20. HOW AND WHY WE CHOOSE OUR PARTNERS
HOW RELATIONSHIPS DEVELOP
During childhood, fairytale stories are an important enabling tool. Fairytales encourage children to recognise that there is a big bad world out there. By reading these stories, children are able to identify with the good and bad within their parents, their families, society and also within themselves.
Fairytale stories also help children work through various issues. These universal stories of overcoming ‘the bad’ and surviving dangerous adventures remain buried in our unconscious or psyche and they leave us knowing that all can be conquered and that somehow we will survive. And most, if not all fairytale stories, leave us with a ‘happy ever after’ ending.
They also leave us with the hope that one day we too will find our prince or princess, so that we will live happily ever after.
What the fairytale stories often omits to tell us, is that in reality the prince and the princess do not always get married or live happily ever after. Fairy tale stories never really tell us that maintaining relationships can sometimes be rather difficult and that not all relationships survive. They do not explain how and why we choose our relationships and they certainly do not offer relationship knowledge.
So as adults the only examples we ever had of relationships was via our own parent’s relationship. And for many of you, this wasn’t very helpful either.
This is why I thought to share my relationship knowledge with you.
And here is a further relationship tool for you. It is a step-by-step example of the various levels and stages that occur within most relationships:
I got this very valuable illustration years ago from the Psychotherapist, Brian Maunder.
Referring to this illustration, lets look at each step individually:
This is when you first meet somebody and fall in love. It’s like the best thing that could have ever happened to you. And you just cannot live or wait to see your partner. All your thoughts are totally focused on this person and you can hardly do anything else. You feel an overwhelming blissful contentment.
But love is often blind. In the beginning of the relationship, you may think of your partner as faultless and perfect. And when you first meet, you are so excited and you tell everybody that you are totally in love and how wonderful your partner is. Everything seems so perfect. Then over a period of time this begins to change. You begin to see that your partner has faults.
This is the moment of realisation – the moment when your realize to your horror that your partner thinks and behaves differently to you. And they may even have different viewpoints to you. They may even disagree with you – the way you dress, the way you behave at times, your tastes, your friends and even the way you think, may come under scrutiny.
This can be excruciatingly painful and can feel like death. You could feel deep feelings of loss, panic, sadness, anger and even emotions of betrayal and disappointment. You can also feel misunderstood and not seen for who you truly are.
Sometimes this can come as quite a shock, especially when you realise that your partner is not that all-loving, all-nurturing ‘knight in shining armour’ you had hoped for.
This is when your expectations get dashed. This is when what you want out of a relationship or what your partner wants doesn’t seem to tally.
This is when all your emotional buttons from the past and your childhood get pressed.
And then the arguments begin:
You had hoped that your partner would emotionally heal and give you what your parents never gave you. When you realise that your partner has their own mind and way of doing things, your hopes get dashed, Your ‘Knight/ess in Shining Armour’ has fallen off the pedestal you put them on, and consequently you feel disappointed and enraged.
Suddenly you realise you’re not in control any longer.
Your fantasies and expectations have crumbled and this is when blame sets in too. Suddenly statements like “you don’t, you haven’t, you never”, along with “you must, you should, you have to” begin to creep into arguments. (Blog 4 addresses how we develop blame).
As the arguments worsen, un-negotiated compromises can develop and gradually a wedge of resentment develops and the great love that you once felt for your partner changes.
If however, a couple are able to withstand and work through this pain and change, if they can reach an understanding as to what their individual expectations are, or what they both hope to get from the relationship, and if the wedge driven between them is not too large, then the couple might be able to get onto the next level.
This is about acceptance. (You can read more about this in Blog 19).
Acceptance of your own and your partner’s failings and shortcomings can only really develop over time, as you and your partner both work on yourselves and your relationship.
Acceptance is achieved through your understanding of your past, your patterns or behavioural habits, your knee-jerk reactions and what your expectations are, so that you can make the right choices for yourself and the relationship.
It’s also about learning to work with who you are and it’s about learning to work with what you’ve got – because unfortunately, it’s not always greener on the other side.
So it’s about accepting what you may never had or might never get. This then leads to relationship reconciliation.
This is when miracles can occur.
As you begin to accept yourself, you can also begin to accept your partner’s similarities, and differences. And maybe, you might even begin to see what your partner is actually able to offer you.
They may never live up to your emotional needs and they may never be able to heal your past – but this is something you should do for yourself. It’s not their responsibility to heal you.
What happens next, is that once you both begin to take responsibility for your own lives, you will also ‘take back’ and reclaim the hope or emotional fantasy, which you projected onto your partner. By becoming more independent, your self-confidence will grow and your self-worth will deepen.
And strangely enough once this happens, you and your partner will be able to achieve a deeper connection, an understanding and reconciliation that your relationship might not be perfect but it might just be good enough to withstand the test of time.
MUTUAL RESPECT, HONOUR AND LOVE:
When an elderly couple, married for what seems like ages are asked, ‘How did you do it – how did you manage to remain married for so long?’ Their usual reply is, ‘Hard work and you constantly have to work at it’.
Yes yes…! And there you are, following these relationship stages, hoping to reach ‘nirvana’ in your relationship when suddenly your partner mistakenly allows your new puppy into the sitting room – and you see the puppy pee onto your brand new carpet! And all hell breaks loose. And in one split second, your relationship goes all the way back to ‘square one’.
Even if you methodically follow these relationship steps, life still has a way of turning everything upside down. Misunderstandings, lack of communication, stress etc, all get in the way of our never really having that perfect relationship fairy tales promised us.
No, there is no real ‘happily ever after’.
All we can hope for is a ‘good enough’ relationship with a ‘good enough’ level of independence so we can strive not for change but understanding, acceptance and better choices that suit our life’s goals.
Note: © 2014 Information Copyright Deidré Wallace
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