GRRRR, HE DID IT AGAIN
BY: T. Franklin Murphy | March 2015
Changing patterns of interaction is an arduous work. But we can, enjoying deeper more satisfying relationships.
We boost security by accurately predicting the future, knowing what to expect avoids unsettling surprises. By preparing for the inevitable, the inevitable loses power, alleviating anxiety. Oh, only if life was perfectly predictable; unfortunately, life is not. We just don’t know, so we wildly guess—and worry. The building blocks creating the future are complex and deep. We’ve heard failure to plan is planning to fail. Yes, absolutely! We must gather our wisdom, leaning on experience, seek guidance and then wildly guess what tomorrow will bring. But there is a caveat to future focusing—we live in the present. An unhealthy infatuation with the future, fixating on looming unknowns diverts precious energy from healthy actions—in the present.
Our infatuation with the future can disrupt healthy functioning, exhausting energies anticipating, finding, dodging and resolving unrealized problems that may never occur. When future anxiety accompanies relationships, we destroy spontaneity and enjoyment; constantly seeking that which we cannot find, we suspiciously watch, interpreting nasties with every deviation. The unknown future hovers over the present darkening hopes, dampening security and ruining joy.
Planning is essential, we need some attentive thought given to potential problems, inviting opportunity by living right in the present. We live in a complex world. To compete, we must make considerable sacrifices, foregoing immediate pleasures to attract kinder futures. Our time-traveling mind prepares by budgeting expenses, skipping the slice of cake and responding to waning connection with loved ones. Our incredible evolving brain adapts to the complexity of life through predictions and creative planning. We don’t wait for the emergency to act. We improve our diets before the heartache, tighten our budget before a missed payment, and reignite love before divorce. Present moment impulses can destroy—sometimes immediately; sometimes accumulatively. Relationships teeter on the edge of fantastic and devastating—in a moment we can destroy years of joys. We refrain from throbbing drives of debauchery with mindful choice, rather than instinctual reaction, we stop, think and choose.
Long healthy relationships slowly develop only beginning from those first flirtatious looks. Prince (princess) charming isn’t going to save us from burdens of the past. We carry emotional baggage. Previous confusing or painful relationships follow us into the present. The scars of being wronged, abandoned or abused awaken anxieties in the present; fears of another bout of pain accompany closeness. Our response to natural adaptations to the past may interfere with intimacy, creating debilitating anxiety where trust should live. We must identify the interfering demons, work on them, and understand their destructive influences. The difficult road to recovery will not be cheated by finding the perfect person. Without conscientious attention, the repeated misunderstandings and mishaps of normal relationships will erode the foundations of positive feelings destroying the hopes and dreams of love.
The scars of being wronged, abandoned or abused awaken anxieties in the present; fears of another bout of pain accompany closeness.
Commitment, trustworthiness, sensitivity, generosity, affection, consideration, loyalty, and responsibility are crucial to relationship success—intimacy. We’re imperfect, our partners are imperfect. No one has perfected any of these qualities. They require continued attention and work. But panicking at the discovery of partner imperfection invades the sweetness of connection. When pasts interfere, the fear of loss is so great that the besieged soul critically examins every behavior for indication of the impending disaster. Partner’s imperfections naturally alarm and become the focus. But identifying and harping on flaws doesn’t alleviate the fears. The damaging blows injures rather than heals. Relationships need kindness not forceful manipulations.
We need to step back and look inward, identifying our fears that generate the anxiety. Self-examination can be excruciating to the sensitive.
Exploring personal adaptations (the learned responses) that contribute to relationship dissatisfaction is unpleasant. We prefer to be the innocent victim suffering from an evil partner. Our tragic story centers on the soothing belief that our partner transformed into a monster while we courageously remained loyal and loving. We excuse our indiscretions as reasonable responses to THEIR lapses. The injustice of subjectivity reigns; our biases—self promoting—excuse personal indiscretions while magnifying a partner’s transgressions into heinous sins. Blaming a partner’s behaviors as internal badness and excusing or ignoring our behaviors dooms the relationship to the unjust dungeon of subjectivity. Our partner will never be good enough and we will never change.
We must continually tinker with balance between efforts to improve and the serenity of present enjoyment—but we push to the edge and then pull back. The momentary relationship displeasures don’t give license to nit-pick, forcing partners to change. More important than coerced partner adjustments is capitalizing on enjoyments a partnership brings. Many relationships need less fixing, more acceptance and quiet basking in the pleasure of acceptance, appreciation, and attention. We must focus on positives in the relationship; when we do, the relationship improves (usually). As the home environment improves, trust strengthens, alternative others lose appeal and a secure home base is established, allowing for deeper exploring of personal imperfections—the behaviors that encourage growth. The growth in turn improves interactions, strengthening closeness and relationship enjoyment.
With effort and time, new patterns replace the old destructive ones. We feel confidence, not because the relationship has improved but because we became connected with previous dark recesses of our lives, noted imperfections, and worked with them. We learned from the process how to be genuine, softening the fears of abandonment. Our communications, freed from ego protecting defenses, are not laced with jabs but lavishly decorated with open curiosity. In honest openness—intimacy, we dismantle protective guards, accept vulnerably and communicate relaxed, knowing we are loved.
Idealistic? Perhaps. The transformation from normal lifeless connection to abounding warmth of protecting love is a process. Each step opens a few new doors, offering a little more than before. For Rome, we know, was built with care by skilled people over many years. Intimacy is much more intricate and beautiful.
Set-backs will challenge resolves. Positive changes will suffer slips and tumbles. The improvements stutter and start, settle and drift; they don’t ascend linearly but with bumps and drops. But when we measure progress from a wider perspective (years instead of weeks), we see growth. We find pleasure where once was pain. The idealistic intimacy begins to form into a reality without the nasty interfering thorns of fear.