This blog post is dedicated to my very wonderful friend who is getting married today! May you both enjoy a lifetime of love, confusion, and many moments of joy, as well as the ability to let go of the unpleasant moments as quickly as possible! A fight or misunderstanding is like a sudden thunderstorm, very violent and loud, often, scary, but at some point, it will be over, and, if you can find the rainbow at the end of the storm, you will weather them all and remain close, no matter what comes your way…
A while ago, I heard an interesting story about a friend’s relationship. She got in some kind of unpleasant argument and disagreement with her partner. I’m not sure if it would constitute a fight or not. Anyway she went to bed with a not so great unresolved feeling. The next morning she woke up cheerful and had no recollection of the unpleasant end to the night before. Later in the day, she was talking to a friend about some random topic and suddenly remembered the events of the night before. She was pleasantly surprised to realize that she had conveniently forgotten the unpleasant argument of the night before until that very moment and later told her partner how refreshing it was to have let go of it so easily. They agreed that it was a good thing and that they would remember it for the future, so they could remind each other to “forget” about negative incidents or fights, if one or both of them were to hang on to resentments too long…
This story struck me as a very interesting aspect to our romantic relationships with significant others. It seemed to show that the key to a good relationship is the ability to “let go” of the bad moments when our demons come out and battle each other, as they will do if you are with someone long enough. Nobody fights fair all the time, and we all have our repertoire of venom and nastiness, no matter how sweet people think we are. Close relationships are inherently difficult and stressful at times. Having one or more child with someone will add extra stress to the most loving of relationships….
While we prize the ability to remember events and be able to repeat conversations verbatim, there is a lot to be said for the ability to “wipe the slate clean” and “forget” the dispute, whether it lasts one unpleasant evening or gets prolonged into a week or two of stress and strife with one’s partner. Especially at times when you feel like you are constantly at odds, to be able to call a “time out” and agree to forget the past unpleasant days and “start over”, by “wiping the slate clean” and moving on. Rather than dwell on the past unpleasantness or obsess about future wounds, we always have the choice to be in the here and now and let go of negative predictions..,
In most people’s close relationships, certain conflicts, disagreements, and arguments often get repeated. It is not unusual for couples to report that they have variations on the same themes in their disagreements, and even that it seems to go round in circles without coming to a resolution. I remember a long time ago hearing a radio interview with a couples therapist who said that resolving issues as they come up is actually not the key to a healthy relationship, but actually being able to let go of conflicts and agree to disagree and move on or simply to stop talking about the subject without a resolution is more of what constitutes healthy relating, even if the topics of conflict get brought up repeatedly. So basically, some kind of “forgetting” is involved in letting go and moving on. The idea that you can just leave some tangled mess alone without untangling it is a good skill for being in a relationship with another human!
Love relationships are really often quite primitive and not reasonable at all. We repeat attachments from early on. Humans are not much built to live alone for the most part. I’ve seen total loners who are most comfortable reading a book, or on their computers, end up getting together with someone quite the opposite, who has very intimate close friendships. These two types can love and live together, but they do not speak the same language when it comes to intimacy. Opposites attract. I see couples where one person is soft hearted, almost gullible, looking at people as good unless proven otherwise, pair up with a complete cranky, cynical, untrusting curmudgeon. Rarely do two people with the same attachment style and outlook on others get together. Finishing each other’s sentences? More like- two different sentences next to each other that make no sense. Now that’s a couple bound to spend a life together!
Nobody wants to fall in love with someone who reminds them of themselves. There is a great episode of the show “How I Met Your Mother”, in which several of the characters realize they are dating their mother or father. In various situations, the characters become disgusted when they suddenly see their actual parent interacting with them when they are with their partner. Yes, we are with a weird mixture both parents if we have two, or one of our parents; whatever the family situation, your earliest most primitive attachment will be lying next to you one day in the body of your love partner…
Of course, our partners are more than just a repetition of our early caretakers, but to understand what the crazy is about when you feel like things are getting crazy, as they do in long relationships, it’s time to look at your attachment style. Fights aren’t always about what you’re fighting about. Sometimes it’s just two people thinking, “who are you and how did I end up with you? I don’t even know you right now; do you still love me? I’m going to withdraw now and go to another corner and be with myself. I’m too afraid to reach out to you. I’m too needy, you won’t really want to be with me when you see how needy I am…” “I want you to reassure me but I can’t ask you to. I’m supposed to be the strong one.” Suddenly someone is being mean and scary and someone else is being passive aggressive and crazy. You seem to have metamorphosed into two very different monsters. Don’t touch me. You hear this, so you run away. What is this? The dance of intimacy. Where are you? You’re not on the dance floor. You are in a demon dialogue where nothing makes sense and you’re very scared or very hurt and mad; either way you’re feeling lonelier than you’ve ever felt and you may very well be with the love of your life, or one of them, or your soul mate.
Distance and closeness, aloneness abd togetherness with the same person. Yes it is completely possible, and highly abnormal if you do not experience that with your partner. Love ebbs and flows and we show our babyish selves. Then you may even have a baby together and things will get even more complicated. In my view of many couples, it seems often that one person is the “baby” and the other is the “parentified adult”. If things work out well, the baby will get a chance to prove s/he is capable of taking on the “adult” role, and the parentified adult is allowed to be a baby and get taken care of.
This is a complex topic that long books don’t even exhaust, so as usual, being in the form of a blog post, it is not comprehensive.
The main message I wanted to convey is, gang in there through those bad storms, and if you get a chance to take off your monster costume, push the reset button and remind each other to “forget” what was and re engage in being close again. Remember the best version of yourself that your partner fell in love with, and remember the best version of your partner that you fell in love with! That person is still there in each of you, and you can access it when you let go of the transient ebb and flow of daily petty disagreements. So wipe the slate clean each morning! It’s a new day to let go and be loving again!