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When ego dissolves, life will be a perennial romance.  

— Karmayogi


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Level 10 Complementarity

Relationships at this level are characterized by ever-increasing joy of harmonious energies. Partners relate to each other through pure self-giving that expects nothing in return and knows there is greater joy in giving than in receiving. They recognize each other as the spiritual complement that fulfills and completes them.

The true basis for human harmonious relationship is not similarity or identity between partners. It is complementarity. Each of us is completed and stimulated to grow by contact with a person of complementary nature who sees, feels and responds differently than we do. Complementarity releases energy for self-discovery and growth. Instead of trying to wipe out or gloss over differences, discover the richness they contain.

Jane & Bingley (Pride & Prejudice)

Accepting another with all their imperfections results in a beautiful relationship. But not noting the imperfections at all ensures perfect and complete harmony. Jane Bennet and Charles Bingley in Pride and Prejudice achieve this level of harmony. From their first meeting, they are happy to be together. She is the most beautiful creature he ever beheld, he feels. He is just what a young man ought to be, she believes. As they get better acquainted with each other, they are convinced more and more of each other's perfection. They never argue or disagree. There is not a single aspect of each other's personality that they would like to change or improve. They do not gloss over each other's faults, ignore them, make excuses for them or forgive them. They simply do not see them. What looks to the rest of the world as Bingley's weakness is to Jane only his modesty. Jane's timidity and reticence make her more angelic to Bingley. This is not a result of infatuation that wears off with time or an illusion that vanishes giving way to reality. This IS reality. They refuse to see the defects out of an idealism of harmony. Rather than expecting perfection in each other and trying to find it, they discover the perfection that is already there.

Ashley & Melanie (Gone with the Wind)

Harmony is an inner state, not an outer condition. The highest level of harmonious relationship can be achieved in the most challenging and impossible external circumstances. It is our response that determines the level of harmony, not life. Wealthy plantation owner Ashley Wilkes married his cousin Melanie in Georgia just before the outbreak of the Civil War and lived to struggle against starvation and death during the darkest days of the Reconstruction that followed the defeat of the South. The hardships they underwent make their story one of the most dramatic and realistic depictions of the destruction and pain wrought by war. During the war Ashley was seriously wounded, captured by the Yankees and incarcerated in a camp of disease-ridden dying prisoners of war. Melanie saw their plantation destroyed and Atlanta burned. Despite her frail health, she nursed wounded soldiers and worked in the fields like a slave to keep herself and her friends alive. When Ashley finally returned from the war, they faced more years of physical hardship and spent the rest of their life together in a meager shack of house sharing what little they had with friends and family.

Yet in spite of the hardship and suffering, no one can recall ever hearing a word of complaint or resentment expressed by either against the other. They loved and cherished one another as though they were one person instead of two and never for a moment blamed their partner for any suffering or deficiency they had to undergo.


Jodhaa Bai and Emperor Akbar (Jodhaa Akbar)

Jodhaa Akbar is a sixteenth century love story about a political marriage of convenience that gave birth to true love between a great Mughal emperor, Akbar, and a Rajput princess, Jodhaa.

Jodhaa is forced to marry the Emperor Akbar to protect her father’s kingdom. Their relationship starts off with a lot of dislike and prejudices. Gradually as they started to live together, she came to feel an awe inspired by his bravery, his fair and just methods of ruling a vast empire, and his strong personality. At the same time, she was amazed by his kindness, goodness of character and respect for her. Akbar in turn was impressed by her beauty, poise and compassion towards others. He fell deeply in love with her but waited for her to reciprocate his love. He built a small temple for her inside her quarters and did not interfere in any of her activities. She learned his language, cooked for him in spite of being the Queen of Hindustan, and when he fell ill, she nursed him with true devotion. They fell deeply in love and their true union took place mentally and physically. They complemented one another and what started as a marriage for political and social obligation turned into a lifetime of eternal love and true devotion.

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

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Level 9 Freedom

In relationships at this level disagreements are rare. If they come at all, they come to remind the partners of their complementary natures and individual uniqueness and to bring them even closer together. Partners feel an unvarying and intense goodwill for one another. They have the infinite patience needed to give each other complete freedom to express their differences and individuality.

Harmonious intimate relations are not created by finding the perfect mate. True harmony is achieved when we have the goodwill, tolerance, and patience to accept our partner just as they are without passing judgment or trying to alter or change anything about them. That is only possible if we are willing to give our partner complete freedom to be the person they are without pretense or reservation. Giving freedom to another person, be it lover, spouse or a child, is a demanding challenge. For it can only be done when we are willing and capable of imposing self-restraint on our own impulses. For the moment you react against your partner for any reason, you limit their freedom to be who they are.

Freedom is the greatest gift one human being can give to another. Real growth of human personality only occurs in freedom. In the absence of freedom, people may curb their behavior and conform to our wishes, but that does not change who they really are. When the restraints are removed, they can always revert to their previous behavior. That is why giving freedom to children is essential for true individuality to be born. Giving freedom to another is no guarantee that they will behave the way you want them to. On the contrary, real freedom means the freedom to be just the opposite and accepting them when they are.

