14. HOW AND WHY WE CHOOSE OUR PARTNERS:
2. THE MARITAL OR RELATIONSHIP FIT
When couples came to see me, one of my roles as a therapist was to explore and identify why the couple chose one another in the first place. One reason is what is called the Marital or Relationship Fit.
There is an exercise written about in John Cleese’s book called “Families And How To Survive Them”, which I first learnt about during my early days of training. It involves about 14 or even 16 people, who without knowing one another, would get up and without speaking, walk around a room and choose a partner. This is done in complete silence.
Once everyone has chosen a ‘partner’ they are then asked to tell their ‘partners’ about their lives, their experiences and their backgrounds. Almost without fail, everyone will have chosen someone with similar experiences or backgrounds. Everyone will share something even if it initially seems irrelevant.
Participating in an exercise like this was eye opening for me. Whilst silently choosing my partner, I would shake my head furiously at many and finally I nodded at someone who immediately nodded back. Our shared experiences were fascinatingly accurate.
We do the same in ‘real life’. In other words, through our body language and without talking to one another, we are often able to ‘detect’ and are attracted to those who are ‘similar’ to us.
We usually choose people or friends who we have something in common with. And it’s not just our friends but also our partners who may share similar experiences albeit unconscious.
And if what we share is unconscious, what is shared may not be so obvious. It may only become clear once you’ve spent time communicating and delving into one another’s pasts that similarities are picked up. Sometimes it may take years before you realise all the reasons that attracted you to someone.
So we surround ourselves with people who are similar to us in experiences, background, class, and culture and so on. Which is why the saying, ’Birds of a feather flock together’ makes sense. We are mostly attracted to people who share what we know and what is safe. Safe because what we know, we feel comfortable with.
(My previous blog which explains ‘Internal Parents’, is relevant here too – a couple may be attracted to one another because they have similar internal parents).
Anyway, a very good example of the ‘relationship fit’ is ‘love at first sight’: This usually is because two people instinctively recognise that they have many things in common. It’s about recognising what seems familiar. That’s why sometimes it can also feel like you’ve known the person forever.
Or when we say, ‘oh that person’s not my type’, well exactly, it probably means that you instinctively don’t share much with them.
Or haven’t you on occasion wondered what two people see in one another? Because it’s not about looks it’s about what they have in common, that’s important.
The following illustration describes the ‘relationship fit’: The overlapping areas or shared experiences are what can be described as the MARITAL OR RELATIONSHIP FIT:
The flowing describes how couples experience variations in the ‘relationships fit’:
– The 2 circles represent two people in a relationship and the interlinking shaded part represents the Relationship Fit or that which a couple shares.
– The interlinking part can vary. It can be small or large depending on how much the couple actually share. And this can obviously differ from one relationship to another.
– When there is a strong bond between two people often that is when the interlinking part is larger as the couple then share a lot.
– The rest of the circle can also demonstrate the independence or individuality of each individual in the couple.
– If a couple share a lot how dependant they are on one another will determine the interlinking part and this can vary depending on circumstances.
– Obviously if there is very little left of the individual circles then the couple may experience very little individuality and may be quite emotionally fused.
– Or one circle may have less and the other circle more, which means one person may be more reliant on the other.
What Is The Value Of Understanding The Relationship Fit?
During relationship therapy if a couple begins to understand exactly what they both share, how they might have reacted in the past and how they react now in the present, to certain situations, this depends the couple’s understanding of one another and it helps to bring them closer.
There is also another angle to relationships that I should mention:
When a couple share a huge amount which is unconscious then the couple might find it very difficult to separate when for example abuse and violence is experienced (I will discuss abuse and violence in more detail later).
How often have you witnessed a scenario between two people where you have wondered how stupid one party is, for not leaving the relationship? Firstly, we never know what goes on behind closed doors. Secondly and most importantly, neither do we know what the conscious or unconscious relationship fit is or what their unconscious contract between a couple is either. When a couple share an enormous amount from their childhood upwards, it is often very difficult for the couple to emotionally untangle themselves and they can get quite stuck.
I will explain the meaning of the ‘conscious or unconscious contract’ that couples enter without realising it in my next blog.
It might take minutes, hours, months or years to find out exactly what you share with someone whom you are attracted to.
You may even think you’ve come up with a reason when in fact there might be many more reasons lurking under the surface – because often it takes time before someone discloses private information.
And then and unfortunately, this love thing probably doesn’t exist – although remembering the begining of your relationship and why you think you fell in love, does help certain couples feel bonded again.
However, by getting to understand what your ‘relationship fit’ is, will help deepen your understanding and it may even bring you closer to your partner or at least provide you with a deeper understanding of why you are attracted to your partner.
Note: © 2014 Information Copyright Deidré Wallace
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