You may not be aware of this, but the two of you are not the only people involved in your relationship. In fact, you may be in a minority when it comes to who is actually running the show. Each time you begin afresh, all dewy-eyed about a shiny, new relationship, your subconscious is inviting a whole bunch of people to the party.
Your Inner Child
To begin with, there are the children. No, not the actual children. I’m talking about your inner children. That part of you that still feels the way you did when you were little. The part of you that reacts to the present based on the experiences of the past. The part of you that makes decisions based on the opinions you formed about the world and what you could expect from the people in it at an impressionable age.
Not that being in touch with your inner child is always a bad thing, being able to play and have adventures is a fantastic trait to have at any age. But the flip side comes when you’re unconsciously re-playing situations that mirror the less fun stuff that you may have had to deal with.
If your parents were anything less than ideal in every way (and 99.9% would fall into that category), you probably had some needs that they didn’t fulfill. Depending on the seriousness of those unmet needs, you might discover that they are closely related to the issues you find most challenging in your relationships today. When conflict arises, a quick and easy test is to ask yourself whether the feeling you are having – aside from the circumstances of the current situation – is at all familiar. If it is, see if you can think back to the first time in your life that you ever experienced that feeling.
Another clue is to notice whether it seems like you are falling into familiar patterns of behavior, either within an individual relationship or with different people. Pay close attention whenever you find yourself starting sentences with “You always…” or “You never”. This is actually always a bad idea, since it heaps additional energy from past resentments on to the current situation. But leaving that aside, it can be a helpful clue as to what your core issues are.
Of course, it’s not always about your childhood (now that I’m a mother, I’m a little more reluctant to always lay the blame at the parents’ door). You may have had a fantastic childhood with spectacularly perfect relationships with both your mother and father. You may then have gone on to meet and marry your childhood sweetheart with nary a cross word between you. If you did, may I be the first to congratulate you and ask you to please contact your local media because I’m sure we’d all like to meet you.
But seriously, this may have nothing to do with your parents and everything to do with the first, second and third schmuck who broke your heart. The point is that you need to be aware of whether the issue that you are dealing with is really about your current partner or if it’s just a button they are pushing that was built and installed by someone else entirely.
If you and your partner are emotionally intelligent, you may be able to share this kind of realization with each other. Not in the “You know why I hate you, because you’re just like every other wo/man” sense, but more in the “I’ve just realized that this is not entirely about what’s going on here with us, I think it may be related to…” way. If the thought of doing this makes you feel like you want to throw up, I would suggest you stop trying to work this out with them and go deal with the original issue, by yourself or with a friend or therapist.
To sum it all up, when things start to get heated, it may be worth checking under the bed of your subconscious to ensure that you guys are really alone. Throw out any other people you find, lock the doors and resolve to figure it out together. If you make a conscious effort to deal only with the stuff that actually belongs to each other, in the here and now, you’ll find yourself more able to quickly and easily resolve any differences and get back to the serious business of being in love.