. Eradicate any sense of resentment or reaction you feel in complying with your partner's wishes by applying the first three strategies in this list. Submitting to a dominant partner out of weakness or acquiescence will never bring fulfillment. But submitting to someone you love out of patience, understanding, self-discipline and self-giving has the power to radically change your partner's behavior and completely reverse your roles in the relationship, so that your partner comes to place your needs and wishes above his or her own.

Mrs. Bennet’s Stratagems (Pride & Prejudice) 

Mrs.Bennet has boundless energy and endless initiative. She wholeheartedly believes that she is always right, and tries to get her husband to follow her orders. When a wealthy young bachelor named Bingley moves into the neighborhood, she orders her husband to call on him. He had intended to do just that for their daughters’ sake, but after being pressed to do so by his wife, he promptly refuses, just to annoy her. He secretly visits Bingley, then reveals the secret in a teasing manner to his wife, as a display of his independence. And just to spite her, when Bingley returns the visit, Mr. Bennet does not introduce him to his wife or daughters . Silently resentful of his wife’s constant efforts to dominate, he looks for ways to resist her pressure, even if it is at the risk of damaging his daughters’ chances to marry well. When his foolish cousin Collins comes home hoping to marry one of the Bennet girls, Mrs. Bennet keeps his intentions secret from her husband and connives to get Collins engaged to Elizabeth, Mr.Bennet’s favorite daughter. She sees this as a means to triumph over her husband. But her desire to score a petty victory only succeeds in chasing Collins away from the house into the arms of her rival neighbor's daughter.

Mrs. Bennet doesn’t realize that though her intentions for the family may be good, the methods she employs to achieve them are sure to fail. Her understanding is limited and she lacks good sense. Rather than cooperating with her husband and adding his intelligence and culture to her own strengths, she gets caught up in a self-defeating power struggle. Her aggressive and coaxing behavior alienates her from her husband and her more sensible elder daughter. It drives away suitable grooms for her daughters. It brings the entire family close to ruin when her youngest daughter, Lydia, whom she has spoilt by indulgence, elopes with a scoundrel.

5. Good Manners

Good manners is an essential basis for good, lasting, harmonious relationship. Partners who are able to behave as courteously and thoughtfully to their partners after marriage as they did during the initial period of courtship and to behave as pleasantly in private as they do to their friends and acquaintances in public find their relationships remain smooth, harmonious and pleasant for decades. Good manners includes all the other rules listed above. People who are well-mannered do not complain against others, they do not react, they do not dominate and they do not try to make others change. In fact, to be really well-mannered, we should give up even trying to judge other people.

The key to good manners is to become fully conscious of our own limitations and defects and try to eliminate them, rather than concentrating our attention on pointing out and eliminating the defects of others. Giving up negative thoughts and behavior toward others is not easy, but if you succeed your whole life will remarkably improve. The minimum standard for good manners is not to do or say anything to another person that we would not like to have done or said to us. A better standard is to recognize and respect the sensibilities and sensitivities of your partner and never consciously do anything to ruffle or disturb them.

If you find it difficult to identify your own offending behaviors, here is a simple but infallible rule to follow. Identify all the behaviors you object to in other people and look for similar, parallel or equivalent behaviors in yourself. If you are objective and sincere, you will always find them. Life is a mirror.

6. Focus on the Positive

When we forge relationships with a partner, we are always attracted to something in the other person, but often over time the source of attraction recedes into the background and we become more and more conscious of our differences or incompatibilities. Our disappointment with the change in ourselves or our partner tends to make us focus on the things we don't like. Negative intensity can be addictive, because it makes us feel alive and it is easier to generate than positive intensity.

Yet always - even after decades - the original source of attraction remains beneath the surface and can be revived when we stop concentrating on the negative. Try to become more conscious of the underlying attraction that expresses as negative intensity between you. Remind yourself that negativity often expresses a deeper positive attraction and need for one another. Shift your attention from the sources of quarrel to the sources of attraction. Even when you feel most intensely negative, remind yourself it is only an inversion of a deeper positive attraction and need for one another.

Shift your attention from the things that bother you in your partner and in the relationship to the things that are alright and work smoothly. Try to identify at least a few ways in which your partner and your relationship are better than others you know about. If you dislike something about your partner, try to identify a corresponding reason for the other person to dislike you and decide to change it.

