Q & A
- What are core values, and why are they significant to a meaningful and lasting romance?
Core values represent basic morals we should strive to achieve for ourselves and our romantic relationships. I believe we should all strive for, at a minimum, the core values of trust, honesty, respect, kindness, reassurance, and humor. These values apply to our everyday lives as well as our romantic relationships and set the tone for how we interact with one another.
- What are some fundamental needs and desires we all share in common, and why are these so important?
Maslow wrote the quintessential book on the hierarchy of human needs, but beyond our basic human needs for survival, we all share the need to feel loved, to be accepted for who we are, and to be treated with decency and respect. Either knowingly or unknowingly, we carry additional needs and desires into our romantic relationships. These needs and desires must be met for our relationship to prosper. Some fundamental interpersonal needs most of us cannot live well without include needs for intimacy, health, time, independence, hope, bliss, sex, and faith.
- Why do some romantic relationships look so easy while others become the poster child for dysfunctional behavior?
Whether they recognize and embrace the 4Cs intentionally or not, couples who approach their romantic relationship with chemistry, communication, compromise, and commitment in mind, stand a better chance of attaining a lasting and meaningful romance.
- Why do some romantic relationships begin with a flurry of passion and end quickly, while others start slowly and diminish over time?
The ability to sustain a romantic relationship begins with defining our needs and desires. These are easy to overlook or dismiss in the beginning of a new relationship, particularly during the infatuation stage. Red hot chemistry can launch fireworks in a new relationship by satisfying a high priority need for passion. But when other important, and often times unrealized needs go unmet, the relationship suffers. No long-term relationship has immunity from conflict, monotony, withdrawal, miscommunication, and a host of other challenges couples face. Whether your relationship begins with red hot romance or as long-time friends first, you won’t sustain the relationship without respecting, accepting, and understanding each other’s needs. Moreover, it’s not enough to assume love will sustain a romantic relationship simply because we feel love in our hearts for someone. We have to show we appreciate one another through our words and actions. Fundamentally, when our needs are met—and appreciation is a big one—everything falls into place. When our needs go unmet, however, everything falls apart.
- Are romance and sex mutually exclusive, and what does it take to shine in both?
From a woman’s perspective, romance introduces the desire for sex. From a man’s perspective, sex drives his desire for romance, though not all men will share the same desire for romance in their relationship the same way not all women hold equal longing for sex. In some ways, romance and sex are mutually exclusive. In other ways, they intertwine themselves as complements of one another. Sex is easy. Romance takes work. When healthy romance persists in a relationship, the sex takes care of itself. Conversely, without sex, romance will wither on the vine. For both genders, sex and romance thrive when our highest priority needs are met.
- How does new technology help and hinder our romantic relationships?
Modern technology provides tools we can use to either impede or improve our communication skills. Technology will always exist and evolve as time goes on. Our ability to effectively communicate our needs and desires will always impact the success of our romantic relationships—independent of any given technology. That said, numerous ways exist to propagate our feelings through verbal and nonverbal communication. The onus falls on each of us to use technology for the benefit of our relationships and not their detriment. We must work to use technology as a supplement, not a replacement, for face-to-face communication. Technology can bring us closer when we’re geographically apart; it can also increase our emotional distance if we allow technology to replace our basic human capacity to communicate through more traditional means. Technology will always be a transport vehicle for communication and nothing more. Technology, no matter how sophisticated or well-deployed, will never replace the critical nature of human emotion. And technology will never substitute for good character, good listening skills, empathy, acknowledgement, and the desire to better understand one another.
- Is online dating just a digital meat market, or could our soulmates exist in cyberspace?
More than a passing fad, the concept of online dating has forever altered the dating landscape by allowing single adults the opportunity to comingle with the opposite sex from the comfort of their own home. With online dating, much of the standard dating etiquette remains the same, but lots of pros and cons abound. Though not for everyone, online dating offers a viable alternative to more traditional dating means, and by all accounts, will continue to flourish for years to come. Have people met their soulmates through online dating services? Some married couples would offer an emphatic “Yes!” Others would disagree. Like any dating forum, your success is driven largely by your attitude and the effort you’re willing to put forth.
- How can we handle some of the most daunting compromises romantic relationships face?
