I believe that we come into relationships in order to heal deep wounds. That said, your partner has thoughts and behaviours that will trigger certain wounds in you leading to an often unconscious dance that can almost be a hybrid of both of your parents to some extent. What I mean is that your current relationship may play out certain patterns and behaviors that represent your father and/or your mother (or role models in our developmental years). As children, we learned ways of coping within our family dynamics to help us feel safe and discovered our own dance of survival.
In hindsight, during my own life, I have unconsciously attracted partners who very much triggered deep wounds from my childhood, where I would play out thoughts and behaviours the same way I showed up as a child. For example, being abandoned emotionally and physically as a child, until I became more self aware, I would choose partners who were unavailable. One key ingredient in creating successful relationships is to look at the thought or behavior within ourselves and discover how we might unconsciously play out that wound within our own selves. If we choose to stay in a relationship and not to do this, we will keep pointing the finger at our partner making it about them. Instead, we want to ask: when have I been unavailable to myself?
In having an abandonment wound and because I am a seeker, when I was in relationships with people who for whatever reason, conscious or unconscious, were unavailable, I would relentlessly pursue them because my perception was that they were disappearing. This would manifest as pushing them to see my point of view, forcing them to talk, not allowing space to be with my own stuff or for them to be with theirs, transferring my own thoughts, emotions and actions onto them as a way of not taking ownership of the trait within myself (projection).
So when I began to look at just the adult decades of my life, I can see that I was unavailable and often abandoned myself through excessive thoughts and behaviors: overeating, over-exercising, over working, over-socializing, over-giving, being over-emotional, too name a few. Characteristics would manifest as aggressive, pushy, ungrounded, grippy.
Someone who has the same abandonment wound could show up deficient: withdrawn emotionally and physically, control situations, environment, people, become ill in order to passively create connection and make it about them, perhaps even be unwilling to ‘go there’ in conversations. Characteristics would be manipulative, cold, distant.
We can also oscillate between the two where we play them both out simultaneously or at different points in our lives, which may actually represent the character traits of each parent.
Often times within relationship, we frequently pick partners who have similar wounds who may show up differently. Therefore, instead of pursuing, they may shut down, retreat, withhold, pull away, disconnect. And yes….that could leave us feeling more abandoned and therein lies the work.
Over the years, these dances have generated a curiosity in me, recognizing that we are each mirrors for one another. I could easily blame, put it all on him and make it all about me. Lord knows I have done this plenty. Or I can take responsibility in these moments and practice being in the space and digging deep into my own thoughts and behaviors, beliefs and patterns, returning back to self in order to see if this dance is really serving me. The more I practice me, instead of projecting and make it about what they are not doing, the more I feel safe in spaciousness. Ultimately I learn to calm my own nervous system and I learn to trust I am there for me and that I am okay. Moreover, I develop a greater trust that what is actually unfolding, albeit painful, the wound is showing up for me to heal, because I am ready.
When we allow ourselves spaciousness, we have the opportunity to sit with it and get curious on how our parents being unavailable (or whatever the wound is) actually served us. What did I get? What coping strategies did I develop that have actually become incredible resources for me and even strong healthy personality traits? For me, I learned to become independent, to be resilient, tenacious. These are fabulous qualities, and just like anything, too much of something can be detrimental. My work is to watch for when I unconsciously get excessive in the behavior and default back to the old patterns described above. It’s also important to be aware of the thoughts and intentions behind my behavior.
We exist on this planet in order to be in connection. Yes, it is about taking ownership and being with ourselves, and it is totally okay and beautiful if you desire a partner to meet you, who wants to grow with you, take ownership, show up fully, and re-commit everyday to the work…because friends it is work. Is it possible that the person I am choosing to be in partnership with isn’t willing to go there and would much prefer to be in a relationship where they don’t want to ‘look at their stuff’ and aren’t really into growth and development? Where they don’t care about looking at their childhood because it is too painful or think, ’What’s the point?!’. Or, where they can see it, but it is WAY too scary to actually go down the rabbit hole and look at those wounds that have been there for 20, 30, 40, 50 years? Absolutely. AND….they are not wrong or bad, timing with one’s life and with one’s relationships is quite interesting in itself. Or perhaps they came into my life in order for me to learn to show up differently toward myself, take full responsibility (not blame them OR myself), and heal my own deep wound. Sometimes that person isn’t meant to be in your life ‘forever’.
There is a fine line between honoring you and honoring a belief that no longer serves you. Personal growth is very much an opportunity to sit with our beliefs around what relationships ’should’ be. Our beliefs around marriage. Our beliefs around commitment, and even our role or our partner’s role within that commitment. Our life’s dance is something that will naturally change and shift over our lifetime as we grow and experience more of life.
For example: One’s beliefs about marriage maybe: You just don’t get a divorce. You stay together for the kids. It will cause them too much pain. I can’t do it on my own. No one else would choose me. Intimacy just dwindles over time. These are all very common and very much worth taking a look at.
Dr. Pat Allen, communication and relationship expert, is a phenomenal resource and lays out an excellent framework for working within relationship and behaviors. Simply stated, she says, you have three options:
1. ACCEPT THE BEHAVIOR
Accepting the behavior is pretty much like it sounds. In this category, you allow the behavior to last a lifetime.
These would be things like her taking longer than normal to get ready to leave the house, not wanting to talk about her past and look at some wounded behaviors, or being a neat freak. Don’t complain about them or try to manipulate him to change. When you accept a behavior, you simply don’t ever bring it up that it bothers you; in short, YOU GET OVER IT. Accepting is unconditional, and most behaviors regarding your partner should fall in this category.
2. TOLERATE THE BEHAVIOR
This is the worst option and should be avoided at all cost. This is where a behavior bothers you and you just hope it goes away by hinting or nagging. It seems too big for you to let go, yet not important enough to force an ultimatum. When a woman tolerates a behavior that she can’t get over, contempt for her man is sure to follow; and, when contempt enters a relationship, it is nearly always the fatal blow. Typically, this form of dealing with bad behavior causes a woman to nag or complain. If you feel as though you are whining, then you are probably tolerating behavior that needs to be addressed differently.
3. REJECT THE BEHAVIOR
There are some behaviors where you must do whatever it takes to get someone’s attention, even if it means leaving them. You might even have to say to your partner, “I would rather cause you pain by saying no, than hurt myself by saying yes.” Pretty strong words, but not saying anything will only lead to pounds of resentment. Rejection means you will do whatever it takes to stop the bad behavior. No, this doesn’t mean that you can control someone, but you can control what happens after their actions. If I decided to quit work and play video games all day, I promise you, my partner would do whatever it took to get my attention.
Remember, wherever you are you have a choice. You ALWAYS have a choice. If you feel you don’t, consider getting curious about that. A few questions could be: how might I be playing out the victim right now and even settling? How might my core wound of “I am not worthy of great love” be surfacing?
We very much lower our expectations when it comes to having authentic, thriving, loving, conscious, vibrant relationships because of unconscious, old wounds and because a majority of our neighbors are choosing to not wake up, but to continue to do an old, dysfunctional dance.
If being and meeting self and others in connection feels like it is something you truly yern for, yet uncertain of how to get there, you do not have to do this alone. Lean in! Connect with me for a 15 minute consult to see how I can support you.
As Albert Einstein said, "We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them." It is so important to have a map, and to have tools along your journey that will support you, and allow you to see and reach your potential.
Life is happening for you and WANTS you to SHINE!
With deep love and respect,