Mark & Fanny Robarts (Framley Parsonage)

Misfortune is known to sow disharmony, but it seemed from the day of their marriage that neither misfortune or disharmony was ever likely to touch the lives of Mark and Fanny Robarts. They were an attractive, popular couple who had everything a respectable English clergyman and his wife could wish for. They enjoyed a comfortable income, good neighbors, a houseful of cheerful children, and a deeply affectionate relationship with one another. It might seem natural that people with so much to be grateful for should live peacefully and harmoniously together, but very often that is not the case. More money and greater success often bring disagreements and troubles when prosperity and the good things in life eliminate the need for self-restraint and good behavior.

But Fanny and Mark were not the type to quarrel just because things were going very well. They were known to their friends to be deeply in love. Whenever their wealthy patroness, Lady Lufton, made the mistake of criticizing anything Mark did, Fanny was ready to leap to his defense and slay any number of windmills on his behalf.

Yet a time came when their relationship was sorely challenged. Mark made some foolish loans to an unscrupulous acquaintance, incurred a huge debt and brought the family to the edge of ruin. Worse still, he kept his folly secret from his wife until the creditors were ready to descend on his house to confiscate the furniture and the whole world would come to know about it. Finally resigned to ruin and public disgrace, he approached Fanny and asked her to sit down so he could speak to her on an important issue. Sensing that calamity was at the door, she refused to sit at a distance and listen to his confession. She jumped up, went to his side, embraced him and demanded the right to bear equally whatever misfortune was going to fall on her husband. It is said that true loyalty and affection are more powerful than life. It proved to be true in this case. Within moments, Lady Lufton's son arrived back from Europe and rushed in to settle Mark's debts before misfortune could strike. That is the power of harmony based on total acceptance.

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

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Level 8 Appreciation

Partners have learned to understand each other's point of view and to genuinely appreciate the truth, value and validity in it.  Relationships at this level are characterized by mutual respect and admiration.

There is always truth in the other person's point of view. It's a universal law without exception, even when that person is your bitter enemy out to destroy you. How much greater is the truth in the viewpoint of the partner who knows you intimately. No matter whether you think your partner's perspective is based on errors, misunderstandings, ignorance or personal preferences, there is always a valid truth in it that deserves recognition and respect. What applies to points of view also applies to every other difference between partners - tastes, preferences, attitudes, sentiments, feelings, habits, etc. Maximum harmony issues from not only conceding the right of your partner to differ from your perspective, but also in striving to genuinely recognize and appreciate the validity of their perspective. Such an effort invariably leads both partners to discover something more true, valuable and suitable than either of their individual perspectives.

Elizabeth & Darcy (Pride & Prejudice)

Differences are a potential problem area for everyone. Ignoring another's defects and preventing minor issues from escalating into problems strengthens the relationship and ensures stability. But what happens when partners actually feel grateful to another for pointing out their faults and both decide to change for the better?

The relationship between Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy begins in conflict, evolves into appreciation and is ultimately transformed into romantic love. When Darcy's first marriage proposal goes wrong, they end up arguing and trading bitter accusations. They part in anger, believing they will never see each other again. But gradually they each begin to see the truth in what the other person said in the heat of argument. After struggling to overcome their egoistic sensitivities, each acknowledges that truth and accepts it. Darcy realizes for the first time that other people rightly perceive him as arrogant and offensive.  Elizabeth acknowledges that her mind was prejudiced and capable of jumping to false conclusions based on scanty evidence. Darcy transforms his outward behavior to remove all traces of egoistic assertion. Elizabeth stops blaming Darcy for her problems and sees the real cause lies within her own family. Eventually they meet again and marry, achieving a relationship that is unique in its harmony.

They have seen each other's darker side. They neither condemn the other nor romanticize their imperfections. They take it as an opportunity to recognize their own inner deficiencies. That makes them humble, tolerant and forgiving. They learn to see themselves from the other's point of view and change, making tremendous psychological progress. Their differences make them endlessly attractive to one another and keep them together. Because of this realization, what was initially considered objectionable becomes admirable, even lovable. They accept these traits in each other's family members too.

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

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Level 7 Tolerance

Disagreements are mild and rare and never dampen the strong bond of positive feeling between them. Partners may not always fully agree or appreciate each other, but they have learned to accept and become tolerant of their differences.

Couples at this level share a strong bond of positive feelings. They are always seen to be loving and considerate to one another. Their mutual acceptance, trust, respect and admiration make their relationship stable and beautiful. Accepting and appreciating another is possible only when we eliminate our own egoistic sense of self-importance and superiority or the notion that our opinions and attitudes are somehow more valid than those of our partner. Acceptance and tolerance are the preconditions for true affection and love. Romance arises not when we find the perfect mate but when we do not even see or notice any defects in the other person, because we relate to the person at a deeper level where these things do not matter. 

