The Lindbergh Relationship Hierarchy.

“All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” (Tolstoy)

Instead of paying lip-service to the learning benefits of failure, I’ve been on a journey of deep introspection after the demise of my thirty-year marriage; a marriage lived, I am sad to admit, far below the EQ Line. Since first designing the hierarchy in 2014, I have realised that the principles apply equally to love and business relationships.

I have added my name to the relationship hierarchy in order to stake my claim to this particular formulation before I embark on some in-depth research and discussion.

The Lindbergh Relationship Hierarchy™ describes the progressive improvement of the quality of life within a relationship and transcends race, religion and financial means.

There are two primary reference points within the hierarchy namely, emotional intelligence and mission.

The EQ Line.

Tolstoy’s observation is right on the money. Emotional intelligence makes the difference between relationships that flourish and those that flounder. In this respect, all happy families are the same; they possess a high degree of emotional intelligence.

Below the EQ line, life is lived by default, with little thought to cause and effect while above the EQ Line, emotionally intelligent couples consistently invest time and energy growing a satisfying and rewarding relationship.

On the one hand, couples in a flourishing relationship intelligently follow a basic recipe of love and, as we all know, real love covers a multitude of sins. As long as emotional intelligence is consistently applied, it does not seem to matter whether it is consciously or unconsciously acquired. That said, it is much easier to be a conscious competent than to be an unconscious competent because, if you know what you did right, you can do it again and expect a similar result.

On the other hand, all unhappy families are unhappy in their own way because couples in a floundering relationship are at liberty to choose a million different reasons to blame and accuse one another for their discontent with the state of their relationship; dysfunctional behaviours increasingly undermine each partner’s sense of security in the relationship.

The Mission Line.

Below the Mission Line the relationship is largely focused on the couple’s own needs whereas above it, the couple have a mutual sense of mission for the relationship; usually a purpose greater than themselves.

The operative words here are “a mutual sense of mission” because far too many dysfunctional, mission-focused relationships lack the emotional intelligence needed for a resilient partnership and therefore cannot be considered Purposeful Partnerships. Most dysfunctional partnerships are based on a lop-sided “sense of mission”; one partner has a sense of mission while the other a sense of obligation to support their mission-focused partner.

The Six Levels of the Lindbergh Relationship Hierarchy™.


The Survival Relationship is held together by fear of the unknown. On one end of the scale one finds fear of an unknown outcome, an attitude that “the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t know”. At the other end of the scale, abject fear may keep an unfortunate partner trapped in an unhappy relationship.


In the Comfort Relationship life is bearable but not satisfying. The benefits within the relationship exceed the perceived cost of change, either to improve the relationship or to leave it. Here is the proverbial “comfort zone” where the status quo persists until some event disrupts it.


The Contented Relationship is superficially satisfying across a spectrum of needs but, without emotional intelligence, it is insecure; always at risk of being disrupted by one or other dysfunctional behaviour. This is the relationship in which a breach of trust, such as adultery, comes as a surprise to the other partner; “I thought we were happy”. One could say that this is a relationship built on sand whereas the next level is a relationship built on rock; the distinguishing feature being emotional intelligence.


In the Happy Relationship the couple have transcended the EQ line and understand the basic recipe for a secure and successful relationship. At this level the relationship supports two individuals enjoying largely separate lives punctuated by occasional social activities. They may share similar values but have different interests.


The Togetherness Relationship is established on a solid foundation of EQ principles and the couple willing to prioritise the relationship. Here is a couple who enjoy doing things together and invest time and energy nurturing their relationship. Their focus is on enjoying life and, as such, surround themselves with people and possessions that contribute to their mutual sense of happiness.

Purposeful Partnership

The Purposeful Relationship is firmly rooted in the mastery of EQ principles. The partnership is established on a shared vision that is greater than their own interests and their values and strategy are well-aligned. The Purposeful Partnership may take many forms but its binding force is a “mutual sense of mission” for the relationship.

Love and the Lindbergh Relationship Hierarchy™.

A couple’s understanding of love and how to nurture it within a relationship is the primary determining factor in a couple’s ability to reach higher levels within the hierarchy. Without a deep and abiding love, the states above the EQ Line are impossible to attain.

At the lower end of the hierarchy, love is viewed as an emotion that happens between two people, like chemistry. When love is viewed in this way, couples fall in love and then, just as easily, fall out of love. As long as the couple feel in love, they enjoy life.

Where this view of love prevails, there is little or no conscious connection between cause and effect. An unloved partner becomes demanding and resentful when the love they expect from their partner is not forthcoming; not realising that their behaviour further accelerates the downward spiral of the relationship. When this happens a Contented Relationship can quickly spiral down to the Survival level.

At the higher levels of the hierarchy, love is rooted in a way of being, both partners understanding that love is the fruit of a well-nurtured relationship; there is a clear connection between cause and effect, that “they reap what they sow”.

Where this view prevails, couples invest time and energy acquiring the skills that nurture their relationship.

Agreement, an important EQ ingredient.

It’s obvious that a relationship that transcends the EQ Line will be more secure and satisfying than those below the line. However, when it comes to relationships “above the line” the distinguishing feature in building a successful relationship is agreement.

A wise prophet once asked “How can two walk together unless they are agreed?”

For any “above the line” relationship to flourish, the couple must agree on two things, direction and pace. You cannot walk together unless you are going in the same direction and you won’t be walking together for very long if you walk at a different pace.

Ideally a mutually agreed direction is established by the time the relationship gets underway in earnest; in other words the couple are aligned on the big issues which may include views on religion or religious tolerance, children and lifestyle. That’s the the sensible thing to do and, if done right, it is the easy part.

However, for all one’s idealistic intentions, the reality is that pace needs to be worked out as you go along. Life has a way of delivering a whole spectrum of unexpected surprises, from energising new lessons or insights to debilitating illnesses or financial reversals. An emotional intelligent couple needs to navigate their way through life’s challenges in ways that prioritise the relationship.

It seems appropriate to end with some wise words from Paul, the great apostolic menace; notwithstanding all the harm this Pharisee did to the Christian church, there is much we can learn from him (more about that another time).

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails.

And then again,

The fruit of the Spirit (aka emotional intelligence) is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

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