by Ross Bishop
We think we know what love is, but honestly, not many people do, because we have never experienced the real thing. We didn’t get unconditional love from our parents and we weren’t encouraged to find our hearts as we grew up. And we certainly haven’t been encouraged to do that by society! Our various relationship breakups and perhaps a divorce have also made us somewhat gun-shy.
We operate under the fantasy that another person will complete us, that if we have a "successful" relationship everything must be OK. Under this theory, having a partner makes us feel good enough about ourselves so that we can deflect away our feelings of inadequacy. After all, a new relationship feels pretty wonderful! Usually things go fine at first, but after the excitement wears off, friction and resentment set in and things go south. Tom Robbins said:
When we’re incomplete, we’re always searching for somebody to complete us. When, after a few years or a few months of a relationship, we find that we’re still unfulfilled, we blame our partners and take up with somebody more promising. This can go on and on–series polygamy–until we admit that while a partner can add sweet dimensions to our lives, we, each of us, are responsible for our own fulfillment. Nobody else can provide it for us, and to believe otherwise is to delude ourselves dangerously and to program for eventual failure every relationship we enter.
Because we feel incomplete, dating, for most people, becomes a negotiation where the couple agrees to limit the openness and commitment they expect from one another. It is never openly discussed, but it becomes the dominant defining quality of the relationship. And so they circle, neither being willing to fully step in and each feeling somewhat cheated. In some relationships one partner capitulates their needs to those of the other in order to temporarily make the relationship work and also to fulfill her own needs in the short term.
The unfortunate consequence of all this is that you become reluctant to enter in and be as vulnerable as a real relationship requires, because it will expose your “inadequacies.” A real relationship would ask you to take emotional risks that you aren’t prepared for. So instead, you choose from the “less heathy” group of candidates. You will seek out someone who feels damaged themselves because they are safer. It is the inadequacy wound that drives almost all of our codependent behavior, by the way.
The need to be loved can become an addiction and the threat of its withdrawal can cause us to sacrifice everything – our integrity, honesty, self-respect and dignity. And that is the ego doing its job, getting us through difficult situations while limiting the exposure of our shortcomings. Looking back, we can see the foolish things we did, trying to prop up a relationship that would have failed on its own without artificial life support.
Sarah Dunn wrote: ”Why does anyone stay in an unhappy relationship? Because people do. They do it all the time. And the truth is, when you’re in it, when you’re up to your neck in the everyday part of life with another human being, sometimes you don’t exactly notice how bad things really are. It’s not always as apparent as it would seem. Unhappiness, when it involves another person, can be like that line from The Sun Also Rises about going bankrupt, how it happens two ways: gradually, and then suddenly.”
Why don’t we see the future more clearly? Has your partner really changed that much or have things that were latent before just come to the surface? Songwriters say that “Love is blind,” but that isn’t true. Love can see just fine. Codependency however, is blind as a bat, and that points us to the biggest reason people mess up relationships.
If you open your heart to another and he or she turns away, you will feel badly, perhaps very badly. Your sense of self-worth can take a painful hit if you are dependent upon another person for acceptance. And when your partner doesn’t make your feelings of inadequacy go away and the relationship turns sour, then you feel betrayed. Thus, you must create walls. Andrew Boyd wrote:
We’re all seeking that special person who is right for us. But if you’ve been through enough relationships, you begin to suspect there’s no right person, just different flavors of wrong. Why is this? Because you yourself are wrong in some way, and you seek out partners who are wrong in some complementary way. But it takes a lot of living to grow fully into your own wrongness. And it isn’t until you finally run up against your deepest demons, your unsolvable problems-the ones that make you truly who you are-that we’re ready to find a lifelong mate. Only then do you finally know what you’re looking for. You’re looking for the wrong person. But not just any wrong person: the right wrong person-someone you lovingly gaze upon and think, “This is the problem I want to have.”
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