There is an underbelly to our most intimate relationships: the dark side of love.
When people announce they are getting married, we might give our condolences along with our congratulations to offer a more holistic picture of the institution. Until then, let’s work out some of the awful kinks.
Why do our significant others bring up our darkest feelings, allowing us to convince ourselves that they are the source of our pain, rather than ourselves? I have written about this phenomenon before as the Ghost Chibi or Ghost Child in the marriage—when a couple gives birth to an invisible, metaphorical and totally hated child who is a combination of their two inner kids: demanding, narcissistic, selfish, controlling, afraid of abandonment, loud, obnoxious… you get the picture.
So many relationships decay because of ego defenses that are unconscious. We don’t choose them, at least not consciously.
A few weeks ago, amidst June gloom, I was having a dark morning. No surprise. And who better to project that on to than… the other guy who lives in my house. Not to worry, pretty much everyone does it: transference happens.
Wanting to be the model of a competent family therapist, instead of stomping into his den and telling him everything he was doing wrong, I went to the computer and began writing and researching. In short, I paused and looked at myself, which is far more painful in the short term than going off on a loved one.
Here’s what my search revealed: A Google search of “I Hate My Wife” produced 137 million hits. My subsequent search of “I Hate My Husband” revealed only 89.4 million. I read a few. In general, men were mostly complaining about their wives complaining. Women were complaining that men don’t listen to their feelings—which men apparently believe is a form of complaining.
There are things we are never going to get from our spouse or partner. Our baby-self, or child-self, feels as if we will die without ________ and hence, we are overwhelmed with anger, disappointment, dashed expectations. We fear we have married the Wrong Person.
Here’s an exercise that might help: Write a F-ck you letter. Some folks call it a Love Letter, but when we are angry we need to call things what they are. Here’s the format:
Dear __________ (person I live with who is not living up to my expectations),
I hate it when you __________ and ___________ and __________ (keep writing until you have gotten all the hatred out, no matter how petty or shameful).
How dare you ___________ and ___________ and ___________(keep writing…)
I wish that you ____________, ___________, ___________ and I wish that we ___________,___________, ___________.
I am so sad that ___________, ____________, ___________.
And… I am ready to forgive you for ____________, ___________, ___________ and I love you.
(If you are evolving at the deepest levels of intimacy, maybe try including a line that reads, “Thank you for bringing up my early childhood pain so that I could grow more enlightened through our struggles.”)
Deep love allows, and even insists, that our darkest parts to be revealed so that we may become more whole. Try not to miss the opportunity to know yourself.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Apprentice Editor: Jamie Khoo/Editor: Catherine Monkman