Lately, we’ve been thinking about two seemingly opposite ways to build connection in relationships.
On one side, there’s safety.
In a chaotic and crazy world, we need this. It’s the feeling of structure, support, and routine that reminds us everything is going to be alright.
On the other, there’s adventure.
When we take risks, do something new, and explore the edges of our comfort zone, we also grow together.
Both safety and adventure build connection. Both can also become a trap.
Some couples fall into the safety trap. They get so comfortable with doing Thursday date night at their favorite restaurant or going on that same vacation (again) that they risk falling into the rut of monotony. They can trust themselves, each other, and their habits, but they're missing the spark of adventure.
Other couples fall into the adventure trap. They're so intent on experiencing novelty and playing at the edge that they occasionally get burned, going too far and losing trust and safety.
But here's the magical thing about these two opposite poles of the connection polarity. They can actually work together, creating an upward spiral of love.
Building safety through exquisite communication and structures of support is like building the launch pad for the rocket ship of adventure. The more stable this platform becomes, the higher you and your partner can safely fly in the direction of adventure.
By working at both sides of the polarity, in other words, you get a connection that's stable and dynamic, grounded and overflowing with vitality.
How can you master the safety adventure cycle?
Change starts with awareness. So it's helpful to begin by taking a close look at your relationship.
Do you get caught on the safety or adventure side of the polarity? Put differently, do you tend to get locked into structure and routine or the insatiable desire for novelty and adventure?
Identifying your home base on this polarity lets you know your direction of growth. If you're a safety couple, growth lies in seeking out novelty and adventure.
If you’re an adventure couple, growth lies in strengthening the base of safety and support.
All couples can benefit from stronger structures of safety but particularly those in the adventure category.
How can you build safety?
The key is to create intentional structure. In The 80/80 Marriage, "structure" is the word we use for the systems that facilitate trust and connection.
Identifying your shared values, getting clear on your household roles, looking carefully at your priorities, setting clear boundaries, and balancing power -- these are just a few structural moves you can make to build the base of safety and support in your relationship. Check out the book for specific practices.
When it comes to the adventure side of the relationship polarity, novelty is the key. It's a force that blasts open the monotony of safe habits and routines.
Where can you find more novelty?
Travel. What new places or countries could you visit to experience something radically new?
Dates. What could you do on a Friday night that you’ve never done before? An art gallery opening? A punk rock concert? An evening stand up paddle-boarding excursion?
Sex. What fantasies or desires have you never explored? This requires exquisite communication and trust. Sex is where, paradoxically, you have the most potent opportunity to experience both radical safety and radical adventure, all at the very same time.
Want to go deeper? Check out Esther Perel's classic Mating in Captivity.