7. Don't make sex a central issue

Sex often becomes the source of problems because men and women often have very different perceptions and attitudes with regard to sex. Our capacity for happiness, affection, love and romance arises because we have acquired higher emotions and mental capacities. Sexual attraction has little to do with romance, affection or lasting happiness and can distract attention from the true basis for lasting relationship. To give sex the central place in intimate relations is to give inordinate importance to the physical aspect of man-woman relations. Making it an issue can actually deprive a relationship of the love and affection it would otherwise possess. On the other hand, those who are capable of more exalted emotions may find physical intimacy a powerful medium for expressing those emotions and sharing themselves with their partner. In that case, physical contact serves as a means of expression, not as an end in itself. Romance is an ennobling emotion, not a physical sensation. The solution lies in recognizing sex for what it is and not placing to much importance on it one way or the other. For a more in depth discussion, see Love, Marriage, Sex & Romance

8. Shouldn't my partner change first?

As you read through these strategies, chances are that you have seen plenty of scope for your partner to improve themselves and found yourself relatively superior by comparison. A wise man once said that God gave us the sense of sin so we could discover our own defects and correct them, but we out-smarted God by using our keen powers of perception only to discover the defects in other people. What applies to humanity applies in double measure to partners in intimate relationships. The first rule of harmony is that all improvements start with ourselves, regardless of the circumstances-no exceptions. You may not be pleased to hear that, but that is the one and only effective way to improve a relationship. Therefore, regardless of how much higher or better you may place yourself on the scale, make a start by elevating your own conduct still higher without asking or expecting anything from your partner. That is a recipe for assured success.

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Level 8 - Devotion

At its rarefied heights human love discards and transcends social conventions, ethical standards—all that we consider most natural and characteristic of human nature. It approaches and attains extraordinary emotional intensities and sentiments of courage, nobility, purity, goodness and spiritual perfection. Though love is universally inspiring, we are apt to dismiss its most lofty expressions as tales of imaginative fiction.

Rose & Jack (Titanic)

It is almost unfortunate that the story of Rose Bukater and Jack Dawson depicted in Titanic was set amongst such magnificent surroundings and such a dramatic historical event. The sheer intensity of the circumstances and splendor of the cinematography tends to distract our attention from the beauty and grandeur of the momentary relationship between a beautiful, 17 year old socialite and a vagabond artist. It is true that the circumstances of their meeting on the maiden voyage of Titanic, just a few days before it sank, add color and intensity to their short-lived romance, but the essential character of their relationship was defined by who they were and how they related to one another, rather to the circumstances in which they met.

In April 1912, Rose is returning from Europe with her fiancée Cal Hockley and her mother in company with many of the rich and famous of their day. Her father died leaving them a prestigious name, but no money to support the luxurious lifestyle to which they were accustomed. Therefore, her mother presses her to sacrifice herself for the good of the family, by agreeing to marry Cal, whom she does not love or even like very much. As a token of his commitment, Cal presents her with a fabulous blue diamond pendant. To him, she is another beautiful object to add to his collection. Rose feels suffocated by her mother’s pretentions, her fiancé’s arrogance, the dead conventional formality of high society and the meaningless life being pressed upon her. In rebellion she rushed to the stern of the ship and contemplates suicide. Jack sees her passing by, suspects her intentions, and intervenes just in time to save her life when she slips off the edge of the ship.

Their fortuitous meeting leads quickly to intimate friendship and romance. Jack seems to understand her better than she herself does. Perceiving a remarkable strength in her character that refuses to accept the fate imposed by society, he counsels her not to sell her soul for respect or security, abandoning the freedom she is entitled to inherit. Her whole being expands in joy at his words and responds to his affection with gratitude and passion. What draws them to one another is neither childhood infatuation or sexual attraction. It is love of a very high order. Although they have known each other but a few days, they are drawn together by such powerful bonds of devotion that each proves willing to sacrifice their own life for the sake of the other. There is no higher test of self-giving imaginable.

