I want to explore how we as individuals influence the quality of our relationships — so read on, answer the questions alone and together, and enjoy the introspection!
Photo by Hannah Busing on Unsplash
The 15 others
@estherperel says we bring our past and our present to relationships, and that involves not only us but 10 to 15 other people, from past relationships to close family members. Who are those people to you? What happened? Did any event involving any of them change you or your attitude towards relationships? What you bring to your relationship collides with what your partner brings, giving birth to healthy and unhealthy patterns. What do you know of your partner’s past and present? How does all this affect him/her?
Esther Perel also talks about the things we learn as children. Here’s a little breakdown:
The way we learn about love
Many of us learn about love from observing our parents loving (or hating) each other, but also from navigating the love we grow between them and ourselves. After all, they are our very first love experience. How did your parents communicate and show love to each other? How did they show love to you? What words did they use to explain love? What words do you use today to explain love? To show love?
Too much and not enough
Already as a child, we constantly aim to balance security and predictability with adventure and independence — in fact, this is essential for our growth and development. To have security and predictability, we need to feel our parents’ attention and love on us. To have adventure and independence, we need to feel allowed with a sense of self, enabled by distance (literal and figurative) from our parents. Did you experience more (or too much) healthy and/or unhealthy attention and love, showering you with security and predictability? Or did you experience less (or too little) healthy and/or unhealthy attention and love, pushing you to independence and adventure? What do you experience now in your relationship? How does that make you feel? How do you express your love, allowing the other to bloom or constantly making sure he/she is okay?
Dealing with frustration
While we seek this balance, we are confronted with obstacles (like an overcrowding parent preventing us from taking flight, or an absent parent not acknowledging and attending to our vulnerabilities), and we learn to respond to this frustration, and take note of what works and what doesn’t. How did you respond to your frustrations as a child? Did you cave, scream, cry, internalize? What actually worked with your parents? How do you react to frustrations today? What works with your partner?
Word of wisdom
It’s pretty obvious that we tend to understand love the same way we understood it from our parents as a child, but it is not necessarily the way we express love ourselves. Perel’s observations in her 35 years of helping couples in therapy say that if we experience more security than adventure growing up, we’re more likely to fear losing ourselves in our relationships, terrified at the idea of not being self-sufficient and independent enough. On the other hand, if we experience more adventure than security growing up, we’re likely to fear losing the other in our relationships, terrified at the idea of not being in a safe and predictable enough situation. Finally, we tend to use the coping mechanisms that worked growing up.
Does this fit to your observation as you introspect? It’s all worth thinking about! And talking about!
Food for thought: “my man is my rock — scratch that — is my plant!"
It’s odd that older generations raised boys to be tough men, that women today don’t want to be in a relationship with. Studies show that parents touch their boys less after the age of 4, raising them to show strength in their bodies, and to quiet their emotions and vulnerability. Boys and men are taught to be the security but not to need it. “My man is my rock… that never breaks, because if it does, it never comes back together and we are doomed”.
But! but! but! We also want men to partake in the conversations about relationships, with their heart and their vulnerabilities, their true selves, which they can discover only if they allow themselves to break, sometimes completely and multiple times. After all, having honest, heart-to-heart and open conversations is the best way to figure out our relationships. So what’s up with that? So here’s what I say: “my man is my plant!”, he breaks and learns about himself, and gets back up.
Wanna join me?? #mymanismyplant
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