ByHeart BLOG

The Nine-Level Realm of Relationships

Relationships
As fans of the ‘Lord of the Rings’ trilogy know, Minas Tirith is a city built on the hill in seven concentric tiers culminating in the Citadel at the summit. Each level is walled and holds a gate, with each gate facing a different direction, so that the path up through the levels winds to and fro rather than following a straight line.

Imagine that your most intimate space, in terms of physical proximity to you, as well as access to your innermost thoughts and feelings, is the Citadel. This is the ground zero, the centre of your personal universe, the very heart of the realm of your life.

Access to this deepest personal level of your existence is precious, and should be viewed as a privilege. You have the right to protect it. You have the right to determine who gets granted such privileged access and on what terms. 

When a new person arrives knocking at the outer Gate, you may agree to let them in - or refuse to. After all, you are the Ruler of your Domain. 


Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash


The important thing is that permission to enter through the outer Gate only grants the new arrival admission to the outer level of your city. It is not an access-all-areas pass.

Similarly to many computer games, access to each next level needs to be earned. In terms of relationships, this means taking time to get to know you, and taking care in interactions with you. It’s about building trust. This approach is represented in the image of Minas Tirith by the distance one would need to travel along one level before the next gate can be reached.


Do you find it tricky to pace a developing relationship?


Are you finding it hard to know where your existing relationship is at?



I originally developed the metaphor I’m sharing in this post to help protect myself from overwhelm while dating. I have since shared it in countless conversations with friends and clients. 

Experience shows that this metaphor helps people visualise their relationships and recognise how they wish to shape them.

In using this metaphor for thinking about relationships, I’ve made a few adjustments to the canon of Minas Tirith. I’ve increased the number of levels to nine, and I’ve assigned the Citadel, the keep, as Level 1 and the outermost layer as Level 9. Getting closer to you sounds like a count-down. 

Time to apply this to your own situation. )


Photo by Magnet.me on Unsplash


Whether it’s a person you’re dating, your spouse, or anything in-between:

  • Which level do you feel they are positioned at? 

  • Are you letting them access more than the accrued trust between you two warrants? 

  • What would it take for them to progress to the next level?


The most common comment I hear when people use this metaphor to map their dating history or situation is, “Golly! I’ve been straining to bring them along faster, and I hadn’t realised it!”

In our eagerness to experience the warmth and intimacy of someone reaching the heartland of our inner world, we can try to expedite matters. We can ‘fall together’ and rejoice that we’ve found the Holy Grail. We can insist that the layering of trust can be by-passed. This is a high-risk strategy, as close proximity without the trust ‘credit’ can actually feel quite unnerving.

On the other hand, if you’re already in a relationship, it may feel surprising to assign a Level 4 to your partner of many years, as an example. This may, however, allow a truth to be spoken that has sat heavily in your heart. 

I’d like to reassure you that it’s helpful to acknowledge where things stand. It creates ground for the relationship to develop from a place of truth.

In my work with couples, I encourage each partner to recognise the distance they are starting from, so that it can be bridged. This can help you devise fresh approaches for getting to know each other anew. Sometimes, you have to woo your partner of many years all over again, because a personal connection is not a thing once forged and forever static. Rather, it’s a living, evolving dance, and it may need to develop and include new gestures to bring you closer, if a gap has opened up.


Photo by Clarisse Meyer on Unsplash


I’d love to know how you find applying this metaphor to your personal life! Do you find it easy to name a number? How does thinking of your personal space as a nine-level terrain help you get clearer on any changes you’d like to make to your current situation?

If you’d like to discuss options for more in-depth assistance, please get in touch byheart.coaching@gmail.com. I work with individual clients, as well as couples. I also run group coaching courses on dating.