The Relationship Cake

For some time now I have been using the metaphor of a “marriage or relationship cake” in my sessions with clients to help them evaluate their marriages and relationships in some recognizable format to help determine what is wrong with their “cake.” I have noticed that many of us get stuck on the fact that we “love” our partner and that this “should be enough.” The majority of us have heard this before and most of us have even said this from time to time. A while ago I started referring to love as “the frosting” for a cake and that we need more ingredients to actually make the “cake.” Don’t get me wrong, most of us like a good spoonful of frosting every now and then and who hasn’t gotten into an all-out battle with siblings to lick the mixing spoons or electric mixer beaters. Granted, we often get frosting with our cake, but when we want cake, the one thing that is important to realize is that frosting does not a cake make; however we will assume that in most cases, the best cakes do have frosting! The following is a “relationship cake” recipe that I have concocted to determine if you are trying to make a “relationship cake” with all of the necessary ingredients.

While cakes can have any number of ingredients, most require five basic ingredients to be classified as a cake. In fact, using these five “real” ingredients can make you a simple pound cake if you so desire. First, you need a base.

Flour/Trust – The base of any relationship cake is trust, just as the base of any cake is flour. Trust gives a relationship the foundation necessary to get started. Without trust . . . well some would argue that you don’t have a “relationship cake” at all. At times we do trust our partner, but only in some facets of the relationship. That’s like using the wrong flour. You will have something like a cake, but it will have some problems. Using the right flour makes a great cake, just like having total trust makes a great “relationship cake.”

– Just as any good cake requires sugar, any good “relationship cake” requires respect. Without respect, you don’t have a “relationship cake,” you have mixture of a different name. Just like flour, sugar is a part of the base of the cake and respect is an important base ingredient in your “relationship cake.” Please keep in mind that respect needs to be mutual. If one party does not respect the other, then there is a sugar shortage and the “relationship cake” will not turn out. While we cannot make our partner respect us, oftentimes it starts with respecting ourselves first.

– Butter adds flavor to a cake and allows it to bake appropriately while validation does the same for your “relationship cake.” It works to foster the reactions in your “relationship cake” to have it turn out, while adding a core flavor ingredient to make your “relationship cake” palatable for both parties. Validation allows one to feel valued by the other and that his/her feelings and emotions are important. Through this comes understanding and empathy to create a more complex and delicious flavor profile for your “relationship cake.”

– Eggs tie the ingredients all together in a cake. Flexibility does the same with your “relationship cake.” Flexibility allows the relationship to stay together by not allowing either party to get too far from the other due to frustration or feeling alone. Flexibility demonstrates to the other that “I’m willing to work on this over the long haul” by working toward compromise and not letting petty things be “stuff” that does not allow the “relationship cake” to come together.

Heat/Intimacy – This one speaks for itself. Not only is heat absolutely necessary to bake a cake, heat is necessary to bake a “relationship cake.” We often refer to this as intimacy, which is any form of close contact between partners that lets the other know that they are there and that they care. Intimacy does include any sincere physical contact, but can also include spending quality time and saying heartfelt affirmations.

There, now you have a cake! That is if you are starting from scratch. If you are already in the process, well hopefully you have some idea of what ingredients are missing. I indicated before that love is the “frosting” of a cake and I still like that metaphor. However, writing this piece has altered my thoughts a bit. What if love is the desire to even make a cake in the first place. The desire to have a “relationship cake” is perhaps directly related to love, just as we have often referred to our baked goods as “made with love.” The debate about “what is love?” has raged on for years with possible explanations covering pheromones, neurotransmitters, hormones, independent thought, attraction, genetics, body language, compatible energies, free will or the idea of “the one.” While the debate of “what is love?” rages on between the different camps of the aforementioned schools of thought, perhaps we can agree that no matter what it is, love is what makes you want to bake a “cake.” With this desire/love, you will need some help from other ingredients in order to accomplish the goal of making a great “relationship cake.”

If you would like to work on evaluating your “relationship cake,” balancing your “ingredients” and/or perhaps even dealing with the fact that you may not be able to make a “relationship cake” with your current partner, please do give contact List Psychological Services, PLC and our expert “bakers” can help you.