Cooking a good relationship
The metaphors and strategies of the Torch innovation methodology can be applied to human relationships as well. Relationships can take place between different kinds of entities (and different number of them). For the sake of simplicity, I will focus on one of those cases but everything I discuss applies to all kinds of relationships.
When two people meet for the first time, they each hold, in relation to each other, a set of convergent and divergent ingredients. Convergent ingredients are those information elements that both people share (roughly). Divergent ingredients are those information elements that are more new and unexpected for each other. They are divergent, unusual, original and surprising for each other.
The right mix
The secret of a relationship that feels fresh and exciting for a long time lies in the regular combination of the right kind of convergent ingredients and enough quality divergent ingredients.
They are information that is known or shared between both people. These give a sense of stability and solidity to the relationship. An excess of them (in proportion to the divergent ones) makes the relationship feel stale and predictable.
They are information that is divergent in relation to what your partner holds and knows. These, in combination with the convergent ingredients, encourage the generation of fresh and unexpected situations and scenarios. An excess of these can make the relationship feel unstable and too unpredictable.
Gathering divergent ingredients
After the honeymoon phase has passed, the initial divergent ingredients gradually become convergent ones. It is key to keep illuminating new divergent ingredients through new experiences, both together and on your own, generating divergent ingredients that feed your partner’s subconscious pot and your own one.
A good mix
To generate fresh and exciting situations and scenarios in a relationship, you need enough convergent ingredients (at the right depth in relation to your challenge, which is your partner) and divergent ingredients, enough time to incubate their mixture and enough mental space to be sensitive to what their combination generates.
At the beginning of a relationship, no matter how similar two people may be, they always hold a good number of divergent ingredients in relation to each other. Two human beings, each with their own background, past experiences, etc will always diverge a good deal in relation to each other at the start .
And if they like each other, they are also likely to converge on a number of areas. So they also hold a good set of convergent ingredients.
Therefore, at the beginning of their relationship, their subconscious pots are incubating, combining and cooking a good mixture of quality convergent and divergent ingredients. This is the reason why relationships are so exciting at the start. Both people are still diverging a good deal in relation to each other. Therefore the mixture of their information ingredients generates all kinds of unexpected and original behaviours, reactions and situations.
Just as in innovation processes we generate innovative ideas, in a fresh relationship we are generating innovative interactions, situations and behaviours.
A lot of people, in the first weeks of their relationship, feel that things are exciting and different in a very effortless way. They don’t have to put much or any effort to make things exciting. This is happening because both people diverge naturally in relation to each other, and their subconscious pots are continuously generating unexpected and exciting outputs.
AFTER SOME TIME HAS PASSED
After some time has passed (which is different for each relationship), a lot of those divergent ingredients gradually become convergent ingredients. Gradually, the number of convergent ingredients increases, and the number of divergent ones decreases.
For example, during their first days together, she taught him a traditional game from her childhood that he had never tried before. They had a lot of fun playing it together. They played it a few times over the next weeks. But eventually, once they played it enough times, that divergent ingredient gradually became a convergent one. Now they both know the game very well. They also know every detail of their reactions and behaviours when they play it.
We now arrive to the crucial point that has an enormous impact in the future of the relationship.
As a relationship progresses, both members of that relationship have a choice to make. They can either:
- Make the effort to keep generating divergent ingredients in their lives. Those divergent ingredients are information that is divergent in relation to the partner. This means growing and learning through new activities and experiences so that when you interact with your partner you can bring to your partner’s subconscious pot unexpected and divergent ingredients that will keep generating exciting and unexpected reactions, behaviours and situations.
- Alternatively, you can just wait and see what happens. If you do that, eventually, most of your divergent ingredients will become convergent ones. And what this means is that when both partners interact, their interactions will be combining and incubating ingredients that are mainly convergent between them. The result of that will be situations, behaviours and reactions that will also be mainly convergent, typical and predictable. Not very exciting. Another side effect is that too much convergence produces the merging of both partners. They become more dependent on each other and begin to lose their own unique identities.
- All extremes are dangerous. The opposite situation happens when both partners diverge too much and constantly in relation to each other. In this case, they begin to lose touch with each other. The relationship becomes unstable and too unpredictable. Divergent ingredients dominate their interactions and they lack a solid base made of the necessary convergent ingredients. Gradually they literally diverge from each other. The relationship is in trouble.
WHY AFFAIRS OR BREAKUPS HAPPEN
Every human being and every human brain we should say, longs for variety and new stimuli. These often come from those divergent ingredients we are talking about. Within a relationship, we long for situations, interactions and scenarios that feel fresh and exciting. If after some time, all you are getting are typical and predictable situations, If one of the members of the relationship is not receiving enough divergent ingredients from the partner, what do you think that is going to happen?
What will happen is that one or both of the partners may go and find those divergent ingredients somewhere else. That means having an affair, breaking up, going away to travel around the world or anything else. It means you go and find those divergent ingredients somewhere else because your partner or both of you have not made the proactive effort to keep enriching those subconscious pots.
HOW TO KEEP YOUR RELATIONSHIP ALIVE
Therefore, if you want to keep your relationship alive, fresh and exciting, you need to:
- First of all, understand that your relationship is so exciting at the beginning because you two diverge a lot naturally in relation to each other at the start. Therefore, without any effort you both are holding and giving to each other tons of divergent ingredients. Those divergent ingredients, in combination with the convergent ones that you both also hold, generate effortlessly lots of unexpected, fresh and exciting situations and scenarios. The relationship feels awesome. And you feel that this will last forever. But now you know why it won’t last very long unless you make a proactive effort to keep it that way.
