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Idea Concept I am not a relationship expert. I am not sure I believe in relationship experts.

But I do believe in relationships. In ideas. In theories. In questions. This is one of my favorite parts about writing. For me, it's not just about weaving words and bringing characters to life. No. Writing is also about positing theories about humanity, about existence, about the nature of relationships. I like to inject a little philosophy into my prose. In my estimation, that's when things get interesting.

And so. Over the past several years, I have cooked up a slew of ideas, of theories. On many topics - childhood, happiness, love, loss, place, purpose, parenthood... The list goes on and on. I keep these shards of speculation tucked away for future use, for future conversations. But today, I would like to put forth three theories I have about successful relationships. I realize even before I float these ideas your way that they are vague, that they might be full of air. But they are interesting, I think. (To me at least.)

On Nurturing: In most successful relationships I have seen, there is one Nurturer. One person who typically takes care of the other in ways big and small. The Nurturer is very often the person who makes the coffee in the morning and picks up dry cleaning and holds airline tickets during a vacation. The Nurturer is often more about gestures than words, gestures that often come very naturally. It is important that the Nurturer is allowed to nurture. Having two Nurturers would not work very well as the Nurturer enjoys the power that comes from tending to the needs, spoken and unspoken, of the Nurteree. (I put forth this theory in Life After Yes wherein Sage was most definitely the nurturer in his relationship with Quinn.)

On Chaos & Order: In most successful relationships I have seen, one party is more drawn to chaos and the other is more drawn to order. Chaos Seeker is a fan of complexity, of conversation, of life's loose ends. Order Seeker likes things tidy physically and existentially. Chaos Seeker will often find ways to muddy clear waters just for the sake of doing so. Order Seeker sees the patterns in life and love and home and is attracted to predictability and stability. Chaos Seeker and Order Seeker need each other; the former enjoys the challenge of shaking things up. The latter needs a canvas of evolving chaos to fashion order.

On Stress & Serenity: In most successful relationships I have seen, one party is the Stress Maven, more inclined to fret about things - from the toxins in toys to the possibility of terrorism. The Serene One, on the other hand, tends to trust people and the world and that things will turn out okay. Again, these two balance each other out. Stress about life's grays is often important, but must often be reigned in. It is the Serene One's job (and often joy) to keep the anxiety within limits.

Again, these are just theories. And here we have just snapshots of these theories. I do not pretend to know what a "successful relationship" is, but I have instincts about things I see around me. Consider the dialectic of the above theories, how they work (or don't work) together... Is the Nurturer always the Order Seeker? Is the Chaos Seeker invariably the Stress maven? I'm not sure...

Those of you who know me will not be surprised to hear that in my marriage I am the Nurturee, the Chaos Seeker, and the Stress Maven.

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  • Thoughts on my decidedly non-expert theories?
  • Do you think all of this is a more nuanced way of saying that opposites attract?
  • In your relationship, are you the Nurturer or the Nurturee? The Chaos Seeker or Order Seeker? The Stress Maven or Serene One?
  • Do you like stumbling upon ideas in fiction?
  • Do you have any relationship theories of your own? Share 'em!

The True Harvest

Sleeping in Separate Bedrooms