What is required of two people, when one or both of them is an artist, for the creation and maintenance of a solid intimate relationship? In my experience, for such a relationship to work–and to last—it must be founded on twenty particular building blocks. Here are the first ten; I’ll share the second ten building blocks next week!
• Care of each other’s solitude. It must be all right and more than all right for each partner to spend significant time pursuing his or her own activities and inner life.
• Maintenance of emotional security. Each partner is not only aware of the other’s feelings but takes them into account and actively works to help his partner feel good rather than bad.
• Maintenance of meaning. Partners understand that meaning crises will arise and that, to be met, they may sometimes necessitate some profound changes, like a change in career, in art discipline, in subject matter, in geographic location, and so on.
• Maintenance of passion. Partners will not let themselves become too busy for love, too tired for love, or too disinterested in love, unless they want to participate in an ice-cold relationship.
• Creation of at least occasional happiness. Partners will actually ask questions of each other like “What would make us happy?” and “What would make you happy?” and make pronouncements like “This would make me happy.”
• A gentle demanding of discipline from oneself and one’s partner. Each partner will strive to work in a productive, undramatic, regular way, with few creative tantrums and excuses about not being inspired or in the mood.
• A gentle exchanging of truths. When there is something that must be said, it will get said carefully, thoughtfully, and compassionately—and also clearly and directly.
• Acceptance of the limits of the human and the facts of existence. Each partner will expect a lot from himself and his partner while at the same time recognizing and accepting that floods, failures of nerve, and pratfalls do happen.
• A minimizing of one’s own unwanted qualities. Each partner will bravely look in the mirror, take a fearless personal inventory, and identify and then change those aspects of personality that harm the relationship.
• Support of each other’s career. Each person in the partnership is likely to have a career and hence career demands that need to be respected and negotiated.
Ten more next week!