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“Beware the Ides of March”…..and the “Ides of Love”

Posted by Joy A. Dryer, PhD in Uncategorized

Reprinted from Huff Post/ Divorce Mon 2/29/16

One of the most famous sayings connected to the month of March is the seer [psychic] in Shakespeare’s play who warns Julius Caesar: “Beware the ides of March!” This is a warning about TIME [along with death, of course!] . I’d like to suggest a contemporary ‘warning’ to pay attention to your Love, in a 3-part Time frame.

WARNING OF CAESAR’S DEATH. According to Plutarch, a seer warned Caesar that harm would come to him no later than the Ides of March. When Caesar passed the seer on his way to the Theatre of Pompey, where he would be assassinated, he joked to her, “The Ides of March have come,”, i.e. the prophecy had not been fulfilled with the full moon. The seer retorted, “Aye, Caesar; but not gone.”

THE IDES OF MARCH is the full moon marking the first day of the New Year in the early Roman calendar. Julius Caesar reformed the old Roman calendar, after which it was called the Julian calendar, until the Gregorian reform of 1582. The new Julian calendar started every New Year on January 1st, and ran 365 days with a leap year every 4th year, starting in 45 BC. Caesar was assassinated a year later on March 15, 44 BC at a meeting of senators, who feared his increasing power and what they considered his dictatorial leanings.

Up until this change to the Julian calendar, Romans counted back from three fixed points of the month which divided it in relation to lunar phases:
KALENDS [Kal] is the first day of the month, denoting the first phase of the moon, the new moon;
NONES [Non] refers to the first quarter moon which fell on either the 5th or 7th day of the month;
IDES [Id] denotes the full moon which fell on either the 13th or 15th of the month.

In the earliest Roman calendar, the Ides of March , March 15th, marked the first full moon of a New Year. In fact, in Rome, between 222 and 153 B.C., the ides of March marked the beginning of the new consular year, in which two annually-elected consuls took office as leaders of the Roman Republic.

Just as the Romans designated 3 fixed times of the month in relationship to the phases of the moon, I’d like to propose thinking of your love relationship in 3 broad phases, in relation to Time… to the phases of our lives.
Phase 1: KALENDS: Love as New Moon: limerence
Phase 2: NONES: Love in First Quarter: in transition to Full Moon
Phase 3: IDES: Love as Full Moon: ‘til death do us part.

Phase 1: KALENDS: Love as New Moon: limerence. Operas and poetry are famous for their impassioned expressions of limerence. Defined in some dictionaries as the first 3 to 6 months of falling in love, and seeing only the idealized aspects of one’s new love. Love-at-first-Sight… across a Crowded Room… of hormones popping… head in the clouds [or in the sand]. For the majority of couples, this time does not last too long. Eventually, novelty wears off. Realities of personality traits clear through the fog of passion. For many, we can still love who is the other person. But for some, differences start to grate, and may trigger insensitivity, even conflict.

Phase 2: NONES: Love in First Quarter: in transition to Full Moon. Enter greater differentiations between Self and Other. Just as the early Romans divided up the Time in their lives into months with 3 phases in each month connected to the Moon’s travel around our Earth, there could be at least 3 stories of Love in Transition: the Good, the Bad, and the Blah. This transition may last many years, or forever. A couple may or may not cycle into Full Moon capacity to Phase 3, a committed safe and secure relationship. The divorce rate in the US tells us that about 50% of couples do not experience a deep loving friendship and romantic relationship, what I’m calling a “Full Moon” relationship.

Phase 3: IDES: Love as Full Moon: ‘til death do us part. This is a phase of commitment and resolution. A secure committed relationship where trust, mutuality, respect reign. Where values and meanings are shared and sustained.
If you did not make it to this phase, you are not alone. Many partners did not grow up in homes where they saw parents functioning in a secure committed way with one another. They did not see their parents differ, even get angry, but then repair and soothe the other. Some partners did not know their relationship was in trouble until it was too late. Others did not find a competent [enough] couples therapist to guide them through the eclipses, the dark times.

Like the seer who warned Caesar to beware of the middle of March when the moon was full, here are some warning signs that a relationship may not make it to a Full Moon relationship.
Never felt, or cannot hold enough safety between you, often as a transitional “play” space. Felt safety includes trust, vulnerability, risk-taking, curiosity about the other, empathy about the other’s troubles, attunement and basic acceptance.
Hard to tolerate ambiguity. Eg. Good/ bad, or black/white thinking or feelings. Making meaning includes taking a perspective other than your own.
Difficulty tolerating the Other’s separateness i.e. separate space or reality. Involves recognizing and keeping Self-Other boundaries.] Involves acknowledging one’s own contribution to problems, and owning a willingness to “repair.”
More negatives than positives in the relationship. More criticism, judgment, and disappointment than fondness, admiration, and validation. Increased defensiveness often occurs. As a result, we see increased mourning of the idealized unattainable aspects of oneself or one’s partner. That is, difficulty in accepting fallible [non-idealized] aspects of Self & Other.
Sexuality, within the larger arc of intimacy, declines, or becomes non-existent. This includes a lessened willingness to be vulnerable and risk with the other. Revising one’s history together as more negative and less satisfying is a major warning sign .

If you notice any of the above warnings in your relationship, then you do not need a seer to alert you to the Ides of Love. You don’t even need to look to the Moon in the heavens. Look for professional help from a well-trained and experienced couples therapist. Don’t wait. Time waits for no man, or woman.

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