Getting the love you want
By Harville Hendrix (kam's notes from the book)
Marriage is a psychological & spiritual journey that begins in the ecstasy of attraction, meanders through a rocky stretch of self-discovery, & culminates in the creation of an intimate, joyful, long-life union. Whether or not you realise the full potential of this vision depends not on your ability to attract the perfect mate, but on your willingness to acquire knowledge about hidden parts of yourself.
It appears that each of us is compulsively searching for a mate with a particular set of positive and negative personality traits. What we are doing is looking for someone who has the predominant character traits (+ & -) of the people who raised us, trying to re-create the environment of childhood in a compelling need to heal old childhood wounds.
The only thing your old brain seems to care about is whether a particular person is someone to: 1) nurture, 2) be nurtured by, 3) have sex with, 4) run away from, 5) submit to, 6) attack.
Some parts of the journey:
1 Original wholeness (memory of effortlessness)
2 I and my mother are one (attachment & boundaries)
3 The perilous pilgrimage (exploring the world)
4 Fusers (insatiable need for closeness) and isolators (insatiable need for independence) (They tend to marry each other.)
5 The lost Self (when society tells me who I am & how I should behave, the lost self is the part of myself that I suppress.
We either overcompensate for what we didn’t get from our parents or blindly re-create the same painful situations.
When our partners are hostile or merely unhelpful, a silent alarm is triggered deep in our brains that fills us with the fear of death.
Like all children, you grew up knowing the anguish of unmet needs and these needs follow you into your relationships.
The lost self is formed in early childhood-largely as a result of our caretakers’ well-intentioned efforts to teach us to get along with others.
In a thousand ways, both subtly and overtly, our parents gave us the message that they approved of only a part of us. In essence, we were told that we could not be whole and exist in this culture.
We have now succeeded in fracturing your original wholeness, the loving and unified nature that you were born with, into 3 separate entities:
1 Your “lost self,” those parts of your being that you had to repress because of the demands of society.
2 Your “false self,” the façade that you erected in order to fill the void created by this repression and by a lack of adequate nurturing.
3 Your “disowned self,” the negative parts of your false self that met with disapproval and were therefore denied.
You will find ample evidence that people choose mates with complimentary traits. What people are doing in these yin/yang matches is trying to reclaim their lost selves by proxy.
The closer the match to childhood carers and childhood struggles the more troubled the relationship is likely to be as our partner re-injures very sensitive wounds.
The four stages of relationship:
1 The phenomenon of recognition-“I know we’ve just met, but somehow I feel as though I already know you.”
2 The phenomenon of timelessness-“This is peculiar but even though we’ve only been seeing each other for a short time, I as if I’ve always known you.”
3 The phenomenon of reunification-“When I’m with you, I no longer feel alone; I feel whole, complete.
4 The phenomenon of necessity-“I love you so much, I can’t live without you.
One bit of emotional make-believe in which virtually all lovers engage is trying to appear more emotionally healthy than we really are.
The power struggle is where the honeymoon period ends, the wounded-child takes over and we begin to try to satisfy a whole hierarchy of unconscious expectations.
A man may expect his new bride to do the housework, cook the meals, shop for groceries, wash the clothes, arrange the social events, take on the role of family nurse and buy everyday household items. In addition he has a whole list of expectations that are peculiar to his own upbringing. Meanwhile, his wife has an equally long and perhaps conflicting, set of expectations. In addition to wanting her husband to be responsible for all the ‘manly’ chores, such as taking care of the car, paying the bills, figuring the taxes, mowing the lawn and overseeing minor and major home repairs, she may expect him to help with the cooking, shopping and laundry as well. Then, she, too, has expectations that reflect her particular upbringing. All these could develop into a significant source of tension. Their partners are going to do it all- satisfy unmet childhood needs, compliment lost self-parts, nurture them in a consistent and loving way and be eternally available to them.
Your growing discomfort with your partner’s complimentary character traits was only part of the brewing storm. Your partner’s negative traits, the ones that you had resolutely denied during the romantic phase of the relationship, were also beginning to come into sharp focus. This gave you the sickening realisation that not only were you not going to get your needs met, but your partner was destined to wound you in the very same way you were wounded in your childhood!
People either “pick imago matches, project them or provoke them.”
Two factors that fuel the power struggle:
1 Our partners make us feel anxious by stirring up forbidden parts of ourselves.
2 Our partners have or appear to have the same negative traits as our parents, adding further injury to old wounds and thereby awakening our unconscious fear of death.
