You bring love and an honest commitment to your relationship. You are attracted by your partner’s well-meaning heart, his or her good looks as well as their personality and engaging mannerisms.
Even though you may not realize it, you also bring the wounds you suffered as a child to your relationship. And you may also not realize you are probably attracted to someone who you believe will give you a different outcome for these wounds.
Simply put, you become attracted to someone who may possess some of the similar traits and attributes as your primary caregiver did when you were a child. But with this person you are hoping for a different outcome – a chance for the wounds to finally heal or to never have been afflicted in the first place.
Sounds counterintuitive, doesn’t it?
Why would you be attracted to someone who may be unable to help you heal your wounds and has the potential to make your wounds grow deeper?
To answer these questions, you must understand that every single one of us has been wounded as children and we have brought these wounds to the marriage for repair. Conflicts in our relationships stem from these wounds.
In addition, Imago Relationship Therapy points out that your unconscious mind makes you attracted to undesirable traits that are identical to your caretaker’s (typically a parent) which resulted in your wounds. Furthermore, consciously we are looking for someone who may resemble the traits of our caretakers, but not an exact replica per se.
If you are constantly fighting about unwashed dishes, says Dr. Hendrix, co-found of Imago Relationship Therapy, "It's not about the dishes...there's a symbolic connection...that triggers a deeper feeling."
Dr. Hendrix also suggests that intense and reoccurring arguments are a good indicator that one or both partners have unresolved childhood wounds such as abandonment, rejection, smothering, shame or helplessness.
Mary Beth and I “trigger” each other at times. My attraction to her was to find a woman who would be strong and independent – a woman who would not rely on addictions for comfort and escape. I wanted to marry a woman who could be strong and love me, too.
However, a source of conflict in our relationship involves physical contact. I’m not talking about sex necessarily, but things like hugging, holding hands and kissing. When we go through times when our physical contact is infrequent, I become triggered. I begin to feel like a young child not knowing if my mother would be respondent or aware of my needs.
So, my partner has similar tendencies as my primary caregiver did (her independence is construed by me as detachment), but I’m looking for my partner to give me a different outcome. Yes, there will be periods of physical detachment. But at the end of the day, I know authentic love is waiting. This is the best ointment for me.
Personal Activity: Unfinished Business
To help you uncover your childhood wounds, complete the following activity. Be sure to give yourself plenty of time (about 30 minutes). You will also need some writing paper and a pen or pencil to complete this activity.
Begin by thinking back to your earliest memory of your childhood home. See yourself as a child in this home.
1. Think about the people who cared for you? Who are they?
2. Choose two or three of these people. They can be a parent, relative or family friend. Try to remember and write down both their positive and negative traits.
3. Why did you enjoy being with them? What didn’t you like about them?
4. Finally, for each person, write down what you wanted from them but did not get. Be real with yourself and don’t hesitate to express your anger or sadness.
5. What similarities can you draw between people from your childhood and your current partner? Do they have common traits? What are you not getting from your partner, but would like to have?
Activity for Couples
When you and your partner are in the middle of an argument, try asking yourself these four questions to get at the root of your pain. Have your partner do the same.
1. How do I feel when my partner acts this way?
2. What thoughts do I have when my partner acts this way?
3. What deeper feelings might underlie these thoughts and feelings?
4. Did I ever have these same thoughts and feelings when I was a child?
Alex Blackwell is the author of The Next 45 Years - a website dedicated to sharing and creating happiness, life balance and success for the rest of our lives. To read more inspirational stories and articles, please visit: www.thenext45years.blogspot.com