“Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.” ~Carl Jung
Three years ago I was on top of the world after realizing I had fallen in love with my best friend. Relationships this rare are beautiful, until one vital piece of them breaks down: clear communication.
Although I didn’t know it at the time, when my ex and I came together as a couple, rather than being in love, we were both just mirroring each other’s deep unconscious pain; his mother had walked out on him at a young age, and my mother had unconsciously shut me down emotionally at a similar time in my life due to her pain and frustration with the reality she had created.
I was not my most wise when I was with my ex, and I certainly wasn’t connected to my highest self. Instead, I was living from my mother’s pain, which I had taken on as my own. And I was putting undue amounts of pressure on my partner to step up and be the man I was waiting for him to be instead of accepting and loving him for the one he already was.
So many of us do this, but it’s not our fault. If our parents only ever show us how to behave in childish or selfish ways, then that’s what we’re going to default to when we’re under pressure in our own relationships.
I watched my mother behave resentfully toward my father on a regular basis when he did something that in her eyes was inherently “wrong.”
I watched her shut him out for working late or not living up to her expectations, because she was struggling but unable to communicate how she was feeling.
Then, whenever my partner did the same thing to me and I also considered it unjust, I activated my mother’s pain and everything she had taught me as a child. Consequently, I did the exact same thing to him, toxically damaging the trust between us.
What I didn’t realize was that I needed to fully heal the wounds of my past. Without first doing my own healing work around my relationship with my mother and really understanding what she was going through, I could never fully love or trust a man, whether that man was my best friend of fifteen years or not.
It appears that most people are recovering from a broken heart caused by one or both of their parents.
I was broken hearted not from the so-called flaws in my partner and our relationship (although there were many issues), but from the deep, unconscious sadness that stemmed from never experiencing real love.
If our parents are never educated on how to show us love, how can we hope to give that to ourselves and then create a strong foundation on which to meet a partner?
It’s hard to show our true feelings to the person closest to us in our adult life if, as kids, we were repeatedly told to “shut up” every time we started crying.
My mother’s behavior, learned from her own mother, made me numb and often terrified. She taught me that I needed to be perfect, and I unconsciously expected that same perfection of my partner.
Because my mother had exhibited cruel behavior toward me when I was a child, I often didn’t feel safe to express myself around my partner and just be who I really was. So I often activated pain and anger that wasn’t mine, but was actually hers. I didn’t feel permission to ask for what I really wanted in my relationship, or anywhere else in my life.
My ex and I were products of loveless marriages full of fighting, anger, and emotional numbing. That’s the education that many of us receive on relationships as kids, and so that’s what many of us perceive as “normal.” Then we carry that education into our own adult relationships and interactions.
My ex’s stories and mine matched; neither of us had parents that showed us what it really meant to feel safe and secure.
If we could all learn how to tap into and release our subconscious pain and understand each other and our differences, our relationships would take on a completely different form.
I didn’t know how to communicate my feelings without my partner feeling judged or rejected because I had such a backlog of unprocessed emotion. In the same way, he didn’t know how to fully let me know he loved and supported me without feeling that he had to risk his masculinity and pride by being intimate and letting me into his heart.
If we misunderstand each other and make assumptions that our partners don’t want to support us, we continually shut them down emotionally.
So here’s what we need to understand and remember when our partner seems to be shutting down or struggling.
We’re not angry with you. Our hearts were broken at a young age, and we’re not always aware of how deep that pain goes or how to communicate that to you.
We don’t require you to troubleshoot for us when we’re struggling. We simply long for you just to listen to us talk about how we’re feeling and hold us in your arms when we’re not feeling good enough.
We don’t mean to take our frustration out on you. We’ve just forgotten how to really love and nurture ourselves because we were never shown how to connect to ourselves on a deeper level and put ourselves first; you can remind us that it’s more than okay to do that at the times you can see our strength wavering.
When we pull away, it’s not really the person you can see in front of you that’s doing this; it’s the terrified little child inside of us who has been frozen in time, and who’s still scared of getting their feelings hurt. Sometimes that child just needs a reassuring hug.
There’s no doubt that our parents can mess us up emotionally, but it’s up to us to change the stories we have been conditioned to believe are our reality.
Really, all that was playing out in my relationship was the result of what both of our parents had shown us. I denied the painful feelings of my parents’ divorce and played that story out unconsciously with my partner.
Most people exist in relationships unconsciously, but if we’re serious about creating real and healthy partnerships, we need to become conscious. It’s about finding the best in each other every single day and co-creating an epic and expansive life together that allows two people to grow as individuals, as well as together.
It’s time for us all to wake up and do the necessary work to understand each other so that we can coexist on this planet without pain, and learn to live only from love.