Relationship wisdom is like diet advice, most of it sounds good, but it doesn’t work. Here, the real thing gleaned from many years of treating couples:
1. Very often the initial attraction—what draws you to your lover—becomes, some years later, the basis for divorce.
Remember that guy that you chose because he appeared to be the pillar of strength that was going to bring stability to your life? You married him and after a few years his stability bored you to tears. In your next marriage you overcorrected and married a lunatic. Crazy, but exciting.That one didn’t last either. The third marriage was the charm, he was not the strong, silent type, but not freaky either, somewhere between the two.
2. The adaptive behavior we learn in our childhood—the behaviors that help us survive in our family of origin—turn out to be exactly what interferes with our adult love relationships.
Your parents used to fight and maybe even brawled. Your survival tactic was to stay out of the way, to be seen, not heard, or else the wrath might turn in your direction. Now, as an adult, you’re confrontation avoidant to the point of having the lumpiest rug in the neighborhood. You don’t deal with anything and your love-partner has one foot out the door due to all those issues you avoid.
3. Lovers only have one fight throughout their relationship.
Sure, you may have many fights, but it’s all centered on one theme, even though it appears to be about all kinds of different issues. The good news is that if you figure out what it’s really about, you’ll solve not one, but a ton of disagreements. Hint—the underlying theme is an unresolved emotional issue from your childhood home.
4. As much as we may try to avoid it, most of us re-create a dynamic from our family of origin and play it out, usually with grief, in our love relationship.
Not you? Wait. What you’ll find is you’ll pick, project, or provoke some major issue from your family of origin. Picking is occurring when you have an almost uncanny sense of familiarity with someone you’re just getting to know—the familiarity is because the person has some characteristics of your parents. I know, you want to argue that. Don’t, you’ll lose. Projecting is when you shout at your partner (or whisper to yourself), “You’re just like my father, mean and self-centered!”
For provoking, let me tell you a little story. A little boy’s parents split and his single-mother becomes overbearing. Years later, he marries someone who is into her own world, perfect for him. He wants a wife, but he wants distance also. What does he do, he has an affair and leaves a graphic sex letter around that his wife ends up seeing. Within an instant, his wife becomes like his mother, overbearing. Oh, you think it’s a coincidence? Wrong.
Re-playing happens because it is “nature’s” way of giving us another chance to resolve unfinished childhood issues—and we all have them.
5. There are very few issues between lovers that are truly worthy of confrontation, and those are usually avoided.
A vibrant relationship requires sharing your inner life with each other. It is a heart-to-heart affair. Unfortunately, instead of fighting for this intimacy, when you disclose yourself and get shot down, too often you withdraw. Take a stand; your love life depends on it. Withdrawal is the kiss of death in a love partnership.