At the peak of their passion, the Titanic hits an iceberg and begins the journey that will soon take it to the bottom of the sea. Meanwhile out of jealousy, Cal has Jack placed under arrest on a false charge of stealing the blue diamond and locked in a cabin on the lower level of the ship. As the ship takes on water and everyone rushes for lifeboats, Rose risks her life to hunt for Jack and frees him from confinement just moments before the lower deck floods. Jack leads her up to the main deck and convinces her to get into one of the few remaining lifeboats, promising to follow, but knowing full well there are no more boats to take him. Reluctantly she gets into the lifeboat and then jumps out again, refusing to leave without him. When the Titanic goes under, Jack manages to place Rose on a floating doorframe, saving her life while he freezes to death in the water. Rose survives, takes on Jack’s last name and starts a new life for herself. Narrating the story when she is past 100 years old, she relates how their few moments together changes the course of her entire life and how she has spent the last eight decades living up to the promise she made to Jack during his last moments.

Darcy & Lizzy (Pride & Prejudice)




Jane Austen’s novel has survived for two centuries as a preeminent love story because it depicts a level of romantic fulfillment rarely realized in life or literature. Fitzwilliam Darcy belongs to the highest level of aristocracy in England and shares the arrogant pride and common prejudices of his class about those of lower rank in the social hierarchy. But when he meets Elizabeth Bennet, the daughter of a country gentleman and his attractive but uncultured, middle class wife, Darcy’s value system is turned upside down. In spite of his social attitudes, he finds himself powerfully attracted by her energy, refined beauty, intelligence, wit, strength and individuality. Struggling against this growing attraction, he forces himself to keep a distance from her. But when life brings them together unexpectedly at his aunt’s estate in another part of the country, he is no longer able to resist the passionate love he feels for her. Explaining the reservations he had regarding her family and social status that he had to overcome in proposing to her, he asked her to marry him, under the impression that his handsome appearance, great wealth and high social standing would be more than enough to win her acceptance.

Darcy’s proposal surely would have been enough to persuade most women, but Elizabeth had a mind of her own. Far in advance of the women of her day, her ideas of marriage were romantic rather than social or materialistic, like those of Jane Austen herself. Elizabeth was not one to marry for security or status. She sought a partner who she could deeply respect for his high values, admire for his generous character and love for his capacity to give himself in love. Unknown to Darcy, she had acquired a strong prejudice against him, partly the result of his actions to prevent the marriage of her sister Jane with his best friend Bingley and partly due to false accusations made by Wickham against him. Thus, when he asked for her hand, she strongly rebuffed him. When pressed by him for an explanation, she pointed out the defects in his character and behavior that made him unacceptable and declared that he is the last man on earth she would ever marry. Indeed, after such a violent confrontation, it appeared impossible that they should ever again even speak to each other.

Surprised, angry and offended, Darcy withdrew to brood over what he had heard. The following day he wrote a letter to her addressing the objections she had raised, acknowledging what he believed to be true and defending himself against those he knew to be false. After that they went their separate ways thinking they would never meet again. But in the months that followed, Darcy’s love for Elizabeth grew even stronger. He admitted the truth in her accusations and decided to correct himself. He completely shed his proud behavior and arrogant attitudes. When he and Elizabeth met by chance nine months later, she was stunned by his remarkable transformation. He greeted her and her middle class relatives with the utmost respect and consideration. When her youngest sister, Lydia, eloped with his arch-enemy, Wickham, he went to extraordinary effort and expense to save her reputation and that of her whole family from ruin. He reversed his objections to the marriage of Bingley and Jane. All this he did without expecting or asking for anything, out of love for Elizabeth. He shed his vain egoism and underwent mortifying experiences, then tried to conceal his good deeds from Elizabeth. His devotion for her was so powerful that he actually transformed himself into the ideal lover Elizabeth aspired for. When with much trepidation he renewed his proposal, she accepted him with joyous gratitude.

Mental love is higher than affection and admiration because it is founded on an idealistic conception of relationship and on the ennobling qualities the partners discover in each other. Darcy’s devotion rises still higher. His is idealized emotional love based on sentiments that transcend conceptual limits. It needs no reason or justification. Like the love portrayed in Shakespeare’s sonnets, he cherishes her for her intrinsic value and delights in her very existence. His love takes pure joy in self-giving without asking or expecting anything in return. Such a love flowers where there is no expectation, just the urge to please the other or see the other happy. It is undemanding and does not even ask to be recognized. Devotional love is symbolized by the majestic beauty of the Taj Mahal which was constructed to immortalize the Emperor Shah Jahan’s love for his wife Mumtaz Mahal. The most pronounced characteristic of this stage is an intense emotional sweetness issuing from knowledge of love.