In the ‘honeymoon’ phase, we see only the good traits from our mum and dad and all the good but repressed parts of ourselves.
In the second phase, we see the bad traits from our mum and dad and all the bad and repressed parts of ourselves (disowned self).
The imago is not only an inner image of the opposite sex; but it is also a description of the disowned self.
People try to exorcise their denied negative traits by projecting them onto their partners.
The 3 major sources of conflict that make up the power struggle:
1 Stir up each other’s repressed behaviours and feelings
2 Re-injure each other’s childhood wounds
3 Project their own negative traits onto each other
All these interactions are unconscious. All people know is that they feel confused, angry, anxious, depressed and unloved. And it is only natural that they blame all this unhappiness on their partners.
When partners don’t tell each other what they want and constantly criticize each other for missing the boat, it’s no wonder that the spirit of love and cooperation disappears. In its place comes the grim determination of the power struggle, in which each partner tries to force the other to meet his or her needs. They persevere because in their unconscious minds they fear that, if their needs are not met, they will die. (repetition compulsion)
Up to 50% of all American wives have been hit by their husbands.
Five stages of the power struggle:
Perhaps as few as 5% of all couples, find a way to resolve the power struggle and go on to create a deeply satisfying relationship.
We believe our partners know exactly what we want and when and how we want it, but for some reason they are deciding to ignore our needs and this makes us angry.
“Seldom or never does a marriage develop into an individual relationship smoothly without crisis. There is no birth of consciousness without pain.”CJ Jung
In most interactions with your spouse, you are actually safer when you lower your defences than when you keep them engaged, because your partner becomes an ally, not an enemy.
A conscious marriage is a marriage that fosters maximum psychological and spiritual growth, it’s a marriage created by becoming conscious and cooperating with the fundamental drives of the unconscious mind: to be safe, to be healed and to be whole.
10 characteristics of a conscious marriage:
1 You realise that your love relationship has a hidden purpose-the healing of childhood wounds. Instead of focusing entirely on surface needs and desires, you learn to recognise the unresolved childhood issues that underlie them. When you look at marriage with this x-ray vision, your daily interactions take on more meaning. Puzzling aspects of your relationship begin to make sense to you and you have a greater sense of control.
2 You create a more accurate image of your partner. At the very moment of attraction, you began fusing your lover with your primary caretakers. Later you projected your negative traits onto your partner, further obscuring your partner’s essential reality. As you move toward a conscious marriage, you gradually let go of these illusions and begin to see more of your partner’s truth. You see your partner not as your saviour but as another wounded human being, struggling to be healed.
3 You take responsibility for communicating your needs and desires to your partner. In an unconscious marriage, you cling to thew childhood belief that your partner automatically intuits your needs. In a conscious marriage, you accept the fact that, in order to understand each other, you have to develop clear channels of communication.
4 You become intentional in your interactions. In an unconscious marriage, you tend to react without thinking. You allow the primitive response of your old brain to control your behaviour. In a conscious marriage, you train yourself to behave in a more constructive manner.
5 You learn to value your partner’s needs and wishes as highly as you value your own. In an unconscious marriage, you assume that your that your partner’s role in life is to take care of your needs magically. In a conscious marriage, you let go of this narcissistic view and divert more and more of your energy to meeting your partner’s needs.
6 You embrace the dark side of your personality. In a conscious marriage, you openly acknowledge the fact that you, like everyone else, have negative traits. As you accept responsibility for this dark side of your nature, you lessen your tendency to project your negative traits onto your mate, which creates a less hostile environment.
7 You learn new techniques to satisfy your basic needs and desires. During power struggle, you cajole, harangue and blame in an attempt to coerce your partner to meet your needs. When you move beyond this stage, you realise that your partner can indeed be a resource for you- once you abandon your self-defeating tactics.
8 You search within yourself for the strengths and abilities you are lacking. One reason you were attracted to your partner is that your partner had strengths and abilities that you lacked. Therefore, being with your partner gave you an illusory sense of wholeness. In a conscious marriage, you learn that the only way you can truly recapture a sense of oneness is to develop the hidden traits within yourself.
9 You become more aware of your drive to be loving and whole and united with the universe. As a part of your God-given nature, you have the ability to love unconditionally and to experience unity with the world around you. Social conditioning and imperfect parenting made you lose touch with these qualities. In a conscious marriage, you begin to rediscover your original nature.
