Peter, Peter, Pumpkin Eater
by Harville Hendrix
When we fall in love, we believe we've found it. Life's in Technicolor. We're sexier, smarter, funnier and more giving. We feel whole, we feel like ourselves. For a while, it looks like everything is going to turn out all right after all.
But inevitably — often after we marry or move in together — things just start to go wrong. The veil of illusion falls away, and our partners seem different from what we thought they were. Qualities we once admired begin to grate on our nerves. Old wounds reopen as we realize that our partners cannot, or will not, love and care for us as they promised.
Disillusionment often turns to anger, fueled by the fear that we won't survive without the love and safety that was once within our grasp. Since our partner is no longer able to give us what we need, we change tactics, trying to maneuver them into caring — through anger, withdrawal, intimidation, criticism — whatever works. We will make them love us.
Now we negotiate: for time, love, or gifts — measuring our success against an economic yardstick of profit and loss. The power struggle has begun, and may go on for many years, until we split, settle into an uneasy truce, or seek help, desperate to feel alive and whole again.
What is going on here? Well, it looks like we have found a partner who is uniquely unqualified (at the moment) to give us the love we want. Well, this is what's supposed to happen.
We all believe we have free choice when it comes to choosing our partners. And in a way, we do. Ours are not arranged marriages — after all, there are no exchanges of money or cows between our families. But regardless of what it is we think we're looking for in a mate, our unconscious has its own agenda when it comes to whom we choose.
Our "old" brain has a non-negotiable drive to restore the feeling of wholeness we born with. To accomplish that, it must repair our unmet childhood needs by finding a partner who can give us what our caretakers failed to provide.
You'd think, then, that we would unconsciously seek someone who could offer what our caretakers couldn't. Would that it were so.