There’s more to attraction than what meets the eye.
Charlie: You know what list we’re talking about here. It’s the one that contains all the characteristics of the partner of your dreams, the one with whom you know you’ll experience happiness forever after. It’s the list that contains your personal requirements in terms of looks, financial fitness, personality, education, health, personal and family history, religion, ethnicity, relationship history, and any other aspects of your ideal partner’s life that you consider essential to a fulfilling relationship.
Of course not everyone has all of the aforementioned factors on their list. Some of those factors are irrelevant to some people, and other folks have concerns that don’t show up on this list. As it turns out, it’s not as much what is on the list as what isn’t on the list that this blog is about. Not that there are specific things that you need to have on your list, (although you may have friends who think that there are), but in addition to the priorities that we are aware of, there are also, what we call “shadow priorities” that are less apparent to us.
Shadow priorities are needs and desires that we are less consciously aware of that represent other commitments that compete with our conscious preferences. It’s not so much that one set is correct and the other is not, but rather that they each represent compelling and competing interests and desires that need to be fulfilled in order to satisfy different sets of needs.
There does not need to be complete similarity in regard to our relationship with our partner, in fact, we generally aren’t even attracted to people who are very similar to us, but there does need to be complementarity, meaning that we each complement each other by providing strengths and enhancements in areas where the other is less developed. When this is present in the relationship, there is a strong likelihood that both partners will experience what is commonly referred to as “chemistry”.
Unconscious concerns have more to do with aspects of our life that relate to the potential that our partner represents to help us to fulfill psychological needs to heal emotional wounds, support personal development, and provide a good “fit” for our personality. When we are intimately connected to someone with whom we share the experience of complementarity, we feel a sense of being whole and complete that is not present otherwise. This is the feeling that is frequently occurs during the phase of relationships referred to as “infatuation”.
The experience of infatuation fades over time because we are experiencing this feeling vicariously through the other person and haven’t yet fully cultivated and integrated the qualities and traits that our partner has brought into our life. The real work of relationship begins after we have found the partner of our dreams and it has to do with our willingness to see what that what they have brought into our lives not only thrills us but sometimes drives us to distraction.
Going to these extremes is not a sign of insanity, but is inherent in the process of coming to terms with one of the great paradoxes of relationships. That is that they represent the hope of the fulfillment of our most cherished dreams, and the fears that inevitably underlie those hopes. Fears like that of losing ourselves, being controlled by another, re-experiencing painful feelings, being exploited or taken advantage of, being left or abandoned, or other disturbing possibilities.
When we fail to recognize and acknowledge the unconscious commitments that compete with our conscious preferences we run the risk of setting ourselves up to feel disappointed and unfulfilled, and may wrongly attribute those feelings to a deficiency in our partner or in ourselves when this isn’t necessarily the case. All too often, the problem is that even if we have successfully checked off all of the things on our checklist, we may have left off the list some of the most import ones.
It isn’t necessary, nor is it even possible to always become consciously aware of what is in the shadow of our desire system. It can be enough to understand that what draws us to others and what draws others to us, includes characteristics that are important to our inner development and our healing into wholeness. When we can more fully appreciate this aspect of our relationship, it becomes easier (but not necessarily easy) to trust the process enough to become less reactive to the upsets that can arise when the heat of infatuation inevitably cools, whether it’s after a week or a year.
Accepting the inevitability of these feelings without mistaking them for indicators that we are just not meant to be, enables us to hang in there and resist the temptation to jump to conclusions that predispose us to make impulsive judgments and decisions that may be based on insufficient information.
Although not all relationships are meant to be, and some are best ended when it becomes evident that we are a mismatch, many more potentially successful relationships are ended prematurely, before they are given an adequate chance, than are continued after they should have been terminated.
It may be only be in after sharing some ordeals and having spent some time and together, time that includes doing the work of learning to appreciate rather than condemn our differences, that we recognize what the hidden gifts are that our partner brings to us that initially showed up as problems to be eliminated.
By all means, hold on to your list, but don’t forget that your heart has another list that may not be quite as apparent to you.
To quote the great writer and poet Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, author of The Little Prince, “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”
Linda and Charlie Bloom are excited to announce the release of their third book, Happily Ever After . . . and 39 Other Myths about Love: Breaking Through to the Relationship of Your Dreams.
“Love experts Linda and Charlie shine a bright light, busting the most common myths about relationships. Using real-life examples, they skillfully, provide effective strategies and tools to create and grow a deeply loving and fulfilling long-term connection.” – Arielle Ford, author of Turn You Mate into Your Soulmate