Two questions

Everyone over the age of two knows relationships are difficult.

Not everyone understands why.

It’s because relationship forces us to combine things that don’t go together.

Specifically, to meet two sets of seemingly incompatible needs:

Connection and separateness.

Security and freedom.

Acceptance by another and self-acceptance.

A real partner and a real self.

Put another way, relationship forces us to answer two questions:

How can I have you without losing me?

How can I have me without losing you?

Tough questions.

How do I have you and me at the same time?

Most people I know are secretly convinced that you can’t.

Most came from families — alcoholic, or abusive, or otherwise dysfunctional — unable to teach them to balance connection with separateness.

What they learned instead was that having one meant losing the other.  That winning love and approval from parents, for example, meant sacrificing parts of themselves, like the freedom to express feelings or take care of their own needs.

The family that raised us is where each of us learned our own personal answer to the two questions. And the answer we learned grew into a crucial (though mostly unconscious) part of our basic view of life and relationships, what I call our Plan A.  

Some of us decide, “Since I can’t have both, I’ll have you, and to hell with me.” This is the infamous codependent answer.

Others decide, “Since I can’t have both, I’ll have me, and to hell with you.”  Shrinks call this the narcissistic answer.

Neither answer works.

Eventually codependents tire of feeling like doormats, while narcissists tire of feeling all alone.

At which point, if they’re smart (or have a smart therapist), they go back to struggling with the two questions.

You can’t answer these questions, only struggle with them.

But it’s the struggling that matters.

Because without it, healthy relationship is impossible.

* * *

tv 2 green w B&S

 Re: my impending book,

click here.

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