Love in the Forest (As You Like It)

In this story Shakespeare depicts the intensities of devotional love between Rosalind, the daughter of the former ruler Duke Senior, and Orlando, the son of her father’s trusted retainer. When they briefly met at court for the first time, they were instantly attracted to one another. The following day Rosalind was forced to seek exile in the forest to avoid imprisonment by her uncle who has assumed power after her father’s temporary abdication. Orlando too sought refuge in the forest to escape his brother’s plot to kill him. There he meets Rosalind, who is disguised as a young man to conceal her identity. Ignorant that he is indeed in the presence of his beloved, Orlando is lost in ecstatic celebration of his love for Rosalind. While intensely emotional, their love is characterized by high poetic idealism of selfless devotion. Rosalind possesses the insight and maturity to understand and laugh at the folly of young love, even her own. Yet at the same time her mind and heart are completely devoted to Orlando. In spite of the tragic circumstances that have led them both into exile, they become so absorbed in their mutual adulation that the loss of family, wealth and status is forgotten in the ecstatic joy of love. Intense delight is the hallmark of devotional love. The joyous atmosphere created by their love is so powerful that life itself is forced to submit and abolish their misfortune. As soon as they marry, the old duke’s kingdom is restored to him, and Orlando becomes heir apparent to the throne.

The Princess and the Count

Alexander Dumas portrays a rare and inspiring example of devotional love in his epic tale The Count of Monte Cristo. A young, talented, honest and good-natured sailor named Edmund Dantes falls passionately in love with the beautiful, orphaned Mercedes. Mercedes’ evil cousin, Fernand, who is in love with her and wants her for himself, joins in a conspiracy to have Edmund arrested and wrongly imprisoned as a traitor. After fourteen years in confinement, Edmund escapes from the prison, discovers a fabulous treasure and assumes a new identity as the eccentric Count of Monte Cristo, so he can seek vengeance against those who have wronged him. As the Count, Edmund later saves the life of a beautiful, noble Turkish princess, Haydee, who had been sold into slavery by the treachery of the very same Fernand, who has since married Mercedes. Edmund takes Haydee under his fatherly protection and extends to her all the royal treatment she ever enjoyed in her youth. Later he publicly exposes Fernand’s treachery and is challenged by Mercedes’ son Albert to a duel. An expert marksman, Edmund is sure of winning until Mercedes comes and pleads with him for the life of her son. Honor prevents Edmund from backing out of the duel so he decides to allow Albert to kill him. He draws up a will assigning his entire fortune to Haydee, who approaches him as he is writing it. When he tells her that she will be heir to his entire fortune, Haydee grabs the will and tears it into shreds without the slightest hesitation, saying that if he dies she will surely die with him. Then she faints. Such is the intensity of the pure devotion she has silently nurtured for Edmund.

Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam


Rarely do we encounter instances of pure devotion in human relationships. Love is an ideal and that ideal is founded on a self-less delight in the happiness of one’s beloved. Self-giving is the highest form of human action, because it is to recognize something more important than one’s own egoistic personal satisfaction. Devotional love is beautifully depicted in an extraordinary movie about a woman who is prevented from marrying the man she loves, only to discover that the man she does marry is a living embodiment of selfless love. Nandini (Aishwarya Rai) is the daughter of Pandit Darbar, renowned proponent of Indian classical music.Nandini has been brought up with more freedom and education than her siblings, as she is the most beloved of Pandit Darbar. In this carefree life enters Sameer (Salman Khan), a boy of Indo-Italian parentage who wants to learn Indian classical music from Pandit Darbar. Nandini takes a dislike to Sameer, and the two keep playing pranks on each other, but soon realise they are in love. Sameer is kicked out of the house and asked never to contact Nandini again as fee for his education(Guru Dakshina). Nandini's parents have arranged to get her married to Vanraj (Ajay Devgan) - who had fallen in love with Nandini during her cousin's wedding. On the wedding night, Vanraj realises that Nandini is not herself, and tries to ask her why she is not responding to his love ? Nandini stays quiet, but is caught reading Sameer's letters when she is alone.He is very angry at first, but later accepts the reality that his wife is in love with another man. He shows the ultimate understanding by taking Nandini to Italy and help her search for Sameer, much to the dislike of his own parents. During their search, they face many problems and dilemmas and slowly Nandini gets to see what Vanraj really is like. she sees Vanraj selflessly devoting himself to care for her during her stay in hospital after an incident. Eventually they get news about Sameer (through his mother - played by Helen), and Vanraj arranges for Nandini to meet Sameer, on the night of his debut concert. His job done, Vanraj says goodbye to Nandini and walks away. Nandini and Sameer meet, but Nandini's feelings for him have changed. She reflects on the unwavering love and devotion that Vanraj showed throughout her stay with him, and realises that she loves him. She tells sameer in what esteem she holds her husband and parts with him to go after Vanraj.



