Veteran relationship counselor Craig Martin says the secret to real compatibility is knowing our own deepest needs. When he suffered a painful breakup with his longtime partner, he was devastated -- and baffled about why it's so hard to maintain close connections.
Then he had an epiphany: How can we get what we want from our relationships if we don't even know what we really want?
"We often go for people who don't serve our deeper needs," Martin says. "And then, whatever need isn't being met -- validation or recognition, for example -- that becomes the central issue or stumbling block."
In "Elemental Love Styles" (Atria Books), Martin outlines a simple way to determine what our style is in relationships and what we should look for in a partner. A holistic health practitioner, he bases it on the four natural elements: fire, air, water, and earth.
"They're the building blocks of life," says Martin, who has now been in a meaningful relationship for the last six years.
Take this quiz to discover your relationship type, and approach your love life in an elementally new way. (A longer questionnaire is available in Martin's book.) Here, the author discusses his experience with elemental love styles.
Why the four elements?
The elements have always been part of the language of wellness. Before today's medicine, we might say someone had too much fire. And so many phrases that describe personality use the elements -- he's airy, she's solid as a rock.
What are the types?
Someone who's creative and wants attention -- she would be a fire. A watery person is sensitive and wants reassurance. An earth person craves ritual and routine. An air needs intellectual stimulation. We all contain each of the elements, but one tends to dominate.
Are any of the types fundamentally incompatible?
You can't simplify it like that. Mix two elements and you're going to get a compound. The 16 combinations all have pluses and minuses. Actually, a partnership with challenges can have a more dynamic outcome. Our own personal issues come to the surface, forcing us to look at ourselves.
Has the method helped your current relationship?
It's been amazing. My partner and I can freely talk about what we need. I listen and offer meaningful conversation. In return, I get admiration and space for creative expression.
You must be a fire.
Yes, but I also have a watery side. That's essential for a counselor.