Skip to main content

Because my series about relationships is broken up in individual blog parts, it may be wise to review what has been said before. In this way, the reader who starts with today’s blog may be caught up.

Previously readers will remember that I believe there are five great Truths underlying every relationship.

These are:

  1. Our purpose in life is to love one another.
  2. Love is work: it is a verb, not a noun.
  3. Life is hard; and breakdowns are to be expected.
  4. Women and men go about relationships in completely different ways.
  5. The responsibilities for management of relationships lie within ourselves: “I am the relationship”.

We also explained that these Great Five Truths stand on three pillars. The first Pillar of Impersonality has been discussed. In essence, it holds that, given that breakdown is the rule, not the exception, to everything that happens in the universe, personal breakdowns, hardships and heart aches between people never should be taken personally.

Today, we will visit the Pillar of Capability, and we will do it in three blog parts as well.

We are most excellently equipped to deal with the hardships and heart aches of relationships. Let’s look at this from the perspective of seeing what the relationship can bring as a threat. From a biological point of view, any organism needs to perceive, interpret and deal with external threats.

As a biological animal, we don’t have only five senses (sight, smell, hearing, touch and taste), but we may have as many as nine (such as a sense of balance, of hunger and thirst, and of proprioception – that since that tells us where our body is in space). Some scientists even think we have 21. We can therefore sense a threat coming at us in multiple ways. A spouse who sees their partner coming in the door at the end of the workday observes how the door is closed, how the partner’s shoulders slumped, how their gaze is averted, and how the timbre of their voice suggests tension, irritability and exhaustion. This spouse is alerted to the future trouble in their life before the partner even tells them that they have received bad news.

Our brain is the most complex and magnificent thing in the observable universe. Although the number vary between different ways of counting them, it appears as if the human brain has about 100 billion nerve cells. Each nerve cell is connected on average to about 10,000 other. Each neuronal connection of a synapse can be in one of four states (“on – on”; “on – off”; “off – on”; and “off – off”). This makes the number of states the human brain can be in an unimaginably large number (a hundred billion x 10,000 to the power of four states). Certainly we have the best tool available to interpret what we observe happening in our relationships.

Our bodies are equally marvellous. We have evolved (or we have been created, depending on the reader’s point of view) as a unique species of super predators.  This may sound fierce, but is good news in our relationships. We are very powerful in dealing with our relationships. We have developed an infinite, myriad number of ways to respond to what we have received and interpreted happening in our relationship.

Just our facial muscles can express 21 kinds of emotions (such as happily disgusted; or fearfully delighted).

Our language skills are open ended, setting us apart from any other animal. This means that we can use sounds, letters or gestures to form new units of meaning in a semantic and grammatical way to express exceedingly complicated communication. We can also convey this in an auditive, visual and tactile way. This is why we all intuitively understand how two people can stand on two different sides of a crowded room and convey everything they need to say by simply looking at each other. If we really think about what they did, it is an astonishing feat. Yet we all have that capacity to use for good in a relationship, rather than to destroy and break down.

If I think about this, I feel super excited about the potential every person has to act constructively in their relationships, building it up to the best it can be. It is this capability that we can hone to make our relationships astounding sources of giving and joy, no matter how challenging they may seem at first glance.

We will speak more about this next time.

Dr. Strauss l Wellness Lead
Follow me on Twitter @DrPieterStrauss