For some of us, compromise is a lot like giving the cat a bath: neither party enjoys the process; we shield ourselves when the claws come out; and we’re glad to be done when it’s over. Treat compromise like a puzzle. Start by laying out the pieces so you can see them and decide together what makes the most sense to go where. Compromise can’t happen in a cone of silence. It takes a willingness of both partners to communicate, and sacrifice to some extent, for the benefit of their relationship.
- Why do we fear commitment, and what can we do to build commitment in our romantic relationships?
Our fear of commitment derives from many issues, real and perceived, including the fear of betrayal, rejection, conflict, vulnerability, technology, loss of freedom, and more. In a general sense, our fear of commitment originates from a fear of losing our independence, of reliving past mistakes and trying to pound a square peg in a round hole by forcing ourselves to accept unrealistic expectations with a partner who fails to meet our needs. With a better understanding of our commitment fears, we can turn our attention to building commitment by spending time together, establishing boundaries, maintaining emotional and physical intimacy, and working to keep the lines of communication open.
I conclude where I began, by emphasizing the importance of acknowledging our core values and defining our most significant personal needs and desires. If we don’t know what we’re looking for, how will we know when we find it?
When I started this book, I wanted to write something profound—a revolutionary treatise on romantic relationships and what makes them tick. But after years of research and endless hours combing the dying embers of my previous relationships, I arrived at an obvious truth: the power of love, intimacy, and a meaningful and lasting romance exists not in words but in actions. In many ways, we have the power to control our thoughts, our behaviors, and our emotions. We like to think we have the power to control the forces that shape our lives, but in reality, the process of finding true love invokes more trial and error than divine intervention. Only when we learn to accept ourselves for who we are, to identify our own needs and desires, can we begin to build the foundation for a meaningful and lasting romance.
At one time or another, most of us have experienced meaningful, yet short-lived, relationships as well as lasting relationships we deemed woefully insufficient to meet our needs. Fundamentally, a meaningful and lasting romance involves less of what we want and don’t have, and is more about recognizing what we have while we discover the things we never knew we wanted in the first place.
As an accomplished engineer, I’ve tried to project logic and reasoning onto the notion of love. But logic rarely applies to love. For love, like chemistry, either exists or not. Love defines faith, compassion, and understanding. Love is wider than the grand canyon and more powerful than a tsunami. Romantic relationships represent complex systems, but unlike a machine’s finite capacity to function, humans maintain a limitless capacity to love.
I’ve done my best to present a variety of relevant concepts as accurately and indiscriminately as I can from both gender perspectives. I’ve also approached the topic of romantic relationships without regard to race, ethnicity, or cultural differences. No doubt, variables exist across geographic and ancestral boundaries, subtleties in the way different cultures view romantic relations. With this in mind, I resigned myself to make some educated generalizations based on my belief about the indiscriminant nature of love. Chemistry, communication, compromise, and commitment will always be intrinsic properties of a meaningful and lasting romance regardless of race, ethnicity, and cultural norms.
The 4Cs as I’ve described them in this book are both simple and complex in terms of how they relate to human nature and gender differences. The 4Cs are not a recipe for finding true love or a quick fix to a bad relationship. Instead, they represent the pillars of a meaningful and lasting romance supported by our foundation of core values. And when outside influences beyond our control threaten our romantic relationships, the aggregate power of chemistry, communication, compromise, and commitment helps us avoid the rocky shoals. The 4Cs are not absolute, but rather, a quartet of commonsense guidelines most people are familiar with—yet often fail to act upon. Just as no one grows up dreaming about divorce, few grow up eager to learn what it takes to make a meaningful and lasting romance work—or how to understand and appreciate the differences between our respective gender needs. Perhaps they should.
So where does this leave you? That depends on where you are in your romantic relationship and where you’re trying to go. Our lives are governed by our past experiences, which influence our state of physical and emotional health as well as our relationships with our children, former spouses, friends, and family. Each of us brings certain fears, doubts, and insecurities to our romantic relationships. Timing, geography, and logistics also add to the mix, as romantic relationships remain dynamic, evolving, and seldom propelled by logic or reason. If you remember nothing else, remember to keep smiling and maintain a positive attitude about life in general. Studies show that smiling, even when we don’t feel like it, directly influences other people’s attitudes and how they respond to us. Look inward and decide for yourself the things most important to you. Our lives are what we make of them. The same can be said for a meaningful and lasting romance.
