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Three Great Relationship Evils

A very wise woman once told me there are three great evils in the world: greed, avoidance, and chaos. Now, these simple terms can hardly summarize the true meaning of the forces behind them, but they can stand in for now until we develop a deeper understanding. Stay with me.

What I will do here is explain how each of these three evils works to our relationship’s detriment by getting in the way of what we really want it be: happy, healthy, and loving. If ever you feel conflicted or unsure what to do next in relation to your partner, examine the challenge you’re facing using the lens of these three evils and see what they can bring to the light.

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Greed in this sense has nothing to do with material things, it is the desire to control circumstances, situations, or your partner. If you find yourself wanting to exert power or influence to get your way, you are exhibiting greed. In a romantic relationship this might be expressed as possessiveness, nosiness, or trying to unduly influence the other person. It might look like meddling, or it might appear to be out of genuine concern, but no matter the source, the result is always dissatisfaction and more conflict. Can you think of some ways you exhibit greed in your romantic relationship?

Avoidance in this case is a fairly accurate word: it refers to pulling oneself away or avoiding, distancing, or withdrawing. In many ways this is the opposite of greed, because instead of wanting to control all of the aspects of our situation we want to pull away from them. Withholding emotions, denying problems, or rejecting our partners are often signs of avoidance. One can exhibit avoiding behavior physically by leaving the space, or emotionally by refusing to stay present. How do you practice avoidance with your partner?

The last great evil, chaos, is harder to explain with words but there is a very useful metaphor often referred to by zen buddhists. Imagine a glass jar filled with both sand and water. If you shake this jar, the water becomes murky and it’s impossible to see through to the other side of the glass. However, when we pause to let the sand settle, the clarity in the jar is returned.

The mind itself is like the jar, it contains a plethora of thoughts about any one subject, and perhaps even more about our romantic and sexual relationships. We even suffer from thoughts about our thoughts. Through all of this it is easy to let our minds become clouded, at which point gaining clarity on anything become impossible. The last great evil expresses itself in relationships where we can’t make up our minds. We want one thing, then another, then neither, then both. We see our partner as loving, then hateful, then indifferent. We forgive them and yet continue to suffer. Within this chaos it is impossible to conduct ourselves in a way that serves our goals. Try to think of the last time you felt this way about your partner or your relationship? It probably wasn’t all that long ago.

Take a moment to reflect on which of these three evils you fall back on most frequently and how strong you feel the pull of each of them when you come to place of conflict or immense challenge. How can you develop strategies to deal with each of these temptations when they rear their ugly heads?

I hope that awareness of the three evils helps you in your own relationships, no matter their nature. If you need help in seeing how these principles apply in your life, consider hiring a coach who can help you to reflect on your current situation and develop strategies to move forward.