Over the last
several years, I have heard myself making the same observations
again and again to clients
in therapy regarding the relationships with which I was helping
them. It began with a few of those you will find below, but the
observations began to expand as I came to realize that I had actually
learned a few things from my own marriage, and from my work in
When people first hear these observations, particularly outside of the therapeutic setting, they often respond to them as if they were negative, or intended to bash or denigrate long term, committed relationships (formerly known as marriage).
Nothing could be further from the truth. But neither are they intended as testaments to the wonders of these relationships, however much I believe them to be one of the hallmarks of integrated adult life.
I truly believe that marriage (the legal
formalization of these relationships) is only for those who can deal with the
tests that it can throw its practitioners, and that it is perfectly fine to never
It is not for everyone, though that is a commonly held assumption.
With that said, I set before the reader my random, orderless, and scattered observations regarding relationships. Please know: they are not finished; they are not right, or wrong; they are open to revision or retraction; the list can easily be added to or demolished.
Nor are the observations intended as advice, or recommendations for making your relationship better. I am not Dr. Phil, or Dr. Laura, or Oprah, or any of the countless relationship experts that are always popping up on talk/news shows.
I do not have it all figured out, and I have a problem with those who posture themselves as knowing all about relationships and how to make them better. Actually, they make me wanna puke. I don't have to name 'em, you know who they are.
All relationships are screwed up.
It is up to each member of the relationship to work at un-screwing it, whether the other seems to be doing the same or not.
All relationships are messes.
In order to extract the maximum, one must fall completely into the mess, become covered in it, and then form a partnership with the other to get out of the mess.
This is a project that cannot be completed in one lifetime.
We cannot go back in our relationships.
Evolution is inevitable, and only goes forward.
|The purpose of commitment is freedom.|
|What I owe my partner is the results of my exploration of my destiny.|
|In our relationships, we each respond to the inevitable pull of our individual destinies.|
|The above causes problems that last a lifetime, even beyond death.|
|The business of relationships is working out the problems that are caused by the relationship.|
|We do not solve all the problems and then proceed; the problems are the relationship.|
|The onset of true intimacy is signalled by the arrival of problems; working together to solve these problems produces much of the joy of intimacy.|
|You did not choose your partner.|
If you did choose based on a set of what you take to be desirable characteristics in an attempt to escape or minimize problems, you will become bored and want to leave.
Your relationship will then resemble those which you wanted to avoid, i.e. problematical.
|There is nothing your relationship should be — it is a formless mass out of which you and your partner, in moving toward individual destinies, create a destiny that you each have in common.|
|Every thought and feeling is shared somehow with your partner.|
|Every thought and feeling has its negative somewhere in the psychic field created by the two of you.|
The past is never truly past.
The future is already here.
|Trying to have a relationship like that of others (including parents) is useless.|
|As I seek intimacy,
I am fleeing from it.
|My loved one is the enemy.|
|Having a somewhat normal relationship (flawed, screwed up, partial, yet enduring) is an act of near heroic proportions.|
|To go beyond the above almost never happens.|
|Often, love is a form of murder.|
|Admiration is a form of hatred.|
It is possible to scorn the Other's love for us, because we did not earn it.
That is all the Observation I have for now. I would welcome more from the reader. Please send them to me.
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Copyright 2002 by Jim Dolan
More of Jim Dolan's teachings
are included in the essay by friend JR Compton.