- To keep it that way, you must continue to grow and enrich your own subconscious pot through learning and experiencing new situations, generating new divergent ingredients, ingredients which should be divergent in relation to your partner. This way, when you interact with your partner, even though the past divergent ingredients are gradually becoming convergent ones, you will be bringin to your partner’s subconscious pot a brand new batch of divergent ingredients, compensating the gradual transformation of the previous ones.
WHAT ABOUT HAVING NEW EXPERIENCES TOGETHER WITH MY PARTNER RATHER THAN ON MY OWN
Both are useful. Having new experiences together is a source of new divergent ingredients, because when you two experience something new, even if you do it together, the way you both experience it is different in relation to each other, and the way you interact with each other within a new context is also different. And that generates new divergent ingredients.
However, if you always do everything with your parner, diverging in a consistent way is also harder. Doing things together all the time constantly empowers the process of transforming divergent ingredients into convergent ones as well as the process of generating new convergent ingredients in general. That’s why it is crucial to also learn and experience new things on your own, away from your partner. Doing that allows you to diverge freely without any constraints. You will be generating a lot of divergent ingredients that will later enrich your partner’s subconscious pot.
And that’s the paradox, being away from each other is often what later will bring you closer together. And the explanation is that what brings you closer together is a great mix of quality convergent and divergent ingredients. And after the honeymoon phase of a relationship has passed, in order to generate those divergent ingredients quickly and powerfully, doing new things away from your partner is really effective. So remember, doing things with your partner is wonderful and also useful and effective. But doing new things away from your partner is very powerful and useful in order to approach that balance we are looking for, the balance between converging and diverging in relation to your partner.
Enjoy great new experiences with your partner but also find the time to have new ones on your own.
WHAT ABOUT LIVING TOGETHER
When you live together, the transformation of divergent ingredients into convergent ones happens faster. That’s why a lot of couples report that their relationship degrades and becomes more monotonous after they move in together. That’s also the reason why sometimes one or both of the partners begin to argue and fight more often after they move in together. This happens because gradually, a lot of their divergent ingredients become convergent ones and their subconscious pots begin to generate mostly typical and predictable outputs. And when things get too predictable and less exciting, it is easier to get annoyed with things around you, specially, in a subconscious way, with your partner, with that partner that is not giving you anymore quality divergent ingredients.
Therefore, if you wanna live together and keep the relationship fresh and exciting, what we discussed before applies again. You have to keep learning and growing, sometimes on your own and sometimes with your partner. You should keep generating quality divergent ingredients that can enrich both of your subconscious pots. And the fact is that if you are living together, you need to be even more proactive about this than if you are not, because the speed of transformation of your divergent ingredients into convergent ones increases the more you interact with each other on a daily basis.
BUT WE ARE SO HAPPY DOING ALWAYS THE SAME THINGS TOGETHER
Let’s suppose that you are born in a city called A. And when you were raised you were told that city A was the best and had everything you needed. So you never travel outside of it, not even to other places nearby. And when people ask you about it, you say that you are happy, that you have everything you need in your city and that you don’t need to go see other places around.
Or let’s suppose that you are a very fearful person and you decide to be in your house all the time 24/7. And you tell people that you are very happy living 24/7 in your house without going to the streets and that you are satisfied with that lifestyle because you can order everything through the internet and you don’t really need to exit the house for anything.
The fact that these scenarios are possible, and indeed they happen, does not mean that they are healthy or that there aren’t other alternatives that could improve the lives of these people and make them better, deeper and richer.
The fact that they happen only means that this person is accepting some self-imposed limits. That’s all. It does not mean that such person would not benefit from visiting other cities and places, from living in a different way.
There are all kinds of people in the world. People with all sorts of backgrounds and experiences. And there are indeed people out there that either prefer or want to stay in relationships that are mainly convergent. They are totally ok with a partner that is either very similar to them or makes the effort to converge to them continuously. And they are totally ok triggering situations, behaviours and scenarios that are mostly typical and predictable. This is their choice. But let’s not be mistaken. It is just a choice. Most people will agree that there is more happiness and personal growth to be found in a life that is rich with variety and a diversity of stimuli, rather than in one full of monotony and repetition. And the biology of our brain agrees as well.
WHY DO SOME COUPLES THAT ARE REALLY CONVERGENT STAY TOGETHER?
Sometimes it happens because of fear, lack of options or laziness. Fear of not finding another partner or lack of self-confidence in their own possibilities of finding somebody else. Other times is because of financial issues. In normal conditions, it is fear or laziness, subconscious or conscious what keeps people from breaking up a relationship that has grown monotonous or is too convergent.
The natural impulse of most, not all, but most human beings is to find a partner that continuously feeds you a good mixture of convergent ingredients (ingredients that resonate with you and which establish a solid foundation in the relationship) and divergent ingredients (ingredients that diverge from you and which in combination with the convergent ones, generate unexpected and exciting situations, behaviours and scenarios).
Some people want the balance between convergent and divergent ingredients in their relationship to lean more towards the convergent ones. And others prefer the opposite. What we must remember, as stated in The Torch Principle book, is that all extremes are unhealthy. And a relationship that has too many convergent ingredients or too many divergent ones (in relation to the others), is going to get in trouble.
A relationship with an excess of convergent ingredients (in relation to the divergent ones) will feel stale and predictable. A relationship with an excess of divergent ingredients (in proportion to the convergent ones) will feel unstable and too unpredictable.
However, we put special emphasis in the generation of divergent ingredients because those are the ones that are harder to generate, and the reasons for this (biological, cultural and social) are explained in depth in The Torch Principle book.
Strive for balance. And once the honeymoon phase has passed, make sure to be proactive about generating those divergent ingredients that your partner will subconsciously need. Do it for yourself and for your partner. Do it for the good of your relationship.