10 You accept the difficulty of creating a good marriage. In an unconscious marriage, you believe that the way to have a good marriage is to pick the right partner. In a conscious marriage you realise you have to be the right partner. As you gain a more realistic view of love relationship, you realise that a good marriage requires commitment, discipline, and the courage to grow and change; marriage is hard work.
We can’t be blamed for wanting to believe that marriage should be easy and “natural.”
It’s human nature to want a life without effort. When we were infants, the world withheld and we were frustrated; the world gave and we were satisfied.Out of these thousands of early transactions, we fashioned a model of the world, and we cling to this outdated model even at the expense of our marriages. We must change our ideas about marriage; about our partners and, ultimately, about ourselves.
We are prisoners of the fear of change, living impoverished, repetitious, unrewarding lives and blame our partners for our unhappiness.
We want to live in a fairy tale where the beautiful princess meets the handsome prince and lives happily ever after.
It is only after we see marriage as a vehicle for change and self-growth that we begin to satisfy our unconscious yearnings.
When a couple walks into my office for their first counselling session, all I know with any certainty is they have journeyed past the romantic stage of marriage and become embroiled somewhere in the power struggle.
Define your relationship vision, both separately and together. Can be read daily.
The no-exit decision-first year.
The fuser grew up with an unsatisfied need for attachment.
The isolator grew up with an unsatisfied need for autonomy.
The fuser is relieved by commitment, as it reduces the fear of abandonment..
The isolator is triggered by commitment fearing absorption.
Everyday of their married lives husbands and wives push against this invisible relationship boundary (fuser/isolator dynamics) in an attempt to satisfy their dual needs for attachment and autonomy. Most of the time, each individual fixates on one of those needs: one person habitually advances, in an effort to satisfy unmet needs for attachment; the other habitually retreats, in an effort to satisfy unmet needs for autonomy. For a variety of reasons, the person who typically advances begins to retreat. The partner who habitually retreats turns around in amazement: where’s my pursuer? To everyone’s surprise, the isolator suddenly discovers an unmet need for closeness. The pattern is reversed, like the flip-flop of magnetic poles, and now the isolator does the pursuing. It’s as if all couples collude to maintain a set distance between them.
Why do men and women spend so much time avoiding intimacy? Two good reasons: fear of pain and anger of not having your needs met. The relationship begins to end with the anger at realising the partner is not meeting your needs. Then you begin systematically to seek pleasure and satisfaction of your needs outside the relationship.
Sometimes a psychological need is so deeply buried that it is only triggered by a crisis or the demands of a particular stage of life. Ultimately it takes a lifetime together for a couple to identify and heal the majority of their childhood wounds.
“Perfect love means to love the one through whom one became unhappy.” Soren Kierkegaard
Caring days-write down a list of positive, specific ways that your partner can please you
Partners are to grant each other a certain number (3-5) of caring behaviours a day, no matter how they feel about each other.
Most marriages are run like a commodities market, with loving behaviours the coin of trade.
The only kind of love that the old brain will accept is the kind with no strings attached.
When we were infants, love came without price tags. And now, in adulthood, a time-locked part of us still craves this form of love.
Random partner rewards create an air of uncertainty and expectancy, and increase the impact of the reward.
To the old brain anything that is not routine and habituated feels unnatural.
Each of you has a valid point of view and reality is larger and more complex than either of you will ever know.
When you accept the limited nature of your own perceptions and become more receptive to the truth of your partner’s perceptions, a whole world opens up to you. Instead of seeing your partner’s differing views as a source of conflict, you find them as a source of knowledge: what are you seeing that I am not seeing?
Principle 1-Most of your partner’s criticisms of you have some basis in reality.
Principle 2-Many of your repetitious, emotional criticisms of your partner are disguised statements of your own unmet needs.
Principle 3-Some of your repetitive, emotional criticisms of your partner may be an accurate description of a "disowned" part of your self.
Principle 4-Some of your criticisms of your partner may help you identify your own "lost self".
Never assume that you and your partner share the same language.
There is a tremendous satisfaction in simply being heard, in knowing that your message has been received exactly as you sent it. This is a rare phenomenon in most marriages.
When a person is effectively mirrored, he or she instantly feels more energetic.
The unconscious selection process has brought together two people who can either hurt each other or heal each other, depending upon their willingness to grow and change. In essence, they would be asking them to overcome their most prominent negative traits.
People would have to learn how to overcome their limitations and develop their capacity to love not because they expected love in return but simply because their partners deserved to be loved.
Identify a chronic complaint and come up with a list of concrete, do-able behaviours that would help satisfy that desire.
