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Don't Blame, Gain Control Of You - 6/27/2008


I recently wrote an article entitled Fear of Loving.  If you’re similar to many of my patients, you immediately rejected the concept.  If you are female, you probably thought, “That doesn’t apply to me.  I’m not afraid of loving. I’ve always dreamed of a wonderful marriage, home, kids and a spouse who genuinely cares.”  If you’re male, the notion of fearing loving probably seemed absurd.  All your life you’ve searched for a woman who would love, care for and want you but, long-term, most of them fell short of what you desired.  Be aware that such disappointment isn’t yours alone.  Women have experienced the same sadness, two-fold.  Many have been abandoned by spouses they’d been married to most of their lives; or married to men who disappeared weekends, playing golf or tennis, going hunting or fishing and bonding with male friends, or even other women; or couch potatoes who bask in front of the TV, not wanting to go anywhere or do anything.  These women feel equally as disappointed, lonely and sad as their male counterparts.  

Most unhappy spouses only complain, because the thought of breaking up a family and hurting children is so overwhelming that, despite resentment toward their spouses, they resolve to stay and tolerate an unhappy situation.  As a result, countless spouses spend  their married lives blaming their partners for their own dissatisfaction.  If you’re one of these individuals, pay attention.  The problem isn’t with your spouse, it’s with you.  You chose the person you’re with and you’ve chosen to stay.  You may excuse your choice on the basis of your youth, your desire to exit a bad family home,  your desperate desire to be loved, or your spouse portraying himself as one person who later transformed into another.

Think back; before you married, you probably went through the motions of listing the characteristics your future spouse had to have and then married someone on the basis of totally different, unconscious factors.  Two rules applied:

One, like begets like.  You always marry someone whose emotional dynamics are exactly like your own. They may be displayed 180º differently but, emotionally, they’re the same.  Thus, smart people marry smart people,  confident people marry confident people, inadequate feeling people marry inadequate feeling people, dumb people marry dumb people.  And, if you’re one of those individuals who thinks, “God, how could I have married somebody so dumb?”, I’ll tell you.  You weren’t so smart, yourself - it was a dumb thing to do.  

Two, for all this to make sense, you need to recognize an additional fact.  Each and every one of you is at least two people.  From the top of your head to the tip of your chin, you’re an intellectually knowledgeable person who learns from every experience, book, relationship and class you attend.  That person knows right from wrong, good from bad and appropriate from inappropriate.  He/she experiences guilt over behaving in inappropriate ways, knows when he fails or makes a mistake and knows the proper thing to do.  Then there is this other person who resides somewhere between the bottom of your chin and the tips of your toes. He/she is the sum total of everything you experienced emotionally, from birth to  age 4 or 5.   At that point, he is as mature as he will ever be.  He’s a part of you that you often dislike, disown and hide from others, as well as yourself.  In your eyes, he/she isn’t tall enough, thin enough, socially acceptable enough, pretty enough, or smart enough.  Despite all this, his childish feelings will often override the sensible adult in you and influence you to speak, think and act in ways that even appall you, so much so that, on any given morning, some of you may wake up, look in the mirror and say, “I can’t stand you.  Why did you have to gorge yourself last night; drink the bar dry;  talk so much;  lie to build yourself up; or hide in the corner, hoping you wouldn’t be noticed?”  

Throughout life, this conflict between the adult and the emotional child will cause you to repeatedly experience internal conflict.  To resolve it, you need to ensure that the adult part of you recognizes and, to a great extent, controls how your child behaves.  It won’t alter what he thinks and feels.  Your child will still feel a need to react impulsively, want immediate gratification, be self-indulgent and insensitive to others.  But, his actions will be tempered by the adult in you, who has learned to parent him.  It sounds crazy, but it isn’t.  Instead, it explains how you can be fearful of loving and still say, without lying, “It’s what I want.”  It’s because you’re only talking for one of you. Your intellectual adult does want love and puts out effort to find and experience it.  However, I’d have you remember the little kid who chose a partner just like himself.  Someone who is as frightened of loving as he.  Someone you later justify staying with because of children, etc.,  when, in fact, you stay because you don’t have to get close to them and you can blame them for your own fear of intimacy.  You might say, “I’m always asking for togetherness, but he won’t listen or talk.   It’s me that asks for dates, wants closeness and warmth.  How can you say that I don’t want it?”  Well, if you keep going to a hardware store to buy sugar, I would say something is wrong with you.  Most hardware stores don’t sell sugar and you didn’t marry a grocer.  Conversely, there are those people that go into a grocery store and complain because they don’t carry pipe wrenches.   They insist they want it and would buy it if they had it.   The analogy’s obvious.  Your spouse didn’t change.  They’re the same person you chose and married, possibly consciously thinking they’d change and become great lovers.  All the while, your emotional kid knew they were perfect for you.  Their past included just as much hurt as yours and each of you would help the other to live together at a comfortable level of distance.  

Please give this notion serious thought because if you see its legitimacy, it can, to a great extent, explain much of the distance between you and your partner.  It might also shift your focus from blaming them to changing you.  It’s the first step toward putting your adult in charge of your “loving behavior”.

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