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Level 7 - Mental love

Real love is a pure and special vibration between people that differs from the intense longings and passions many describe by the word. It is difficult to sustain vital forms of love without strong positive encouragement from the other person, whereas mental love does not depend on reciprocity. The power of Mind arises from an organization of ideas. Mental love is based on an idealistic conception of what love is and a perception of idealized values in the other person. Mental love gives rise to unwavering loyalty. It involves a lasting commitment to the other person which does not depend on circumstances, personal contact or even the response of the other person. We can love another person as an individual only when we fully recognize and respect the ways they are unique and different from ourselves and value them for those differences rather than trying to change them or mold them into our ideal image. Mental love may lack the intense sensations of previous stages, but it brings a lightness, sweetness and refinement of feeling that is uplifting and more deeply fulfilling.

An Angelic Goodness (Gone with the Wind)

The relationship between Rhett Butler and Scarlett O’Hara is glorified in the public imagination as the quintessence of romance. But the real love story in Gone with the Wind is not between these two selfish, self-centered characters whose passion torments and ultimately ruins the happiness of both. It is rather the quiet, idealized love between Ashley and Melanie Wilkes that depicts the true qualities and power of love to nurture, save and protect, even in times of extraordinary upheaval. Scarlett has set her heart on marrying the refined and cultured Ashley. But he chooses instead his mild-mannered and frail cousin Melanie and marries her just before the outbreak of the Civil War. Then he is called to serve in the Southern army and they are separated for the duration of the war.


Melanie lacks the captivating beauty, energy, vitality, and feminine wiles of Scarlett. But her gentle heart is made of pure goodness and possesses extraordinary power of goodwill that protects Ashley through the long years of fighting and imprisonment. She combines goodness and goodwill with a capacity for total self-giving to those she loves, which makes her one of the most remarkable women in life or literature. Incapable of a selfish act, she yearns only for the well-being and happiness of her husband, family and friends. Incapable of suspicion or recriminations against anyone, she loves Scarlett even though she knows of Scarlett’s secret yearning for her husband and on her death bed urges Scarlett to care for Ashley. The suffering and destruction wrought by Civil War leave little scope for pleasure or happiness of any description, but through it all Melanie’s unshakeable loyalty and commitment to those she loves creates a cocoon of sweetness and affection which nurtures and protects. Ashley is devastated by her death. Only after her passing, does Scarlett realize the immense power of her idealized love.

A Queen’s Love (First Knight)

Can a person truly love more than one person? In the movie First Knight, Lady Guinevere is torn between her deep, idealistic admiration for the good and noble King Arthur and her passionate emotional attraction to valiant Lancelot. Her love and loyalty to her husband King are juxtaposed to the yearning of her heart and body for the knight who has twice saved her life. Her love of Arthur is the mind’s idealism which cherishes all that is true and noble. Her love of Lancelot is yearning vital-emotional passion. Though very different in nature, Guinevere’s love and loyalty to Arthur are as real and compelling as her powerful physical and vital attraction to Lancelot. A human being is capable of loving more than one person, but few have the energy and intensity to maintain it. In this case, Arthur dies so she can live out her love with Lancelot.