One partner’s greatest desire is often matched by the other partner’s greatest resistance.
The only legitimate power we have in relationship is to inform our partner of our needs and to change our own behaviour to meet their needs.
I have witnessed this phenomenon of two way healing so many times in my work with couples that I can now say with confidence that most husbands and wives have identical needs, but what is openly acknowledged on one is denied in the other. When the partners with denied needs are able to overcome their resistance and satisfy the other partner’s overt need, a part of the unconscious mind interprets the caring behaviour as self-directed. Love of the self is achieved through love of the other.
The old brain doesn’t know the world exists; all it responds to are symbols generated by the cerebral cortex. Lacking a direct connection to the external world, the old brain assumes that all behaviour is inner-directed. When you are able to become more generous and loving to your spouse, therefore, your brain assumes that this activity is intended for yourself.
The partner who requested the behaviour changes was able to resolve some childhood needs.
The partner who made the changes recovered aspects of the lost self.
The partner who made the changes satisfied repressed needs that were identical to the partner’s.
Marriage can fulfil your hidden drive to be healed and whole. But it can’t happen the way you want it to happen – easily, automatically, without defining what it is that you want, without asking, and without reciprocating.
In order to repress our rage, we may have to stifle our sexuality, our appetite for food, our interest for music, our excitement at new ideas-any stirring of our energy is threatening to us. P 146
Just as the goodwill that we extend to our partner is believed to be intended for us, the animosity that we send out is repackaged for home delivery. When we hurt our partners, we invariably hurt ourselves.
When we gather the courage to search for the truth of our being and the truth of our partner, we begin a journey of psychological and spiritual healing.
The conscious marriage is a state of mind and a way of being based on acceptance, a willingness to grow and change, the courage to encounter one’s own fear, and a conscious decision to act in loving ways. It is a marriage built on an entirely different foundation from the infatuation of romantic love, but the feelings are just as joyful and intense.
In the first two stages of marriage, romantic love and the power struggle, love is reactive; it is an unconscious response to the expectation of need fulfilment.
When a husband and wife make a decision to create a more satisfying marriage, they enter a stage of transformation, and love becomes infused with consciousness and will; love is best described as agape, the life energy directed toward the partner in an intentional act of healing. Now, in the final stage of marriage, reality love, love takes on the quality of “spontaneous oscillation,” words that come from quantum physics and describes the way energy moves back and forth between particles. When partners learn to see each other without distortion, to value each other as highly as they value themselves, to give without expecting anything in return, to commit themselves fully to each other’s welfare, love moves freely between them without apparent effort.
When couples are able to love in this selfless manner, they experience a release of energy.
Relationships tend to move in circles and vortices; there are cycles, periods of calm and periods of turbulence. Even when you feel as if you are going through the very same struggles over and over again, there is always some degree of change.
How important to you is creating a more loving, supportive relationship?
Are you willing to take part in a sometimes difficult process of self-growth?
Because our relationship is very important to us, we are making a commitment to increase our awareness of ourselves and each other and to acquire and practice new relationship skills.
Keep in mind two cardinal rules:
1 The information you gather in the process of doing the exercises is designed to educate you and your partner about each other’s needs. Sharing this information does not obligate you to meet those needs.
2 When you share your thoughts and feelings with each other, you become emotionally vulnerable. It is important that you use the information you gain about each other in a loving and helpful manner.
3 Stages in a conscious love relationship:
1 Primal consciousness-self-preservation-unconscious marriage-reactivity-imago
a) Romantic Love-Eros, attraction, attachment, hope, illusion, selection, ecstasy
b) Power Struggle-disillusionment, frustration, fear, coercion, expectation, anger, impasse
2 Differentiated consciousness-Encounter with the other-Transcendence of separateness
Conscious Marriage, Intentional Recipriocity
a) Commitment-no exit decision, fear, resistance, risk, goals
b) Knowledge-diagnosis, information, options, decisions, pain, curiosity, self-knowledge, partner knowledge
c) Transformation-agape, re-visioning, re-romanticising, restructuring, resolving anger, re-identifying,
Skills-mirroring, validating, empathizing, containing, stretching
d) Awakening-gnosis, awareness, fear, disorientation, seeing the journey, entering the shadow
3 Unitive consciousness-Self-completion-Real Love
Philis, Desireless Valuing, unconditional Giving, Imageless perception, Expectationless Relating, at-one-ment, Spiritual Intimacy (into-me-see), Non-defensive Relating, Empathetic Communication, Joy, Full Aliveness.
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