Better to be who you are, faults and all, than pretend to be someone you’re not. You can’t expect to have a good love life if you don’t have a good life to begin with. Or, in Doctor Phil’s words, “In relationships, just as in every other aspect of life, the spirit and attitude with which you do things is at least as important as your actual actions. Embrace and incorporate these powerful values, and you will start living with more integrity, honesty, compassion and enthusiasm. This, in turn, will breathe new life into your relationship.”
A romantic relationship embodies a living, breathing union fueled by love and affection—and not immune to complacency, boredom, or a latent desire to want what we can’t have. Like all complex systems, romantic relationships require periodic maintenance, which in turn requires the necessary tools to achieve said maintenance. Let the 4Cs be your tools to heighten your romantic relationship.
I assure you, happily-ever-after does exist, but don’t spend your life chasing perfection. Love yourself. Love your partner. Make a priority of understanding each other’s needs and desires. Be flexible. Be persistent. And most of all, be open to new ideas. Sometimes we don’t know what we’re looking for until we lay our eyes and our hearts upon it. If you’re still single and actively searching for “the one,” don’t make the mistake of becoming self-absorbed or indoctrinated in your own beliefs of what a romantic relationship should be. Challenge yourself to break the mold and take a chance on something new with someone not your type. Make your relationship a high priority need. Let go of preconceived notions of how a romantic relationship should progress. No two people are alike and no two relationships are alike. Trust your instincts. If something isn’t working, then follow your intuition. A meaningful romance should be fun and effortless in the beginning, not a burden. According to authors Hendrix and LaKelly, a healthy romantic relationship evolves when “two people gradually transition from moving within a single orbit to moving in two separate, but overlapping orbits. They are able to have their own friends, their own interests, their own schedules, their own opinions, feelings, and thoughts, while still enjoying and preferring each other’s company.”
Achievements toward a healthy relationship require the sum of small efforts. Commit to one another. Use active listening skills. Engage one another. Respect one other. Work to resolve conflicts constructively. Be less judgmental and more open and honest. Don’t rely on someone else to make you happy. Strive to see things from the other person’s perspective.
Within this book, I’ve used words to characterize the 4Cs of chemistry, communication, compromise, and commitment as I see them. These requisite elements of a meaningful and lasting romance do not simply live on paper. They live and thrive within our hearts. For therein lies our passion for acceptance, companionship, and love. Whether you agree with my philosophy or not, I challenge you to examine your past and present romantic relationships to discover if chemistry, communication, compromise, and commitment persist. In the words of the late American mythologist, writer, and lecturer Joseph Campbell, “Love is friendship set to music.” Let the 4Cs become the lyrics upon which your own love song is built.
The 4Cs embody an amalgam of physical, intellectual, emotional, and spiritual attributes. To explore these qualities in totality—to understand precisely how and why we persist in romantic relationships with one another would require a lifelong endeavor and fill a skyscraper with paper. Just as no individual is privy to all mysteries of the universe, no one book can possess all the answers. Nonetheless, I sincerely hope The 4Cs of a Meaningful and Lasting Romance has not only opened your mind to new ideas, but opened your heart as well. For the answers we seek to the subtle complexities of human nature and romantic relationships exist not within the pages of endless study, but within ourselves. The epitome of a meaningful and lasting romance isn’t governed by mathematical axioms, the laws of physics, or psychological supposition. Our capacity to love and be loved remains as vast and mysterious as the cosmos itself—an endless expanse of unfathomable grandeur waiting to be explored. Or as Mark Twain wrote, “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
Ultimately, the path to a meaningful and lasting romance involves a journey of two souls. I encourage you to use the principles I’ve outlined within these pages and define your own journey together. If you’re single, don’t settle for someone you can live with. Look for someone you can’t live without! For whatever path life takes you on, be passionate about your pursuits. Appreciate every moment you enjoy alone or share together because life doesn’t come with an extended warranty. Or as someone once said, “Life isn’t about finding shelter in the storm. It’s learning to dance in the rain.”