Putting the Zenergy Lens on Intimate Relationships

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Intimate relationships and the Zenergy framework – is it just a group of two? – Written by a Zenergy Graduate

I am passionate about co-operacy and have always wondered whether (and hoped that) the Zenergy framework could be applied to intimate relationships. My observation is that often relationships are more democratic than co-operative ie: the power lies more with one person than the other. I have recently been part of such a relationship and here are my learnings. Bear in mind, I wasn’t wearing a facilitator hat, I was a participant; but to me this is about co-operative principles as much as facilitation.

The first question I have is ‘When is the group formed?’ When do partners start agreeing Purpose & Culture? I guess you could say that is the purpose of a formal ceremony such as a wedding or civil union. But when a relationship is forming, how could it be applied?

The comments below relate to the distinctions required to generate co-operacy and collective intelligence. These are outlined in detail in the Art of Facilitation and the Essence of Facilitation by Dale Hunter et al.

Alignment of Purpose: If we’re not agreed on what we’re jointly creating, it’s likely to end in tears. I tried to facilitate this discussion early on. However, the thing to watch out for here is that if someone doesn’t disagree, it does not mean they agree! When your feelings are engaged, sometimes our powerful listening is not as it should be – we may choose to hear what we want to hear!

Alignment of Culture: This was also discussed early on and was added to and changed as time went on and we understood how we both viewed terms such as ‘quality’ and ‘honesty’. My learning here was that you should know enough about the person and their values before we enter a relationship. As I had been in a team with this person, I thought we had very similar values, and hence the connection.

Safety & Trust: How do you generate this in an intimate relationship? This is probably one of the most important facets for intimacy to occur. But how do we ever know whether we are safe and can trust the other person? My experience was that in the wider community he was seen as someone who was very trustworthy, someone who had a lot of integrity, was very honest (direct even), had very high standards when it came to team commitment. He had excellent leadership qualities and was often asked to take on captaincy roles. He was very helpful to people and people liked and gravitated towards him. Was this enough?

Being With: Early on in the relationship Being With was very present. We were very connected and went where we needed to go, giving lots of space to what needed to emerge. Time spent together was high quality. We were both very present and he said he loved talking to me. We had strong spiritual, intellectual and physical connections. But what about the emotional? As time went on and I became emotionally ‘attached’, the quality of Being With disappeared as I became more insecure. There was something amiss and I couldn’t put my finger on it. I thought it was me being paranoid and clingy.

Powerful Listening & Emotional Competence: See above regarding my own deficiencies in this area. My partner had excellent powerful listening skills, but I realised later that was only present when I was owning my own stuff and the focus was on me. As he didn’t tend to own his own stuff, the focus rarely went on him and if it did he deflected it. This made him very attractive to women as he was viewed as a very good listener and didn’t talk about himself a lot but appeared to be very honest and open when he did. However, he did open up and tell me things he said he had never told anyone before, so listening was present on both sides.

Power With: This was possible, but I gave mine away. I was afraid of rejection if I asked for too much, so I bowed to his needs and gave more than I received.

Intuition: Do you trust yours? Throughout the relationship, I ignored little flags that something was amiss, but because I trusted him more than I trusted myself, I ignored them.

Intentionality: The deal was always that we would be honest if either of us knew the relationship was not going to go anywhere long term. I eventually realised this was only ever my deal (and that he had not really bought into it). Eventually, when it became obvious that he knew it wasn’t going anywhere, I ended the relationship.

Completion: This became the most important piece for me. After I finished the relationship, I started listening to my intuition and found out he had been having another relationship at the same time. Most of my friends and family urged me to bury it and move on. Some people think it’s as easy as deleting a contact from your phone book! But this man is in my community, and so is the other woman. I play in a sports team with him. The sense of betrayal was huge, and the clobbering I was giving myself was worse. How could I have been so stupid? These things happen to other people, not me. My shadow is ‘self-righteous know it all’ and here it was staring me in the face! I experienced grief (see Zenergy – Essence of Facilitation, Pg 72, John Heron, Feeling & Personhood – the need to love/be loved), but mostly anger (the need to choose/be chosen) and confusion (the need to understand/be understood). This was a tough cocktail of emotions to process. Do I contact the other woman? Does she deserve to know? How do I combine acceptance of other peoples’ journeys with my own need for completion? And is there something more sinister going on here with even more women?

Ruthless Compassion: In the end I did contact the other woman and she was grateful for my intervention. After a few weeks (that allowed her to process the news), we told him what we knew. He fronted as we requested, was hugely apologetic, said what he did was despicable and committed to making different choices from now on. It was interesting to hear that his connection with the other woman was more on the emotional level (rather than intellectual or spiritual) so my sense of that missing was accurate. His journey and the other woman’s are just that now – theirs.  I asked for what I needed to move on and he said he would respect those wishes. It is as complete as it can be. I have emerged from this a stronger person, and (and I am surprised to feel this) also more compassionate and open-hearted. I could just as easily have curled up and died. I know people in similar circumstances who have done just that. I have learnt that everyone has a story. Nothing is as it seems. And as we know, it’s not the size of the wave, but how we ride it that is the most important thing.

So, I ask again.. can you apply Zenergy co-operative principles to intimate relationships?


maria commented on 24-Feb-2016 09:56 AM
Well done! Many good points, such as the difference between democracy and cooperacy. Helpful to see that those who appear to be good listeners, might just be practising a form of avoidance.
Tim Soden commented on 24-Feb-2016 09:51 PM
I like this story as I believe that most ideas or theories will provide a framework for greater undertaking in all sorts of relationships. Perhaps the benefit of a framework is that is should clarify and simplify a process not add to complexity and this is what defeats most forms of psychology interventions in facilitation the greatest challenge to relationships is coming to terms with our own imposed limitations. The first step is to create a safe space.

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