Posts Tagged ‘respecting our partner’s inner child’

forallthechildrenoftheworldA good friend of mine, who just happens to be a successful writer, recently suggested that I aim for my own unique niche in this blog. She generously pointed out the things of value she felt I could share. One stuck out. She said that based on the success of my marriage (now in its 38th year), I should consider offering down-to-earth advice on what works for us.

Naturally, I laughed. My dear husband (who for now I’ll simply call DH) and I could never be marriage counsellors. We are not what anyone would consider a “textbook perfect” couple. We argue. We get truly ticked off at each other. We do not share all of the same interests. In fact, there are things DH enjoys that I can barely tolerate.

So, I’ve been asking myself what is it that holds us together, because truly, if you’d been around long enough to watch our history play out, we’ve been put through more than our share of tests.  People say they envy the commitment we share, but neither of us is easy-going or particularly patient. Maybe we’re both just too stubborn to be the first one to say “uncle.” We’ve both been known to obsess and overreact to things. So, aside from sharing a love for sushi, Italian food and rhythm and blues from the seventies and eighties, what’s our connection?

Now, before your mind wanders to the topic of carnal pleasure, let me assure you that while it may be part of what brings a couple together, it’s worth shit if your find yourself grinding your teeth each time you spouse speaks to you.

Leaving you with a list, a  “Linda’s Tried and True Way to Make Sure He Stays Into You,”  is just all a little too trite.  Instead I find myself thinking about something I firmly feel, and that is it that people marry to fulfill a need. Nowadays, that’s such a politically incorrect thing to say out loud, to admit needs and maybe just a wee bit of baggage, but I believe it’s true. We all come to marriage with a preconceived idea that our needs, often subconscious, will be met – in spades even. The problem comes when those needs are 1. never admitted to ourselves 2. never voiced aloud to our partner and 3. never really understood by either of us.

Where do these needs come from?  Here’s something else we might not want to admit. They come from the hidden child within us, the one that we’d like to think is long gone, that one that we figured magically disappeared right around the time we hit puberty. The last thing we need to know is that this mosst vulnerable part of us  – the one we do our damnedest to hide, still arrives to taunt us in our weakest moment, still pulls our strings now and then.

If it’s hard for most women to accept, how much of an obstacle is it for the average man? Besides being pushed to get in touch with his feminine side, we’re now also asking him to travel back in time and reconnect with the frightened, needy little child he might once have been.

The thing is, our own inner child’s not going anywhere, so we have to understand him or her, and what things that he or she still needs, before we can possibly understand and have compassion for our partner’s inner child. 

It doesn’t matter if, to all outside appearances, you’re both the most well-adjusted people in the world. It helps for you both to learn early on what each of your “inner children” still seek. It may be a continuation of what they received as children; it may be something to supplement what they feel they didn’t get enough of. In both cases, the goal is a greater feeling of security and trust.  And seriously…isn’t that what we all want to feel in a good marriage?

My husband and I have  learned to do that. We understand that vulnerable place in each other. We accept that certain things either bring back positive or negative memories from our partner’s childhood, and we must be sensitive to that reality.

Case in point: I had the typical oldest child issue of believing I had to be perfect, and often feeling inferior to my talented, highly intelligent younger siblings. I also suffered from frequent ailments (now diagnosed as fibromyalgia) and I felt that people believed I was a hypochondriac. I can easily slip back into those insecurities. My husband understands my feelings and is able to help me work through them.

In my husband’s case, some issues are still at play. The same attention deficit problems that plagued him when he was young, alienating some classmates or causing him to lose a couple of early jobs, still rear up occasionally. When they do, I see the young man who hasn’t quite figured out why some things don’t work out for him.

Intellectually, we undertand these things; emotionally, it’s hard to get past the first reaction, a reminder of the first time our lives didn’t feel quite “right.”

The child in us will never truly leave, and realizing that allows us to make allowances for times when our emotional reaction to something is stronger than the situation seems to warrant.

And honestly, wouldn’t bit be horribly boring  if we were all perfectly well-adjusted beings who never made mistakes,  or never second -guessed each other? What would we have to laugh over? When would we have the chance to offer such comfort?

It’s decided, then. “Understanding and loving your partner’s inner child”  is, from my perspective, the number one step to making a marriage work. 

There are many more though. The next topic is a biggie: Knowing When to Speak Up and When to Shut Up.

Or maybe not.  Something could always happen between now and then that suddenlly knocks “knowing when to talk” right down the list.

Stay tuned.

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