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Level 6 - Admiration

Behind every successful man there is a woman, is a well known saying that reflects a deeper truth. Relationships founded upon mutual recognition, respect and admiration provide a firm and stable foundation for high and lasting achievement. Affection is of the heart. It is intense, but that intensity cannot be sustained without a strong element of admiration for the other person’s attributes, character and values. Admiration elevates and ennobles affection. When a woman knows that her partner is completely truthful, incapable of deceit, it generates a deep, endearing trust that adds sweetness to their affection and sustains the relationship through turbulent times. When a man knows his partner will never fault him for making mistakes or reject him for failure, the relationship becomes unshakably strong and affection matures into deeper love.

Cinderella Man

The movie Cinderella Man portrays the true story of boxer Jim Braddock. The movie depicts the years of poverty and suffering that he and his family underwent during the Great Depression when injuries forced him to give up a promising boxing career and work as a longshoreman to feed his family. Behind the scenes he was supported by his wife Mae, who remained unshakably committed to him and her children during years of great physical and emotional hardship. Her intense and unwavering affection for Jim are founded on a deep admiration for his good values—his sense of responsibility to his family, his honesty and his innate goodness. His character backed by her deep admiration gave Jim the strength, protection and courageous determination needed to stage a remarkable comeback, when against ten to one odds he defeated Max Baer to become heavyweight champion of the world in 1935.

The Gardiners (Pride and Prejudice)




Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner are close relatives of the Bennet family in Pride and Prejudice. They are both intelligent, sensible, good natured people. But more than the similarity in their natures, it is their love and admiration for one another that stands out. When Mrs. Gardiner invites her niece, Jane, to stay with her in London, or her other niece, Elizabeth, to join them on a monthly long vacation, she does not even need to consult her husband before, so deep is his trust in her judgment and discretion. And rightly so, for he admires his wife’s good motives and always approves of her decisions. When Mr. Gardiner’s work in London necessitates a change of their travel plans, he does not need to manage a wife’s disappointment or anger. Mrs. Gardiner accepts the change and eagerly looks forward to the altered plan, which takes Elizabeth to Pemberley where she meets and ultimately marries Darcy. When Mr. Gardiner promises to assist his sister’s family in finding their youngest daughter, Lydia, who has eloped, he knows his wife will support him, even if it requires a very substantial expenditure of money in order to ensure his niece’s marriage. The good values found in each of the partners and their mutual respect and admiration make their relationship harmonious and joyful. That relationship served as a strong foundation for Mr. Gardiner’s success in business and the prosperity that has come to the family through his enterprise. It also enabled them to rise socially. When Elizabeth marries Darcy, the Gardiners gain admission to the highest level of English society.

The Chauffeur’s Daughter (Sabrina)

Sabrina is the story of an exceptional young woman who is the daughter of the Larrabee family’s chauffeur. Her father, Thomas Fairchild, is a kind, affectionate widower who chose driving as his occupation so that he would have more time for reading. Sabrina Fairchild is a shy, awkward teenager madly infatuated with the Larrabee’s younger son David, a strikingly handsome and charming playboy who has the pick of New England society women longing for his attentions. His older brother, Linus, is a hard-nosed, serious businessman who has expanded a successful family business into the world's largest communications company, while David cavorts with one woman after another.

After a year studying in Paris, Sabrina returns to the Larrabee’s Long Island estate transformed into a mature, strikingly beautiful woman who captivates David at their first meeting. David suddenly wants to break off his engagement to Elizabeth Tyson, an attractive physician whose father is negotiating a mega-merger with Linus. Alarmed that David’s change of heart could jeopardize his deal with the Tysons, Linus intervenes to woo Sabrina away from David so that David’s marriage and the Tyson deal can be completed. Initially Sabrina is unable to believe that Linus could be interested in her or any woman, but when he explains that she has opened his eyes to all he has been missing in life, her heart begins to melt. The idea of saving Linus from a meaningless life in pursuit of more wealth through the joy, love and affection of intimacy deeply appeals to her heart’s goodness and mind’s idealism. Although he lacks the charming manners of David, she discovers a deeper value in Linus as a human being and begins to feels an ennobling love for him that is both intense and uplifting.

At the last moment, Linus confesses to her his real intentions and arranges for her to be reunited with David. Unable to switch her affections from one man to another on a moment’s notice, she decides to go back to Paris to nurse her broken heart and build a new life. Before her departure, her father reveals that he has earned $2 million on the stock market by listening to what was spoken by the Larrabees in their car and that money is intended for her. When David learns that Linus is capable of sacrificing the deal of a lifetime for the sake of the chauffeur’s daughter, he realizes that Linus must feel a love for Sabrina that he himself is incapable of feeling for any woman. So he commits himself to marry Elizabeth, takes over negotiations on the Tyson deal and dispatches Linus to Paris where he is reunited with Sabrina.

