Relationships Fail Because... Part I
In my capacity as an outpatient psychologist I deal with
eight issues everyday. They range from addictions, to child
problems, to ADHD, learning disabilities, lack of assertiveness,
anxiety and depression, and so on. The big ones are job problems
and relationships. These latter two seem to plague everyone, and
not coincidentally, jobs and relationships are THE experiences
that make or break people in the real world.
This article focuses on relationships of the personal kind.
When we focus on this kind of relationship, all kinds of "other"
associations pop up, dating from our experiences of the last
relationship, or dating back to our very first relationships with
our parents and/or siblings. Having a personal relationship is
"sticky;" meaning, it is never just a simple deal, straight out of
the box, so to speak. Relationships come with associations to the
past, commonly labeled "baggage." Do not misunderstand--baggage
can be good. While it usually is not, this does not mean our
history always is negative. Unfortunately for most of us, baggage
usually is bad. By definition, we are not in the relationship(s)
of the past, and there is usually a reason. This and many such
memories work on us from the inside out; that is, from the back of
our minds there comes some "associations" that lurk while we
blithely go about forming a new relationship. Its complicated.
Our history starts to really emerge when the novelty of the
new relationships diminishes. Like all experiences, relationships
go through stages. Stage I is the novelty stage. This is when
newness dominates our experiences. While "things" are fresh, the
relationship takes on an almost magical quality. It is fun,
exhilarating, joyful, engaging and stimulating. This is great,
and not surprisingly, such an "up" state masks who we really are;
that is, covers our histories.
But somewhere in the middle of stage one, and certainly by the
beginning of stage two, novelty subsides. Then what starts to
emerge is what I call the "deep stuff." This is the collective
influence of our history. This is the memory and/or associations
of all past relationships and of the family of origin itself.
Each partner has "deep stuff." The real determinant of
relationship success is the compatibility of the deep stuff.
Two partners have to have ways of relating to each other that
compliment and support the others' ways, but the deep stuff
determines how compatibility plays out, or not. This is what
makes or breaks relationships. (I'm talking about personal
relationships in this article, but it turns out this same dynamic
works in all relationships and is responsible for successes or
failures at work, too.)
This is not what e-harmony measures. This is not what
match.com talks about. This is not what Great Expectations or any
other dating or meet-people website discusses. They deal with
much more superficial qualities, which while interesting, sooner or
later fade as the deep stuff dynamics take over.
The lieutenant of the deep stuff is what we psychologists
call transference. Transference is the acting out of our primary
expectations, gleaned from history. If we were spoiled as a child,
it stands to reason that we will have some "expectations" of being
treated as such. It may be fairly unconscious, but being spoiled
will be "in our blood," so to speak, and will influence how we
expect to be treated as adults. Again, this will not be so obvious
in the beginning stages of relationships, but sooner or later, it
will emerge. And, if our partner comes from an environment that is
emotionally or physically Spartan, he or she will have somewhat
opposite experiences and later opposite unconscious expectations.
Put the two partners together in a relationship and likely sooner
or later this high potential for conflict (different unconscious
expectations) manifest. Again, this will not be so visible
initially, but will later emerge. One can only imagine what will
happen when both sets of histories start to emerge in the same
This and a lot more are covered in my ebook,
"Why Relationships Fail." This article continues with Part II,
which is probably on this same directory.