The romantic relationship is probably the most coveted, yet poorly understood, relationship of all time! It’s right up there with playing the lottery, but hopefully with better odds. I have never seen such immense desire for something that seems so difficult to attain.
The romantic relationship is the place where we undeniably allow our immaturity to govern our exaggerated expectations. Need an example. You’ll find it in no better place than the line “You complete me” (permit me for a moment to take a line in a movie that is designed to be dreamy and romantic and ruin it with undue seriousness).
Look at the fallacy of this statement for a second. Do you really want someone else to complete you? I mean, do you really want to become super-glued to this other and then expect that you’ll ride away into the sunset?
You’d have to become conjoined Siamese twins. You’ll want to get up and get a sandwich but the other says, “Why are you doing this to me?” Holy sensitivity batman!
We do this everyday in our sensitivities to one another when we’re actually “emotionally conjoined.” It’s a terrible idea and situation isn’t it? But no one really evaluates beyond our honeymoon period when we’ve been told that we’ll ride away into the sunset and we have lots of “love chemicals” flooding our brains validating that we finally have the perfect relationship.
It is just when we start running into problems that we start asking questions (and for a marital therapist it is usually an average of seven years after symptoms develop in a marriage for the questions to really be asked…but they tend to be the wrong ones). Like, did I pick the wrong person? Or, should I consider divorcing?
These are totally the wrong questions. Did I really think another human being was going to weld themselves to me and than complete me even I have to light a candle after using the restroom? “Uh, I’ll be in the other room.” How did I kid myself to estimate myself so highly that I would walk around with my partner conjoined and accept them when they are ugly, clueless, and insensitive? “Sure honey, I don’t mind that you don’t want to pick up your socks for the rest of your life because I’ll do it for you.”
When we’re emotionally fused and we don’t like our feelings, we fall victim to controlling everyone else’s feelings around us so that we don’t end up with the feelings we don’t like (Dr. David Schnarch). Nothing could be truer for the marital couple. If you’ve ever found yourself blaming, fighting, angry, yelling, seducing, arguing, pouting, giving the cold shoulder, that moment is probably about trying to bring about change through willing your partner to change.
Here are a few of the right questions. How can I challenge myself to do an emotional surgery that may be tricky (heaven forbid you nick that emotional artery) and allow him or her to be a separate person…warts and all? How do I stop making my partner pay for who they are? How do I emotionally heal after the surgery knowing I’ll feel awful? How do I not come up with a million reasons right now for this not to happen (“you mean I’m suppose to let him______” …you fill in the blank)? Yes! If he or she goes out, and they can’t handle the freedom over time (after they know you truly mean that they are free), remember you chose them (and got fused to them). You now have some things to work out and you don’t do it by becoming their parent all over again.
“To Have and Hold.” Yes, hold them…love them, care for them, but don’t weld yourself to them and create a terribly uncomfortable emotional fusion. You’ll both eventually want to distance from it, but in the intensity it will sound like they don’t just want out of the fusion…it will sound like they want out of the relationship all together. And so many people do. But they’re jumping out of the wrong thing. It’s the fusion, not the relationship that needs to stop!
“When you’re emotionally fused, every move they make throws you out of balance.”
– Dr. David Schnarch