Is It Marriage Incompatibility…or Do Your Differences Have a Deeper Meaning?
A guest post by Chuck Starnes
This article first appeared on www.chuckstarnes.com.
Like many couples, you may be asking…
“How did I marry the most incompatible person on the planet?”
“Why could I not see who this person really was?!”
“How did something so beautiful turn so ugly?!”
Before you lose hope, consider the fact that this experience is NORMAL to some degree with most couples.
Also, consider the possibility that your differences may have a deeper meaning and purpose.
We are so much ALIKE!
(The story of symbiosis and romantic love)
Most marriages begin with pretty intense romantic feelings. This is a season where you actually feel like you and your partner are “one soul and two bodies,” sharing the same beliefs, values, tastes, and desires.
The term for this emotional state is “symbiosis.” During the romantic stage of the relationship, symbiosis is pleasurable. You feel like you’re in heaven.
The problem is that, unconsciously, you are assuming that your partner is like you.
Symbiosis is the illusion that your partner shares your thoughts and feelings.
You believe that when you are in love, you must think, feel, and act alike.
You’re certain that it’s not possible to function as an individual and still be in a relationship.
You assume you can’t operate with clear boundaries and still be connected.
I know this may sound absurd, but that’s what goes on unconsciously.
And it’s like heaven as long as this romantic symbiosis lasts and you believe that you and your partner are the same!
But, after a while, some clues that your partner is actually different from you begin to surface.
We are so DIFFERENT!
(The story of symbiosis and the power struggle)
“What happened?! Why did you have to change?! Why can’t we go back to the way it was when we were ‘in love’?!”
When the symbiotic state of romantic love is disturbed by these indications of difference, marriage partners become anxious and reactive. Conflict occurs as they try desperately to retain the romantic illusion.
You get frustrated or irritated when your partner can’t read your thoughts.
You get disappointed because your partner doesn’t do things right.
You criticize your partner to get her or him to be more like you.
You become argumentative and dogmatic because “there’s only one way to think.”
You use guilt or shame in an attempt to get your partner to do things your way.
You say your partner is like you when he or she does something you like.
This negativity and coercion only make matters worse, and you soon feel like your romantic dream has morphed into your worst nightmare!
Symbiosis in the romantic stage is like heaven, but symbiosis in the power struggle is like hell.
The wish to maintain the romantic illusion is so powerful, and its rupture so terrifying, that a couple will start to unconsciously annihilate each other through many forms of negation, negativity, as well as verbal and even physical abuse.
As things progress you realize you both have married someone who has the worst traits of your parents. We call this your Imago. You ask yourself, “Could I have possibly chosen someone more incompatible even if I had tried?!”
That’s when we start thinking about “separation on the basis of incompatibility.”
But are you really incompatible? Or do your differences have a deeper purpose?
Actually, we are a PERFECT match!
(The story of differentiation and connection)
At this point a new commitment is required.
A commitment to move from an unconscious to a conscious relationship. To move from symbiosis and self-absorption to differentiation and connection.
If symbiosis in the power struggle seems like hell, differentiation will dissolve it and make your relationship feel like heaven again.
But you must surrender your symbiotic wish and engage in the process of differentiation.
Here’s what can happen with differentiation:
You move into a new paradigm in which your relationship has priority over your individual needs.
But paradoxically, when you serve the needs of your relationship, the relationship serves your needs.
You will discover that your differences do have a deeper purpose: healing and growth.
Your relationship problems become maps that identify the places you have been wounded and need healing.
You discover that it’s the partner you’re with right now, your “Imago match,” that offers you the greatest opportunity to heal your childhood wounds and grow the underdeveloped parts of yourself. To separate from this person means that you miss this opportunity and end up taking all your problems with you into your next relationship.
When you move from negativity to curiosity, you discover the amazing world of your partner. Your partner is not who you thought they were. Turns out they are even more amazing than you imagined.
Both of you are enormously enriched when you accept the fact that you live in two different worlds and that you look at everything through different lenses.
You are no longer imprisoned by a monocentric view of life. And this transforms other areas of your life—your parenting, your lifework, your community involvement.
In sharing your stories with each other, you co-create a new story in which you actually co-create each other. You become a much better person together than you would be by separating.
And, finally, meeting each other at this level restores the feeling of original connection. And that is what heals you and restores your feelings of joyful aliveness.
The Imago Dialogue process can help you and your partner discover that your problem is not really incompatibility. And you will see that your differences really do have a deeper meaning!
Interested in reading more? Here are a few other articles on related topics:
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