Context: Analyzing patterns kept me alive as a child when adults did not do what they said. It's a skill that I regularly apply to keep others and myself safer. One of the patterns that has emerged in my seventy lover relationships, both in and out of the community, is "Four Hours a Day" for a monogamous relationship.... or more. Thirty hours a week of quality one-on-one time is optimal. Almost every relationship that achieves this threshold succeeds. And it's important to note that it's not that we end up spending 30 hours because we are so happy, but rather that we end up very compatible and in tune because we are spending 4-6 hours a day and both prioritize this amount of time.
In my book Co-Creating Conscious Chemistry I did a section on relationship paradigms because no one was talking about them and they seemed so obvious. There are about thirty paradigms in play in the American landscape, but among the most common are "The House-Builder," and "The Surfer." They are exactly what they sound. A surfer waits around for the right wave, the perfect moment with someone, and then rides that moment to the shore. That's the end of the relationship unless another wave, often serendipitously, comes their way with that person. A House-Builder has a plan, allocates time, effort and logistical support to find the land, draw up a house and works hard towards a long-term vision. Naturally, the surfer/house-builder combo is a win/lose relationship. The surfer is happy with the one-night stand and the house-builder is dumped before they even formalize a plan to start building. It is profoundly dissatisfying for the house-builder.
HAI has a lot of surfers and relatively few direct house-builders. The Bay Area in general has a lot more "lets see what happens," and "call me maybe" people than "I want to devote my life to building a house with this person in this way," people.
In my first few workshops at HAI I was OK breaking my heart repeatedly and gaining a repertoire of experience with my various and diverse lover-personas. Over time, it was obvious that I was happiest by far with one women of any age, economic background, educational background or body type who wanted to kindly, directly and sensitively build a house together. And there were some women online who were very interested as long as we had children. There's just one problem: Having watched my own life be far more painful than happy, as a result of childhood abuse and negligence that was glossed over by everyone, I do not consider myself qualified, in this culture, to be a good father. I'm not suggesting that I would be worse than average, but rather that average consists of far more torture and psychological abuse than we are currently willing to face as a society. And I'd rather devote my life to writing books about it, learning and teaching what I learn, and being a great uncle to kids that need that (this is in Thailand where parents do not feel threatened by my interest in helping their kids the way every parent in the U.S. has felt, particularly if I point out parental abuse). So I tell these women that I'd much rather focus on creating an exceptionally conscious and meaningful life and relationship by putting all the energy (30,000 hours is the estimate) normally spent being an mediocre parent being an amazing partner. They are unmoved. They want kids. So I can't find someone willing to put that kind of energy in a relationship... in America. I am sure they are there, but I did not find one in a sampling of initiating more than 2,000 conversations which was exhausting and demoralizing and depressing.
I would go to HAI single events where I would have only one question to ask the group: "Is there a single woman here, who, without wanting to have children, if they found their ideal man would be excited to spend at least four hours a day with him?" Angry mutters would start. "Did he say a day, or a week? A day? We have lives!" Not a single hand would go up in a group of a hundred.
Sometimes I would ask the same question at the end of a workshop. Or even in a burning share. Or on all the HAI e-mail lists. Or on Craigslist. Or OK Cupid. Or Match.com.
I have never had a relationship that survived being starved for spontaneous time. I have such an active mind, and engage so dynamically with goals that if someone waits till the weekend to catch up it feels cramped or I'm no longer heading in the same direction they are. Or it starts to feel debilitating and lonely to be exploring thoughts and plans daily that will affect a partner who is too busy to hear about how it will affect them so I cannot include them. That's not partnering - that's co-habiting or unilateral-ling.
I cannot express how alienating, maddening and lonely it felt to be rejected solely on the basis of quality time - my primary love language. I have looked into our cultural heritage and find that many healthy tribes spend 30% of their time or at least three hours a day ritualizing, processing, expressing and honoring feelings and are in deep proximity with one another. As monkeys there was rarely separation. Yet somehow, despite observing that misunderstanding, betrayal, abuse, projection and loneliness are some of the most common emotional viruses of our day, we seem culturally committed to a value hierarchy that involves less and less time with the people we pay lip-service too. As noted theologians and philosophers point out: "God is where you spend your discretionary time, money and dreams and thoughts, not the person in some book you say you believe in." Americans work more than almost any industrialized nation and worship "productivity" and "efficiently" more than any other god than the addictions elevating these gods to such high status often leads to. Goddesses such as vulnerability, deep listening, empathy, emotional depth and grief receive curt nods on the way to work, with no devotion.
It's one thing to be rejected for what I don't like about myself, but another to be excluded consistently for what I love and value most about myself: My willingness to put truth, depth, understanding and emotional win/win above money, productivity and materialism and to honor the little ones in both me and my partner above the sophistication of acculturated pathology. And I've had to go to Thailand to find some refuge for the Gods and Goddesses I hold dear.
