Excuse me? I married the worst traits of my folks? Gross, uh? Sorry, but this is in fact an immutable law of nature and the flat out stone cold truth! If you have even a moderately open mind I can prove it to you. Harville Hendrix, the author of ‘Getting the Love You Want’, perhaps the most important book ever written on marriage counseling, wrote…”Our unconscious need is to have our feelings of aliveness and wholeness restored by someone who reminds us of our caretakers. In other words, we look for someone with the same deficits of care and attention that hurt us in the first place. So when we fall in love, when bells ring and the world seems altogether a better place, our old brain is telling us that we’ve found someone with whom we can finally get our needs met. Unfortunately, since we don’t understand what’s going on, we’re shocked when the awful truth of our beloved surfaces and our first impulse is to run screaming in the opposite direction.” (From Imago website)
We have off the charts chemistry with people who fit us psychologically. This chemistry isn’t primarily based on our newly beloved good looks, charm, confidence, popularity, wealth, humor or how nicely they treat you. The magic that we have with some people but not others is based on how closely they match the qualities of those who wounded us in childhood. You like who you like for a reason. You can’t control who you like. I know that sucks but it really is the way it is. Love and marriage are nature’s drive to force us to face off with work on and heal wounds in the deepest parts of our souls. The intense chemistry of early attraction blinds us to who we are really dealing with. We are so high from love with this special creature that we aren’t able to really slow down and get to know who they really are. Eventually we wake up to the hurtful similarities between our spouse and the early caretakers who hurt us the most.
Take out a piece of paper and across the top of it write down the names of your father, your mother and any significant other that you have ever been involved with. Then under each name write down every descriptive word that you can think of. Try not to over idealize your parents. What is the truth about what did and did not happen when you were a kid? Now, as objectively as you can, study your list. Are you noticing any patterns? Look at all the words on the page – this is love to you. You are absolutely married to the right person. They are so wrong for you in that they are the embodiment of what you have trying to get away from that they are right for you because they cut you open and give you an opportunity to do some work on yourself.
Embrace the pain in your relationship. It is nature’s gift to begin deep emotional healing in you. Don’t judge your spouse. YOU drew them to yourself and kept them around so that they could treat you the way that they have for YOUR reasons. A divorce will not fix your problem. You can only attract and be attracted to psychological twins of your current hurtful spouse. I know, that also sucks, but it also is the way it is. Love hurts. It is wonderful and amazing while it ultimately is also gut wrenching and defense shattering. Read ‘Getting the Love you Want’. Its brilliant concepts will give you the hope, the insight and the energy to roll up your sleeves and get to work on building a safer and more solid marriage.
Mark E. Smith, LCSW