Wednesday, October 23, 2013

A good relationship needs love on both sides

One person's undying devotion is not enough to keep two people together.

A good relationship needs love on both sides
Barb married Sam even though she didn't love him. Sam married Barb because he knew he loved her enough for both of them. But Sam had a plan. He felt his love for Barb was so complete she would eventually love him back. He was prepared to be patient. After 15 years, his patience wore out.

Barb came to see me. Her story was intense. She came from a dysfunctional family where there was no love between her parents and their mutual resentment made for a cold, loveless home. Barb escaped into the arms of the first man who showed any interest. She was 18 and this relationship lasted five years, until she caught him in the arms of a "friend". She was devastated and vowed never to love or be vulnerable again with any man. When she met Sam he was perfect. He was successful, confident and funny, and because he had come from a loving, supportive family, he had a fountain of love and abundance to give. And the best thing was that he asked nothing in return.

Later, in therapy, Sam said he had initially seen Barb as a "bird with clipped wings". He had thought he could fix her and that she would eventually let him in. But the relationship only worked as long as Barb was allowed to keep her defences in place. Fifteen years later, Sam gave up. He wanted something back. He also told Barb that it wasn't her fault. He had known what he was getting into from the start and had thought he could change her, but he could no longer go on like this. He needed more.

This confrontation sent Barb into therapy, where she admitted that after her first relationship she had closed herself off. What scared Barb most was that she was aware that she hadn't loved Sam when she married him and that afterwards she had gone numb. She did her wifely duties and they presented to their social set as the "perfect couple". What if she discovered that she still didn't love Sam and couldn't reciprocate what he wanted, and the whole thing was over?

She started crying and, when I asked why she was upset, she said the idea of breaking up with Sam made her really sad. I asked her to try a slow defrost. No matter how painful her history was, time had passed and if life were to send her another blow, it would be painful, but she would get through it.

I told her to observe Sam objectively to see if he was a good candidate for a trusting relationship, and report back. I asked her if she was prepared to let down her guard and let Sam in. She could do this without saying a word. He would know. She did. Now that she was in touch with loving him, there was lost time to make up for. No-one can love enough for two.

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