By: Michael Mamas
Don’t we all long for the perfect life partner? Don’t we all hold, deep within ourselves, an idealized notion of what the person would be like and how wonderful it would be to spend our lives together? Yet, it has been said that people spend the first part of their life looking for the ideal mate. And after they find their mate, they spend the rest of their life trying to change them. So, in our society with a 40-50% divorce rate, we would do well to take a step back and reevaluate what an ideal relationship really looks like.
Firstly, it is important to understand that the ideal relationship is not perfect. True perfection lies within imperfection. In other words, it’s not so much about the person as it is about the nature of our relationship with relationships. We all have our idiosyncrasies and weaknesses. This is what it means to be human. Under enough pressure, we all succumb to stress and fatigue, becoming irritable, harsh, and easily angered. This can easily be understood, but our day-to-day relationship with this understanding must be healthy. To be healthy means that when someone responds to you harshly, it doesn’t go in as an emotional assault, hurt, or trauma. Rather, there is an understanding that such responses can be how people react when under enough pressure.
We all carry within us our childhood wounds. These wounds color our perception of other people. Psychotherapists call it transference. Yet, our transference is not easily identified as such. Commonly, we consider our transferential perspectives to be truth. It is as if we view our partner through the distorted lens of our childhood wounds.
Identifying how and when we are in transference is a formidable task, yet one we would do well to explore. Yet, realistically, no one ever fully understands the all-encompassing nature of their transference. So how, then, do we prevent our transference from compromising our relationships? By giving space.
In ideal relationships, we give space to ourselves as well as our partner. Giving space to ourselves means not steadfastly holding onto our perspectives and feelings as absolute truth. We don’t live in denial of those feelings and we don’t suppress them, but we do hold them while understanding the nature of life. This includes knowing there is transference between ourselves and others.
We give space to our partners in a similar manner. We understand that they, too, are dealing with transference issues and the pressures of life. The concept here is to have a ‘healthy relationship with’ the nature of relationships; this means to neither adhere to an idealized notion nor allow ourselves to be overshadowed by our own personal issues.
Conflicts, traumas, hurts, personal issues, and stresses naturally arise in a relationship. They can even persist for years. We weather a wide range of challenges in life. But, as time passes, the consequences of what we endure involve not so much what actually happened, but how those things are remembered.
Our lives together are like a great journey, traversing thousands of miles on foot. We encounter vast deserts, jungles, and formidable mountain passes in all kinds of weather: blistering heat, torrential storms, and treacherous blizzards. Those experiences can strengthen our ties with one another, enriching our relationship as we recall the things we faced hand-in-hand, dealt with, and overcame together. Or, those hardships can be attributed to our partners with blame and resentment.
Life’s experiences can either enrich or undermine our relationships. It’s all a matter of how we choose to view them. Healthy relationships have far more to do with our relationship with life because that is what colors our relationship with one another.
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