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Scales of Relationships

Conscious Relationships – Two Scales of Intimacy and Depth

Relationships have meaning at different levels. Firstly there is the depth of the relationship. At basic level you may have friends and acquaintances in your life who you see from time to time and you say hello to them but that is as far as it goes. Someone you nod to in the street; maybe a friendly shopkeeper, a neighbour perhaps. The secondary scale is the level of consciousness, personal awareness that each individual has in that relationship.

At the “top” end, it may be a romantic relationship, sibling, parent, best friend. The stakes are far higher because of the importance of the relationship.

Need vs ego – Levels of Consciousness
On the other scale is the “need” for the relationship, or “consciousness” of each individual.

Perhaps both partners “need” each other, their ego requires the relationship because each one serves to keep the other close. This is potentially unhealthy if the depth of the relationship is high; it can be seen in co-dependent relationships, people with addictions and need the other to continue supplying, or keep drug taking / drinking so the other feels “safe” to continue in their habit themselves. This is potentially life threatening. If one partner chooses to stop using, recognising the relationship is in fact killing them, the partner who needs to catch up may use tactics to get the partner to keep using so the other doesn’t face life alone which can feel life threatening.

If there is significant depth to the relationship it is vitally important to recognise the level of consciousness because clearly there are high stakes involved in keeping the status quo. If the depth is less, then it is easier to “walk away” from something potentially unhealthy – again, depending on one’s level of conscious awareness.

It may be surmised that a healthy relationship consists of two individuals who are not dependent upon each other to meet each other’s’ needs. They choose to be together and support one-another to be the best they can, acknowledging relational depth being one of choice.

In a more ego-driven relationship, one individual may need the other, involving “trade-offs”, in other words “I need you to meet my needs, I need you to make me happy”, not “I desire you in my life and you do not need to make me feel anything at all, I am simply here because I am happy in myself and your presence is a choice I make. Perhaps incidentally we make each other happy anyway, but “need” comes from the ego, choice comes through conscious awareness.

1. Depth of Relationship

Deeply Intimate (parent, sibling, offspring, romantic partner)


Acquaintance, friend, neighbour

2. Levels of Consciousness

Awake, aware of impact, place in the world. Choice to be together


Need – fuelling ego, “I need you to make me happy / keep me alive”.

Many theorists propose three, four and seven levels of consciousness if you want to read more on this subject. Sigmund Freud talked of three levels, the Id (the instinctive ME, the Ego (I Need) and the Superego (“I Moderate”)

Philip Holder talked also about three levels, Spontaneous, Calculated and Imposed.

Richard Barrett discusses 7 levels of consciousness, and his progression focusses on “existential” needs which are connected and dependent on the human condition, which motivate towards survival. These are, quite simply: survival, relationship, self-esteem, transformation, internal cohesion, making a difference and then service.

Maslow talked of a “Hierarchy of Needs” – the base layer of which is of course basic survival, moving towards self-actualisation, including relationships as a need – being part of a group, exchanging ideas once basic needs have been met.

I think this knowledge can help many couples understand where they are on their own scale which in turn may question our relationships and the part they play in our lives, and where we are ourselves on our path to true conscious awareness.

Where are you on the scale, in your relationships?

Here is a link to a book “I love you but I’m not In Love with you”) that I have found to be helpful for couples struggling with the “love” versus “in love” symptoms that many couples often cite as a reason for separation and / or divorce.

Additionally, here’s a link to another book “How Can I Ever Trust You Again?”: Infidelity: From Discovery to Recovery in Seven Steps”) by the same author.

I welcome comments!

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