The 5th Stage of Love: How the Power of Two Can Change the World

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I will admit it. I’m in love. I would even go so far as to say I’m more in love now than when we first fell in love 44 years ago. My wife, Carlin, and I have been together since 1980. It was the third marriage for each of us. Yes, sometimes, the third time is the charm. But getting to stage five has been a journey which we are still on. I wrote about it in an article, “The 5 Stages of Love and Why Too Many Stop at Stage 3.”

            We all want real, lasting love, whether we are in our 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, or beyond. Yet too many marriages fall apart and most people don’t know why. They mistakenly believe that they have chosen the wrong partner. After going through the grieving process, they start looking again. But after more than forty years as a marriage and family counselor I have found that most people are looking for love in all the wrong places. They don’t understand that Stage 3 is not the end, but the real beginning for achieving real, lasting love:

            Stage 1: Falling In Love

            Stage 2: Becoming a Couple

            Stage 3: Disillusionment

            Stage 4: Creating Real, Lasting Love

            Stage 5: Using the Power of Two to Change the World

            When people think about what needs to change in the world, we often hear clichés like “the world needs more love.” But what does it mean to actually change the world for the better and how can love deal with global climate change, the destruction of our ecosystem, and our political gridlock that keeps us stuck in endless conflicts?

            Although we can go through the five stages of love at any age, we usually are not able to fully engage stage 5 until reach mid-life. When we get to mid-life and beyond, we all have a desire to make a difference in the world. We usually think of this as our “calling” in life. At a time when we must face the reality that we must change our lives to live sustainably on the planet, many of us feel called upon to address these issues. My calling has been to help men and women find real, lasting love so that together we can save humanity. My calling goes beyond my own personal joy in creating my relationship with Carlin. I want to make a difference in the world. This is true of Carlin as well.       

             The Power to Two enables us to do together what we could never do alone. My calling puts me more in the public arena world-wide, but I couldn’t do it without Carlin’s backing and support. Her calling is to make a difference in with our family, friends, and community. I’m there for her and my support allows her to make her own difference in the world.

            Joshua Wolf Shenk begins his book, Powers of Two: How Relationships Drive Creativity with this quote by playwright Tony Kushner,

The smallest indivisible human unit is two people, not one; one is a fiction.”

Shenk begins the book with our commonly held belief about the power of one.

“For centuries, the myth of the lone genius has towered over us like a colossus.”

He goes on to look more deeply at the power of two. He goes on to say,

“the dyad is the most fluid and flexible of relationships. Two people can basically make their own society as on the go. When even one more person is added to the mix, the situation becomes more stable, but this stability may stifle creativity, as roles and power positions harden. Three legs make a table stand in place. Two legs are made for walking or running for jumping or falling.”

            You might ask yourselves what do you see as your calling in life? What do you feel called upon to do, that would make the world a little better place? I believe that two people who are experiencing real, lasting love can commit themselves to sharing that love with the world.  Think what the world would be like if more and more of us were engaged in expressing real, lasting love.

            One important lesson the Coronavirus pandemic has taught me is that we are all connected. What impacts each of us can influence all of us. It also reminds me that humans are out of balance with the community of life on Earth. It was not an accident that the virus spread from animals to humans. Humans continue to consume more and more of the Earth’s resources and to invade habit of other animal species.

            In my book, The Enlightened Marriage: The 5 Transformative Stages of Relationship and Why The Best is Still To Come, I guide people through the 5 Stages of Love. In the final chapter, “You Two Can Change the World: If Not You, Who? If Not Now, When?” I say that the environmental changes we are seeing—everything from Covid-19 to extreme climate change—remind me of the film Koyaanisqatsi: Life Out of Balance, a 1982 documentary directed by Godfrey Reggio with music composed by Philip Glass. There was no dialogue in the film, just images and hauntingly beautiful music. According to Hopi Dictionary the word koyaanisqatsi (Hopi pronunciation: kojɑːnisˈkɑtsi) is defined as “life of moral corruption and turmoil” or “life out of balance.”

            In her book, The Watchman’s Rattle: A Radical New Theory of Collapse, Rebecca Costa offers an in-depth understanding of the underlying causes of this imbalance. She recognizes the complexity is making it difficult for humans to solve the problems we have created in the world.

            Clearly, if human beings are going to survive as a species, we must heal our connection to the earth. We must also heal our connection to ourselves and each other.  I believe that couples are being called to this larger purpose. As our love expands outward we want to work together to help save our children, grandchildren, and all future generations.

             Let me be clear, I’m not suggesting that every couple has to find a big issue that they tackle together. I’m not even suggesting that there is a single issue that both members of the couple will take on together. I am saying that as we get into our 40s, 50s, and 60s, we begin to feel called to address larger issues in the world. These issues may be an extension of our work, either paid or volunteer, or they may be something that has been in the background of our lives and is now coming to the fore.

            One person may take the lead on an issue and the other person may remain more in the background providing support. We may be the leader on one issue and the support person on another. Or there may be an issue that both members of the partnership want to address. We may each bring our unique perspective and skills to the problem.

            My wife, Carlin, and I continue to find ways to heal ourselves, heal our relationships, and extend the healing out into the world. If you are in a relationship now, think of how the five stages of love may guide you and what you might want to engage as you reach Stage 5, Using the Power of Two to do your part to change the world for the better.

            I look forward to hearing from you. Drop me a note at Jed@MenAlive.com (be sure to respond to my spamarrest filter when writing for the first time) or come visit me at www.MenAlive.com.

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