The Inner Marriage

“I tried to change myself so many times to live up to your expectations. And yet you still slept with someone else because you’re never satisfied with what you have.” I’ve heard variations of this statement time and time again in my office. Society and individuals around us have plenty of theories on why people cheat. I’m sure you have your own theories as well. When I ask people the question, “why do people have affairs” I usually get one of three answers. Those three answers revolve around sexual difficulties, a history of high conflict, and character flaws. However, there is a whole other category that we seem to forget about. What about our expectations and beliefs about what relationships are supposed to look like and what we are supposed to get out of them?

Happily Ever After

From the time we are a young child we begin to internalize messages about what it means to be in love. Whether it be the classic fairy tales we are told at a young age or the romantic comedies we indulge in as we get older, we are given a very strong message. That message centers around the notion that our one true love is out there and once we find them we will live happily ever after. While society and those around us excitedly impart this “hopeless romantic” mindset upon us, they don’t seem as willing to impart knowledge upon us of what relationships really look like. I don’t know about you but my school subjects never included Relationships 101. Are we really that surprised then that we feel let down by our relationships if this is the expectation we hold? Also, why has this fairy tale notion persisted through the times when many would agree that it does not accurately represent their relationship histories?

The Inner Marriage

When we hear the terms Masculine and Feminine, we are quick to think male and female. However, many argue that the association of the Masculine and Feminine with a specific gender is a consequence of social constructionism.  Multiple theories posit that the terms Masculine and Feminine have nothing to with gender, but are a set of characteristics which reside in each of us.  The theory that I like to use often when helping others understand this is The Chinese Model of Yin(Feminine)/Yang(Masculine). Take a look at some of the qualities Yin and Yang represent:


As we can see when we compare the two, both contain qualities which are required for living a balanced life. If we are unbalanced and lean too far to one side, we begin to project what we are missing onto others around us, especially in our romantic relationships. Hence why if we are severely lacking in one area, we will never be satisfied with our partner, even if they are “perfect.” This again is reflected in those who have affairs and hold the belief that “the grass is greener on the other side” and that their partner is the problem.

This may seem like a strange concept but we see it in many relationship dynamics such as introvert vs extrovert or even in the old adage “opposites attract.” Now is this to say that it is always a negative if you and your partner possess some opposing characteristics? Of course not.  After all, it would be rather boring if we were the exact same as our partner. However, it is only after we begin to become more balanced that we can begin to see our relationship and our partner for who they truly are rather than what our projections are leading us to believe.

Recognizing Projection

So, what exactly does projection look like? Well, it is a very hard thing to recognize when you are in the midst of it. It is incredibly common and is seen all around us. For example, think about all the ways in which adults have constructed a spin-off of those childhood fairy tales. “You are my soulmate.” “I can’t live without you.” “You complete me.” These statements are gleaming with projection. How do we know that? Their underlying message tells us that the presence of another is required for us to achieve wholeness within ourselves.

Some of the most common statements that I hear couples say in my office that reflect this are:

-My partner should tell me everything and they should know everything about me. That shows true intimacy.

-My partner should know what I need and want because they truly get me. I shouldn’t have to tell them these things.

-If we have a good relationship then we shouldn’t have to work at it.

-The desire and excitement that I have for my partner should last forever if we truly love each other.

-If my partner truly loved me, they would never hurt me.

-My partner should fulfill my every need. We are each other’s everything.

Have you heard others say these things before? Have you said some of these things before? That’s not surprising if you answered yes to one or both of those questions. After all, as we discussed earlier, these ideas are ingrained in us from a very young age and are reinforced time and time again so we would never think to challenge them. So, is it our fault that we believe them? No. But do we need to start exploring and challenging them? Yes. Whether it be through therapy, meditation, journaling, we must begin to practice self-exploration, examining our beliefs about relationships,  and learn how to achieve wholeness within ourselves. Otherwise, it is inevitable that we will continue to see a trend of unhappiness, unfulfilment, and unfaithfulness in romantic relationships.

Next time we will be taking a look at topics of conversation that are essential for couples to participate in.

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