Lesson 15 — Co-Adventuring

Many years ago someone asked me what I was looking for in an intimate partner. I blurted out, “A co-adventurer.” I didn’t realize at the time how appropriate my comment was.

Helen Keller said that life is either a daring adventure or nothing, and in my view she was right on the mark. Adventures are remarkable happenings, the antithesis of the routine, familiar, and old hat. Adventures involve exploration into the unknown, and embody an element of risk. They are marked by a kind of tension: excitement, enthusiasm, and eagerness for involvement on one hand, and a certain amount of apprehension and fear on the other. This is a very healthy kind of tension. The growth/exploration vector that pulls us into adventure is opposed by a security/stasis vector holding us back. Adventures happen when the pull along the growth/exploration vector exceeds the pull in the other direction and the overall decision is: GO FOR IT!

At its start, every intimate relationship is a co-adventure. Getting to know one another is inherently adventurous: Dropping the facade. Running the risks that go with opening up and revealing yourself. Feeling the excitement of a new closeness. Both people actively participate in this. It is their adventure. Other co-adventures follow: doing new things together, going new places, and eventually moving in with each other or getting married. But what then?

Often very little, sad to say. The play house together adventure does not remain an adventure for long. Soon the adventurous edge disappears, the unknown becomes known, the excitement wanes. The two stop risking. Enter sameness, boredom, and dull routine. Faced with a lack of vital common focus — some sort of ongoing co-adventure — the two turn to their individual pursuits for life satisfaction. The problem lies not with individual pursuits, which are necessary and good, but with an intimate relationship devoid of zest and adventurous happenings, a primary relationship totally lacking in mutually-cooked-up excitement and fun.

Co-adventuring is different. It says that whether we spend a lot of time together or relatively little, we need to do some things together that both of us find exciting — things with juice in them, adventurous things. Almost any adventure will serve as long as both people are excitedly into it. But it can’t be a pretend adventure, and the enthusiasm can’t be faked. The adventure must have its roots within both of them. It must connect with the needs, values and goals of both, and must be exciting and compelling for both.

Could it be that co-adventuring is a necessity for a healthy relationship, not an option? Perhaps that would be going too far. Still, I’ve come to feel that there isn’t a healthier glue for a relationship than an exciting adventure that engages both parties. Wonderful things happen if there is at least one co-adventure either being actively pursued or on the near horizon — an adventure to which they are both committed, an adventure that they share by co-living it.

The adventure itself can take a thousand forms, and needn’t involve tremendous risk. There are short-term, time-limited adventures, like scouring the countryside together for old furniture to refinish. Or fixing up a house. Or moving to a new city. Or taking an extended trip together. There are also long-term co-adventures. Perhaps pursuing a career together, or starting a business, or working together to co-create a better world, a better future.

There is yet another co-adventure. It’s riskier than many, but the potential benefits are great. I refer to taking the journey of personal growth together. It’s risky because growth may not happen at the same rate for each. (On the other hand, that problem is even more likely to arise if only one of the pair is actively pursuing their growth.) If both partners undertake such an adventure, remain earnest, and stay committed to traveling the path of growth, then they will experience continuing excitement and a progressive deepening of their relationship. What greater adventure to share than that of becoming all you’re capable of becoming?

Professor Alan Nordstrom’s questions and suggestions:

What have you done that was “adventurous”: arousing in you excitement, enthusiasm, and eagerness for involvement, but also a certain amount of apprehension, fear, and risk—a healthy kind of tension between your growth/exploration vector and your security/stasis vector? Recollect and examine some instances. Are they all physical adventures? What of emotional adventures? What of adventures of your mind? Adventures of your soul?

What intimate “co-adventuring” experiences can you recount?

“What greater adventure to share than that of becoming all you’re capable of becoming?”. What’s your itinerary for this trip?

Please turn now to your private journal and record your thoughts, feelings, and insights of the moment. What has your reading brought to mind? What are your responses to Professor Nordstrom’s questions and suggestions? Finally, is there anything you would like to share with others? If so, just enter it in the box below and it will soon be turned into a posted comment.

(For other wisdom-related resources, visit THE WISDOM PAGE at www.wisdompage.com.)

Lesson text is based on Copthorne Macdonald’s book Getting a Life, copyright © 1995, 2008 by Copthorne Macdonald. Nordstrom comments and suggestions copyright © 2008 by Alan Nordstrom.

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