A strong positive relationship is a wonderful blessing, but it can always be made stronger and more intense by conscious effort. Learn not to expect anything from your partner. Rather learn to appreciate freshly their every small positive thoughtful initiative. The more conscious attention we give to the positive aspects of our relationship, the more they will increase. Learn to look at every situation from your partner's point of view and appreciate the truth in that viewpoint. Disagreements will disappear. Only differences will remain.

Mr. & Mrs. Gardiner (Pride and Prejudice)



 The Gardiners are a happy and harmonious couple. Even when they disagree, their differences never become personal. Their interactions never become negative. They trust each other. They do not need the other's permission to take a decision. They know they already have it. When their vacation plans are altered because of Mr. Gardiner's work, Mrs. Gardiner is disappointed but doesn't fret or complain, she accepts it cheerfully. When Mr. Gardiner decides to set aside a huge amount of money to help his sister's family, he has his wife's ungrudging support even though they both know it affects the future of their own children. They have similar values, and are always able to see the bigger picture. This perspective enables them to ignore minor differences, while nurturing and strengthening their relationship.

Mae & Jim Braddock (Cinderella Man)

We might not expect to find a high level of harmony in the relationship between a professional boxer and his wife. But the marriage of Mae and James Braddock is an inspiring example of complete acceptance and a great tolerance between the partners under conditions of hardship sufficient to provoke most married couples to constant recrimination and acrimony. Jim is an over-the-hill boxer who has to struggle to find work during the Great Depression and what little he can earn is insufficient to provide food and heating for his wife and three young children during the cold winter months in New York. Jim gets a last chance opportunity to re-enter the ring five years later, Mae trembles with fear for her husband's safety and cannot even bear to attend the matches. They desperately need the money, but still she would rather send the kids to stay with relatives than risk his life. Yet knowing how deeply he yearns for self-respect and success, she supports him through a remarkable comeback to become heavyweight champion of the world. The depth of harmony and love between them is the foundation for Jim's incredible achievement.

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

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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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Scale of Harmony

Harmony is the foundation for successful relationships. Greater harmony generates greater joy and lasting fulfillment. It also eliminates bouts of stress and conflict which periodically spoil an otherwise good relationship. Assess the current level of harmony in your relationship and learn how you can take it to a higher level.


  • The 10 statements listed below represent different levels of harmony in relationship, listed from lower to higher. Read and select the statement which most accurately describes the current status of your relationship.
  • If you want more information or examples regarding any level, click Read More.
  • Once you have identified the present level of your relationship, learn how to raise your relationship to a higher level. Applying these strategies seriously is sure to generate significant results in a short period of time. See Strategies to Increase Harmony in Your Relationship
  • If you are not fully satisfied with the results you obtain by applying the strategies, Submit your problem and describe your situation so that IRES can provide you personalized expert advice for improving your relationship.
  • If you already enjoy a very high level of harmony in your relationship, assess your relationship on the Scale of Romance or see the Unfailing Strategies for Love & Romance.


How harmonious is your relationship?

1. Opposition: Our relationship is characterized by shouting, mean accusations, deceit, or threats of violence which are becoming increasingly negative and destructive. Partners at this level see and relate to one another as opposites and irreconcilable contradictions. Read More

2. Conflict: Our relationship is 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. Read More

3. Domination: We quarrel intensely on occasion, then make up again after some time and things go back to routine. There is a constant struggle of will between the partners. One or both partners try to dominate each other and make the other person change. Read More

4. Reaction: We feel frequent irritation and an underlying tension between us that permeates all aspects of our relationship. Partners are extremely sensitive to each other's words and behavior and react strongly to what they find disagreeable. Read More

5. Judgment: Even when we strongly disagree, we do so without intense emotion or personal reaction, then quickly put the issue behind us. Disharmony expresses in a more subtle form as teasing, making fun of one another, mockery or sarcasm. Read More

6. Compromise: We have learned to discuss and disagree without disturbance to the underlying positive feeling in our relationship. Partners maintain good manners and behavior at all times. Read more

7. Tolerance: Disagreements are mild and rare and never dampen the strong bond of positive feeling between us. Partners may not always fully agree or appreciate each other, but they have learned to accept and become tolerant of their differences. Read More

8. Appreciation: Both of us actively strive to accommodate the other person's point of view and accept whatever will please the other. Partners have learned to take each other’s point of view and to genuinely appreciate the truth, value and validity in it. Read More

9. Freedom: Our disagreements remind us of our complementary natures and individual uniqueness and bring us even closer together. Partners feel an unvarying and intense goodwill for one another. They have the infinite patience needed to give each other complete freedom to express their individuality. Read More

10. Complementarity: Our relationship is one of ever-increasing joy of harmonious energies. Partners at this level relate to each other through pure self-giving that expects nothing in return. They recognize each other as a spiritual complement that fulfill and completes them. Read More

Learn more about each of the ten levels with detailed explanations, examples and movie videos

  1. Opposition
  2. Conflict
  3. Domination
  4. Reaction
  5. Judgment
  6. Compromise
  7. Tolerance
  8. Appreciation
  9. Freedom
  10. Complementarity

See the practical and unfailing strategies for ascending the scale of harmony in your relationship

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