Nothing brings up your unresolved issues like a meaningful relationship. It might be a romantic relationship, but it doesn’t have to be: your relationship with your closest friend might be the most powerful relationship in your life.
Your most meaningful relationship could also be with a parent or sibling. Usually, these relationships take time to “gel”, but, not always. I met someone at a meditation group and it seemed that we knew other instantly. We became so comfortable with each other so fast that I couldn’t explain it. The relationship deepened into an intimate connection and brought up all of our unresolved issues from past relationships…loud and clear.
When I do pre-marital counseling, I let the couple know that, in an intimate relationship, you’ll eventually trigger each other’s most negative emotions and beliefs. This is important to prepare for. Only when we feel safe and loved do we allow the Shadow sides of our personality (as Jung calls them) to be seen. Clients repeatedly tell me, “Why does my partner treat me, the person they love the most, the absolute worst?”
Some of you may be saying, “What’s the point then? Isn’t it better to stay surface and just have fun?” If you repeatedly have short relationships, this may be your mantra: “Keep it light. Don’t fight. Don’t stir up that mess beneath the surface.” Instead, focus on the latest hot restaurant or newest Netflix series. Keep your interactions quick and easy, never go into the real and juicy depths of your minds.
However, if we keep everything superficial, how will we ever get to know somebody? If we avoid what really matters in life – like working through our oldest and deepest shit – with people we love: how will our lives ever improve? This is why Meaningful Relationships = Powerful Workshops: living and loving deeply gives both parties plenty of opportunities to help each other heal the barbed wire wrapped around our hearts.
Let’s talk about sex: if you want to have a great sex life with someone you love, you need some foreplay for your mind. Yes, for your mind! Get a great conversation going and the body will follow along. Many people hook up too soon, ignoring the fact that the Mind is the Chief Pleasure Organ of the Body, and will lead the body down the path to sexual bliss (not the other way around).
If you’ve been using sex as a “relationship screening tool”, you’ve got it backwards. Have as much sex with as many people as you want: especially in your twenties. But, when you meet someone where there’s real relationship potential, let your Mind lead the way. And minimize the drugs and alcohol: while pleasantly numbing, they distort your cognitive and emotional perceptual systems, often resulting in choices that are impulsive but destructive to a growing relationship (sound familiar anyone?).
When I work with new couples, I like to ask them, “How will you deal with anger, blame, fear and guilt when they come up in your relationship?” Most people don’t want to think about stuff like that when they’re just starting out, they want it to all be fun, fun, fun! I wish that were possible, but if you really love someone, eventually the shit’s gonna hit the fan…and how will the two of you handle it?
I recommend that you use your relationship as a workshop: try things, be curious, talk about possible problems before they come up. When anger or blame erupts, don’t be surprised. You could say, “We’ve been expecting you.” This is nothow most couples start out, but after they’ve gone through a crisis (or two) and some therapy, it often becomes their preferred new way of operating: pro-active, well-communicating and able to listen to each other without immediately reacting.
I told one client – an electrical engineer – to view her relationship with her wife as an “experiment”: learn things from each other; try new stuff together; analyze what works and what doesn’t work and enjoy the benefits…and use this meaningful relationship as a powerful, ongoing workshop that can give you the best times of your life.
Many of us are more willing to open our legs to another person than we are to open our mind and heart. If that gives you what you want, then keep doing it. If not…
—Michael Kimmel is a licensed psychotherapist who specializes in helping LGBTQ clients achieve their goals and deal with anxiety, depression, grief, sexually addictive behavior, coming out, relationship challenges and homophobia. Contact him at 619-955-3311 or visit lifebeyondtherapy.com.