What disturbs me is the depth of brain-washing. I've had women tell me sincerely that our relationship is the best in their lives and that they will probably never have conversations like this for the rest of their life. But they want to prove to their dad or themselves that they can work harder and "be someone" and get promoted in a job that is draining them, they don't like and that is not doing anything significant for anyone. They literally ask me to carry them emotionally so they can put all their energy into their job. I don't agree. I tell them that since the only reason they have the energy for this promotion is because of our transcended sex and all the resolution that's coming from sexual processing and emotional release of decades of pent-up grief that what they would do if they cared about their feelings is quit the job that is draining them and get a job that allows them to actually show up fully charged for our relationship. I've only met one American woman who will make this trade off and it was the best relationship of our lives. We did not even have sex. There is so much lacking in so many relationships that we did not need great sex, or any sex, for both of us to consider it the most significant experience of our lives.
The gods and goddesses we worship break-down into our value hierarchies. And this leads to the world we create. In the end the loneliest part of my relationship with HAI has been the constant message of variety over depth. Early on in my workshops I contacted every woman and every man after my first few levels with a simple invitation: "Why don't you and I get together and we can pick our favorite exercises, design them differently if there is anything we want to change about timing etc. and have our own series of workshops for free." Less than 1% were interested in this and not one person in fifteen years and 30 workshops has ever called me with a single invitation like this. I find myself alone in everything I like most about myself, feeling exhausted with the effort it takes to find the 1% who is open.
This leaves me asking myself questions like: "Would I feel worse if I called ten people and they all said "no" and I'm alone in this desire or if I did nothing and was not rejected by 10 people. Because not a single person in my entire life has ever called me and probably ever will call me and invite me to even 1% of the things I would like to be invited for. And most people, far from being delighted that I am calling them to ask them something I would adore being asked, they are going to most likely say: "That's weird," as if a novel beauty is not worth discerning from a novel pain.
After exhausting the HAI community I turned to OK cupid to find out how many people it would take me writing to before one was excited to consciously design a peak experience: After 360 direct letters one American and one Russian were into it. The American was dubious. The Russian said it sounded so great it was almost too good to be true. She was probably the only Russian in a sampling of 360 OK cupid users living in the Bay Area and this and other similarly exotic statistics have led me to see Russians as the nation of choice to co-create cerebrally intelligent but socially unusual high-value experiences. Almost every time I ask a Russian they are very interested. In fact if they were not so emotionally cool in their fascination with intelligent novelty I would move to Russia. My little boy wants to smile and cuddle in a warmer emotional temperature.
Questions: How many of the mediocre relationships we experience are inherent to the people vs. the variables? For example, if you asked two people to paint a room successfully and gave them 20 minutes how many of the people would fail if you gave them four hours? Or eight? In my own analysis 80% of the surprises and pains in relationships I observe stem directly from a failure to replace projection with direct clear agreements and questions and with an analysis of behavior. It does not make sense to project honesty or timeliness when someone has lied or is regularly late, but it does take quality time for a pattern to cohere - which is one reason I think Peter Sandhill minimizes the quality time he spends with any one person and rushed around so much after his shadow started to present in our session work. Sarah has told me she only gets an hour a day with him and I know I could never see and be seen clearly in an hour with even an excellent communicator. Or if I could there would be no time for dinner, play and sex as well as the daily update. That's what a well-rounded date needs: Relaxed growth, sharing, celebration, eating, play and sex. That takes four hours for the state to be "dropped down," rather than rushed or high-cortesol or "making it happen."
Concerns: I am concerned that the majority of the population including HAI participants are being misled and misinformed by sitcoms, corporate life and short-burst workshops into believing that one can create the same kind of emotional cohesion and intimacy common in tribal life by interacting around other people using cell-phones or making quips and talking about politics. I have in fact met some women, who were keen to tell me that they were liberated women who "did not get jealous, had no baggage, were not needy and who were easy going," who found that if they had sex after talking about deep emotional experiences, being listened to for hours at a time by someone who cared and asked questions and were validated in their feelings that suddenly the needy, high-maintenance personas we all have emerged. And these are precisely the personas that are capable, once healed and honored, of experiencing transcendent sex and emotional bonding that are so far above sexual variety and novelty stimulation that one would have to be self-loathing to trade that kind of monogamy for "let's just see what happens and keep it easy." I have this with my present Filipina partner. It emerged after doing trauma work for a year and spending 24/7 much of the time. I've grown more in that relationship than I have in almost any other. The key is the vulnerability, the honesty, the tenderness to pain, and the time. Transcendence follows naturally. I think many westerners are missing out big time and don't even know it. I think it is the responsibility of a school to teach what is possible for each one of us, and how to realize that possibility.