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Romantic love endeavours to please the other on the other's terms, not on our terms.

— Karmayogi

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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