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Relationships Require We Recognize Our Own Dark Side

relationship, love, unfinished business,self esteem, relationships, dark side

 

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After almost 40 years of working to help couples, I offer a podcast of substance on what relationships require to last for the long haul. I use books & movies to illustrate the points I’m trying to make. I offer challenges of things you can actually do in your own relationship at the end of every podcast which is under 10 minutes.

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In relationships we all find it so much easier to blame the other person than to look at our own contribution. My evidence for this is all those who are married to an alcoholic & yet do not go to more than 2 or 3 al-anon meetings. If you go to a good meeting you learn to think about your participation in the problems instead of indulging in blame. Marriage & long term relationships are about both people growing up & seriously considering how to be a better person because you love someone.

The old adage that you can’t love somebody else until you love yourself is true. You must take ownership of both sides of who you are as a whole. That means embracing the good & the bad. The more you can do that for yourself the easier it will be to love the whole of the other person.

Avoiding & deflecting hard truths about ourselves is all too ordinary in our culture. Even therapists will soft peddle a difficult reality in order to keep the income steady. Growing up is honestly facing painful situations. I still remember more than 30 years ago when my husband told me I needed to call someone to apologize. I felt very defensive & pissed off but somewhere deep down I respected him enough to know he was speaking a hard truth I needed to face. I called & apologized & am glad to this day that he challenged me.

It’s why I like the 1996 movie Emma so much, back when Gwyneth Paltrow was radiant instead of gaunt. Emma is based on the Jane Austen novel of the same name. (I have a butt load of Jane Austen movies on the single & dating page of my website therapy ideas.net) There is a wonderful scene after Emma has been shockingly nasty to a plain, poor young girl at a picnic. The man who loves her most deeply & truly confronts her & tells her to apologize because she has been cruel to someone else. Love calls upon us to be the best person we can be.

When couples come to see me I challenge & support both people. That’s why I delight in couples work because there is more truth in the room with two people. The intricacies of truth require both people to look at themselves, not just the one who may have a more obvious problem on the surface.

I was inspired to write on this topic because of finishing Lauren Groff’s book Fates & Furies. I highly recommend it as a portrait of a marriage with many twists & turns. The first half of the book is told from the narcissistic husbands’ point of view, the second half the wife who has kept too many secrets because of her childhood unfinished business.

Many of us have deep connections from childhood as the beginnings our dark sides. The trick is to not expect your partner to untangle your issues from childhood. Let me explain unfinished business as something that haunts you over time.

I used to take my son to the zoo, across the river a lot. One time I had a meeting to attend & we had to skip the gorillas. No matter how many times Aaron saw the gorillas after, for a year & a half every time we drove up the hill passing thru the zoo he would say “Mom, remember the time we missed the gorillas?” This is exactly why the brain lingers on childhood unfinished experiences, especially negative ones.

You learn how much the wife has been twisted by the terrible hands she was dealt in childhood. As many do, who are traumatized in childhood she builds giant walls to protect herself from the messiness of other people. She finds it very difficult to trust others & loves this gift her husband has in abundance. Though she never does learn to change this within herself even after a lifetime of loving him, which she recognizes as her one mistake in the end.

I highly recommend reading this novel to closely examine a marriage in all it’s complicatedness.

Too many of us as human beings silently believe our partners will erase the scars from childhood. This is a wild, impossible expectation because it is up to each of us to figure that out. Every family leaves their children with a combination of strengths & weaknesses. It is up to us to work out a grown up understanding of our own dark sides & how they spill out onto other people.

I want to add a note here about self esteem. Most people flip flop with feeling great on occasion & their good stuff almost erases their dark side; more often the dark side erases the good stuff. I call this a hierarchal self esteem. It is my belief that someone with healthy self esteem allows the dark side to quietly next to the good stuff, accepting both parts are true instead of trying to wipe out one with the other. We are all both dark & light, every decade or so we can make the dark side a little bit smaller.

So if you allow yourself to take ownership of both sides of who you are, then you are a better candidate for a healthy relationship.
You will be more humble, less likely to keep grudges and more able to forgive your partner. You might even be less defensive!

We are all complicated and have two sides to who we are. The more you recognize your own problems the more generous you will be as a partner when they have problems.

My challenge to you is to sit down & write your talents/strengths & gifts & then be specific about your own dark side. Ask yourself if it would be easier to write down your partners dark side instead of your own? We all find comfort in blame, it’s solo much easier than looking at ourself! Ask yourself have you been expecting your partner to fix your childhood missing pieces???

Thanks for listening. This is Rhoda, you can find more info at therapy ideas.net, or on twitter & instagram @rhodaoncouples.

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