One thing I have to say about Psychoanalysis is that the more I went through my program to become a psychoanalyst, and the longer I was in my own analysis and the more I studied about relationships, love, and perversity, the more pain I was in as I realized what was happening in people’s relationship. We don’t qualify to be in a thriving relationship
That sounds a bit mean, doesn’t it? ‘You don’t qualify for a thriving relationship.’ But, it’s true. As I kept reading and practicing as a psychotherapist I realized that very few people qualify for a long-term thriving relationship. Just think about it this way. We need brain surgeons to have every skill and qualification to make sure they don’t kill who they are doing surgery on. We need every lover to have every skill and qualification to make sure they don’t kill who they are loving, which includes themselves.
Let’s talk about 2 of the many qualifications that I realized we don’t have that I saw in very few people.
1. You Keep Making Believe Your Relationship Is Safe
We are so guilty of this. We think that since we have been together for so long that we would never break up no matter what. That’s an illusion of safety we will make believe we have and perpetuate in our life and mind. Even unhappy relationships where one or both partners shut down their feelings and do everything to ‘keep the peace’ will divorce by year 16 compared to those who fight it out and divorce by year 5.6 (Gottman & Silver, 2015, p. 50). We know for a fact this doesn’t work or last so don’t stay together for the kids.
The irony of making believe your relationship is safe is that this makes your relationship the most volatile psychically and emotionally. And where this volatility lives, no true safety lives here.
I’ve watched even the most brilliant minds struggle with this illusion on my couch. They thought they had all the time in the universe to figure out how ‘to fix’ their relationship so they unconsciously and consciously perpetuated this illusion of safety. A client explained to me that they weren’t fighting with their spouse which gave them time to try to “fix things” and this made them feel safe, but what they had not realized is that they were also not creating and investing in life with each other or even really talking to each other anymore. They were, at best, roommates.
The problem with this way of being is that we won’t want to see that safety kills desire and when you don’t have the ability to desire and tolerate risk, there is no ability to be satisfied in a relationship.
Does your relationship lack sex? Yea, sex is risky, it’s vulnerable and when you both unconsciously decide that there will be no more risk, desire, and passion, the sex dies off which really means the friendship, all the feelings, chemicals, and fantasies that promote a satisfactory relationship are pushed away, broken and ignored. When you perpetuate the illusion of safety, you both agree and work on destroying your relationship.
What happens when we realize that no matter what, there is no safe relationship? Why does this matter? This brings us to the next idea we function under that disqualifies us for a long-lasting relationship. We see our significant others for who we wish they were and not for who they are.
2. You See Your Lover For Who You Wish They Are, Not Who They Are
To only see you partner as who you wish they are and not for who they are is a great way of resisting ever knowing who they actually are which means that when they do inevitably fail or break your heart you can make believe you are free of responsibility and say, “I had no idea they were capable of doing that”.
We are guilty of this. So many times I’ve had clients tell me that they could have known what their spouses were capable of. The thing is, they most likely did know, but it’s more valuable and easier to be a victim than to do the work to make a relationship work. This lets us know that they were not interested enough in investing in being responsible for their part of the relationship or even themselves.
Realizing that your spouse isn’t you will break your narcissism. I’m not talking about the pop-psychology misguided idea of narcissism where it’s thought that narcissist love themselves and are selfish. I’m talking about actual narcissism that comes from the story of Narcissus. He fell in love with his own image in short.
Mentally, we fall in love with our own image within our partners. We see them for who we want them to be and not who they actually are.
This is done all the time in our relationships. I can’t tell you how many times couples and individuals have come into my office to tell me their sex lives are boring and when I ask, “Have they ever been asked if they would do x,y,z,” I always hear from them,
Client: “OH! They would NEVER do that!”
Me: “How’s that known?”
Client: “I just know. We’ve been together for so long and they never have done any of that with me.”
Me: “What’s the problem in asking?”
Client: “Because I know the answer I will get.”
Me: “Sounds like it’s safer to be sure without asking her than taking a risk and finding out.”
Client: “Are you calling my wife a whore!? Only whores do that! Not the mother of my children!”
This client had to see his wife as an angel as he called her and a mother. She could not have sexual desire or be dirty in any way. He had to see her for what he wanted to see her for and not risk finding out who she really was.
There are a lot more ways we disqualify ourselves from having a long-term satisfactory relationship. We believe the myth that being rational in a relationship will make it happy or that you should not be a narcissist to be in a satisfactory relationship. These are all myths we have been fed that destroy relationship after relationship.
Therapists won’t tell you any of this. I’ll be honest with you and tell you that the vast majority of therapist won’t tell you this because they don’t know any of this. They’ll just keep telling you that you have to communicate better. That’s advice that we know doesn’t work.
We have to understand that we don’t have a safe or guaranteed relationship and live and act as if we are responsible for ourselves and our relationship. This means that we always have to try to learn to be aware when we’re treating our spouses as a reflection of ourselves again instead of really being curious and cherishing who they actually are.
When we see who our spouses actually are, we realize they aren’t as boring as we make them out to be. But, we then come to the core issue. If we see others for who they actually are we start to see ourselves for who we actually are and we rather not so we go back to living in delusions.
Gottman, J. M., & Silver, N. (2015). The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work. London: Cassell Illustrated.