by: Kosjenka Muk
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Perhaps you are familiar with the idea that we are often romantically attracted to a person who reminds us of our parents, or circumstances from our childhood. Or perhaps this is a completely new idea and difficult to accept?
Have you noticed how when you fall in love with a person, after some time, every passer-by who in some way reminds you of that person captures your attention or brings out emotions in you? I believe that in a similar way this also functions in your search for a partner who is similar to your early image of your parents. Our minds like to connect associations and our inner child searches for circumstances and characteristics in a partner which, it believes, are connected to love.
Deep, longing need for attention and approval often is wrongly perceived as love. Those emotional needs are usually combined with biological instincts - attraction based on physical looks, hormones and behavior we perceive as feminine or masculine. What will be attractive to you doesn't only depend of evolution, but also of your experience with your parents. When we meet a person who matches most of those unconscious criteria, a strong feeling of attraction is created. It's much more pleasant to perceive those feelings as genuine love for a "special one", than to observe them in a calm, fully conscious way.
Still, we are not slaves to our biology and upbringing. We can resist our impulses and childish emotions - but that ability requires a strong foundation of self-esteem and self-support. If you are not able to give emotional support to yourself, your emotional needs might be too strong and overwhelm you.
When somebody shows interest in you, it's also wise to make a calm assessment about how much of his or her interest is built on careful observation and opinion of your personality, and how much on childhood needs, biological aspects or simply the desire to seduce and be wanted. It's not likely that feelings of romantic love and infatuation will ever be completely based on reality - but it is possible to start from a healthier place than people normally do.
When we are in love it is very difficult to be totally honest with oneself. We tie ourselves to our partner and our relationship with the same blind intensity and blind need as we did with our parents. This is most obvious when we have to decide whether to end a relationship which obviously does not fulfill our needs even though we still feel a romantic attraction. Whilst the relationship is stable, we usually believe that we are aware of our partner's faults and that we are reacting to them maturely. When a problem arises that could mean danger to the relationship, we can begin to search for ways to justify and minimize the significance of the problem, even if it means neglecting our boundaries. This is similar to a child who has no clear boundaries and feels a need to justify her parents.
Break ups (especially when initiated by the other person or occurring because of outside circumstances) provoke very intense, deep and, in essence, childlike emotions. Sadness is a normal reaction to loss, but as a rule we react with deeper and heavier sadness than would normally be considered a healthy reaction. At a conscious level, this intense pain arises out of a feeling of abandonment, often rejection, too. Try to remember your feelings after a break up which you did not initiate (if you ended the relationship, which usually comes after a long period of preparation and decision-making, the feeling of abandonment is not as intense), most likely you will remember emotions you would not wish to revive.
One of the main causes of this issue is that a child naturally experiences everything around him very intensely (all first experiences are most intense), has a tendency toward generalization and black and white perception, as well as an experience of timelessness in which even short abandonment in early childhood may be experienced as something that will last forever. If the parents are also emotionally immature (which can be said for most parents to a certain extent) the child will more often feel directly or indirectly rejected or abandoned. Similar feelings emerge in all situations when we feel rejected, but the deepest and most suppressed feelings penetrate the consciousness only in situations when we end an exceptionally important emotional relationship.
Moreover, I believe that one of the causes of this is the way a child is raised in our society. In many 'primitive' societies children are reared by the entire community. The child has many sources of love, security and support from many people and does not feel physically and emotionally dependent on two people or even only one. In our society children are almost wholly dependent upon their parents and only to a certain extent on the help of their grandparents. Even this help is rarely present to the extent that the child may feel totally safe and protected, and the outside world is often also perceived as a colder and less friendly place than in so-called primitive communities. Separation from parents provokes particularly strong feelings of fear and abandonment and in adulthood this leads to an even stronger binding and feeling of dependency in the relationship with one's partner.
A gentler and more subtle pain, often present if we have already resolved the superficial feeling of abandonment, is felt at a deeper level as a feeling of separation from love. This is not an intense pain linked to abandonment by a specific person nor is it questioning this person's behaviour, or our own, but rather a more subtle feeling that this is a world in which the deep and joyful love and closeness for which we long is not within our reach. Sometimes we can follow this to a feeling of separation from mother after birth, or even earlier in the prenatal period.
In moments of crisis we usually want to work on heavy emotions and undertake whatever is necessary to resolve them - but once the emotions subside and return to the subconscious we forget their intensity and consequences and delude ourselves into thinking that it was not so terrible or that we had succeeded in resolving them on our own. However, until we resolve them in their entirety, we will continue to create and attract situations that will bring them to the surface. For some people this may occur only a few times in their life; while others will attract such situations much more often.
How do you tell if someone really loves you anyway? Just as when you try to evaluate someone's honesty no matter what type of relationship you are in, you should never listen to their words, look at their behaviour instead! "Words are cheap" and saying nice things is no problem at all especially when you know what the other person wants to hear. Many people, however, when they are in love, cling to beautiful words they heard and feed their hope with them. Focus on the person's tonality, not the words (s)he uses. Listen carefully to the undertones in the voice and the way that person speaks.
To make matters more complicated, perhaps the other person really believes he or she is sincere. People who abuse or intimidate their partner often actually believe that it is love and that it is normal to behave in such a way. The person who is in love wishes to believe this and it is only when they emerge from this relationship and look back upon it that they can understand all the aspects of the behaviour of the other person which they failed to see before.
Imagine looking at a person with whom you are in love, or a potential partner, as if you were watching a TV program with the sound turned off: you see only movements, facial expressions and individual actions. What would these actions say if another person were involved and not you? Maybe you would recognize a lack of respect and concern or simply immaturity and fear of intimacy? Perhaps this is not something that would cause you to end the relationship - as there is no point in searching for perfection in anyone - but your love might be blinding you to the fact that this hurts you and that the relationship could improve if both of you were aware of this and decided to work on it.
"Our greatest problems contain our greatest blessings" (Martyn Carruthers) - and once we resolve emotional dependency that comes from feelings of separation from childhood, we can return to our natural state of abundance of happiness, joy and love that is not dependent on anyone outside of ourselves.
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