Linus is hardly a romantic figure, but he comes to feel a very deep admiration and affection for Sabrina that he did not believe he was capable of. She is an exceptional woman capable of an idealistic love combined with rich emotional intensity. It is significant that she inherits substantial wealth even before Linus decides to go after her. Her rich emotional goodness is golden. It brings prosperity to her father and to the whole Larabee family.

The Countess and the Earl (Lady Anna)

Admiration arises from awareness and respect for the other person’s good character and high values. Love based on admiration is not diminished by passage of time or physical separation. It can overcome the greatest of challenges as it did in Anthony Trollope’s novel Lady Anna. Josephine Murray is a beautiful young woman without money who marries an aging and disreputable earl for his title and money, only to be told later that the earl was already married to an Italian woman so that Josephine could never claim either property or aristocratic lineage. Refusing to live with the earl on any other terms, Josephine and her young daughter Anna take refuge in the home of a tailor who takes pity on her misfortune and expends his entire life savings in legal proceedings to help her reclaim her rightful position as Countess and heir to the deceased earl’s property. Anna forms a close friendship with the tailor’s son Daniel. Unknown to their parents, they gradually fall in love and Anna pledges to marry Daniel when she comes of age.

Meanwhile legal proceedings rage between Josephine and the earl’s other living descendent, Anna’s handsome cousin Frederick, who seeks the earl’s property as a fitting complement to the title which he has recently inherited. Both sides of the family conclude that the best possible solution is to marry Anna and Frederick so that property and title can remain in the family. The two cousins are both attracted to one another, but Anna remains true to her pledge of marrying the tailor’s son. Although she is captivated by Frederick’s graceful appearance and fine behavior, Anna greatly admires the idealism of Daniel and his father who have sacrificed so much for her.

When her mother discovers that the only remaining obstacle to victory in her two decade long quest for legitimacy is a silly marriage pledge between two children, she exerts intense pressure on Anna to go back on her promise. Anna feels intense loyalty and gratitude to Daniel and refuses to break her pledge. When she refuses to give in to the charms of Frederick or the pressure of family, Josephine shoots and wounds Daniel in a fit of desperation. Ultimately Anna’s claim to the property and the title are upheld and she marries the tailor’s son. Out of sheer generosity, she offers half of her enormous inheritance to Frederick, and thereby heal the breech that had divided the family. Anna chose emotional admiration and loyalty over vital attraction and social acceptance.

Rose & Gregory (The Mirror has two faces)

In a story that goes to extremes to illustrate a profound truth about romantic relationships, Gregory Larkin, a handsome but socially awkward math professor, seeks to escape from the lure of sexual attraction which has been the cause of so many failed relationships for him in the past. So he advertizes for a woman who seeks the purity of an intimate relationship free of sexuality. Homely looking English professor Rose Morgan is introduced to Gregory by her sister without knowing anything about his unusual quest and they strike up a close relationship. Rose is strongly attracted by Greg’s appearance, charmed by his crazy notions, flattered by the interest of a handsome man, and secretly hoping that Greg will fulfill her long frustrated dreams of romantic love. She decides to play by his rules. They marry and maintain a platonic relationship. Over time they develop deep respect, appreciation and affection for one another. Gregory is delighted. Rose is frustrated. Finally she asks him to sleep with her. He agrees then refuses at the last moment, because he feels the old, uncontrollable lust overwhelming his higher feelings of affection. Rose feels rejected and leaves him, then refuses to answer his calls while he is on a summer lecture tour in Europe. Rose goes on a diet, resorts to makeup and changes her style of dressing. When he returns he finds her transformed into a sexually alluring woman. Instead of being pleased, he is terrified and distressed. He wants the old homely Rose back whom he can love for her mind and heart, rather than lust after for her body. Finally they come to terms. She recognizes the depth of his love and acceptance of her. He accepts sexuality as a natural part of truly romantic love. The story is fanciful, but the truth it expresses carries a message for all those who long for true and lasting romance.

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