This is a delightful and inspiring book which will be of interest to anyone who has struggled with intimate relationships as a lover, a couples counsellor or both. It is a skilfully written exploration of the process of relationship, describing the transformation that is possible through a long-term sexual relationship, and it manages to be both profound and accessible.
Nick and Helena offer us a context for living in and working with relationships which takes as its starting point that conflict between a man and a woman in an intimate relationship is inevitable, and in fact necessary, for the alchemy to happen to produce the gold of potent intimacy. Their expertise and wisdom is rooted in their own experience and therefore their discussion is limited to heterosexual relationships.
Looking at heterosexual relationships in an historical, political and social context, they conclude that Western society is currently in an adolescent stage with regard to relationships and sexuality. Adolescence is not in itself bad, unless we get stuck there, but it is a time of great turbulence and confusion and we need to find a way of maturing.
They take us through the levels of relationship, from the magic of falling in love, through the hell of disappointment and polarization, endless painful conflict or avoidance of conflict, and suggest way of understanding and navigating the stormy seas of polarization to reach the other shore of potent intimacy.
We are introduced to the three different axes of polarization: power and vulnerability, the inner family where our parents' relationship and their relationship to us as children plays such a significant role, and gender difference. They will be criticised for insisting that there are fundamental differences between a man and a woman, which we ignore at our peril. This is not a regression to pre-feminist stereotyping, but rather the next step in forging truly potent intimate relationships through harnessing this enormous energy created by the coming together of equal but different masculine and feminine energies.
A vivid, painful and tender story of a couple going through the various awful and wondrous interactions runs alongside their theoretical exposition, bringing it to life and constantly putting the reader in touch with his/her own struggle to love and be loved.
Through the use of poetry and quotations from wise teachers through the ages, they keep us in mind of the mystery and beauty of love, at the same time as describing and untangling the everyday mess of actions and reactions that constitute the life of a couple. I was stimulated, amused and deeply moved by the compassion, commitment and humour of this book, such necessary ingredients for living an intimate relationship.