LISE SCHIFFER, LCSW
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|Posted on May 18, 2013 at 8:52 PM|
Intimate relationships fascinate me. I am amazed at how no amount of grief can shatter some relationships, and how the seemingly slightest thing, in other cases, can torpedo the whole affair.
Why do some people stay in abysmal unions that no amount of outrageous behavior seems to kill? And how it is that some people accept behavior from a lover they would NEVER tolerate from anyone else?
For some people, why does desperate longing for the unavailable other feel like love? Why, for some, does a "nice guy" have much less appeal than the sonofabitch who is the source of constant pain?
Why do otherwise socially appropriate and kind people think it is acceptable to go for the jugular with their lover but are appalled when their lover goes for theirs? And why do some of us expect a level of attunement from a lover we would not expect from anyone else? Or consider it our right to be the center of another person's universe and feel mistreated when, inevitably, we are not?
Why are relationships so difficult for so many of us? Why do we dearly want to have them anyway.
How do we lose ourselves slowly, over time, to the pressures of the other person's point of view, their needs and expectations, the relentlessness of accommodation and compromise? How do we reassert ourselves without inflaming the other?
How is it possible to maintain sexual passion for someone who is as familiar to us as our own faces? How do we continue to love someone who knows all our faults when a new lover would enable us to reinvent ourselves? How have so many of us conflated erotic or romantic intoxication with everlasting love, thereby setting the stage for almost inevitable disappointment?
These questions obviously have no simple or definitive answers. They are conundrums wrapped in mystery. We are such complicated creatures, it seems. We have incompatible and often contradictory needs, like simultaneously wanting deep intimacy and autonomy, similarity and difference, familiarity and mystery, dependency and independence, to be known deeply and still be idealized, to be loved unconditionally while loving conditionally.
We are often blind to our true motivations. We think we know ourselves but self-knowledge is an elusive thing because the self is ever evolving. We value choosing a life partner at a relatively young age when who we are at 25 is often radically different than who we are at 40 or 50. It takes many years to mature and maturity is essential to sustainable healthy relationships. We all must learn that our childhood wounds cannot be healed by regressing with a lover, hoping that he or she will correct the slights of the past. We have to learn how to expect less, not more, from those we love and who love us, to
be satisfied with what another is capable of giving. We have to learn that our most important relationship is with ourselves, with our own integrity, as that is the basis of all other relationships.
We certainly have our work cut out for us.