Earlier experiences are extremely influential in our life and the attitudes and feelings we develop in relationships with parents, family, friends and partners are bound to carry over into new relationships. Some of these attitudes and feelings are helpful in new relationships and others are not.
A common leftover problem, even for adults, is an unresolved need to rebel against constraints such as parental rules. Recognise the valuable leftovers so you can keep and nourish them and then work at changing those which simply get in the way.
Thelma was talking about how hard it was to parent her so. 'Sometimes he sounds like his father when he critises me and I just can't help but fly off the handle at him. It's not fair for me to do that, but I can't stop it.'
Steven reported that he grew up with a father who was always criticising him to his face but then would tell others how proud he was of his son. He decided that he wanted to be praised to his face so he married a woman home he thought would give him lots of praise. After a period of time in the marriage, he realised that he had married a critical woman even though he had tried not to. 'I don't understand what happened- I never thought I'd marry someone like my father.'
Rick and Paul had a very respectable marriage, with a lifestyle very much like that of their parents. Suddenly Paul's behaviour changed. He began to associate with a younger crowd, started all kinds of activities which he had never tried before, and took more time for himself, apart from the marriage. One day he reported back to Rick that he felt too confined in the marriage and that he was going to have to go off and 'get his head on straight.'
So how much are you carrying in terms of leftovers from earlier days? You may have learned to carry extra weight in your past marriage, or perhaps in your relationships with parents, school chums, friends or others while you grew up. Time to unload those unneeded burdens. You may have thought that you left all those hang-ups behind in your former marriage. So maybe you didn't realise they existed until a new relationship came along and looked into your back pack to see what you were carrying.
Our relationships with others are partially an attempt to fill up the deficiencies within ourselves. We develop a pattern of interaction based upon such feelings of rejection, loneliness, a need to feel guilty, or on a more positive note, feelings of happiness. We accept our feelings in relationships with others.
One example from an early series of seminars was Carolyn which we called the stray cat syndrome. Carolyn had learned to bring home stray cats probably since childhood and she told me how good she would feel when she could play 'Florence Nightingale.' Then the stray cat starts drinking too much alcohol and Carolyn tries hard to rescue them from the perils of alcohol. He drinks more (after all he is getting a lot of attention from drinking!). Finally Carolyn would reach her martyr's tolerance limit and either she leaves the marriage or he leaves. The she proclaims loudly to everyone how good it feel not to be taking care of that drunken bum. She starts going out with a friend and finds a man she is sure 'will never be an alcoholic' and they finally marry. The pattern starts repeating and be begins drinking too much. Carolyn again provides care, giving him his 'milk in a suacer' every evening when he comes home until one day it suddenly strikes her 'I married another alcoholic!'
Carolyn seems to have a need within her to take of stray cats. It makes her, at one powerful level, feel good. She will continue, either consciously or unconsiously to need to care of another. It is easy to see the critical need to examine leftover patterns and to discard those which are really hurting us and our relationships.
Often a new relationship will provide a method of working on the leftovers. A may arise and you may become angry at that person and expression your irritation. He or she reacts, 'Those comments don't fit me, I don't know what you are talking about. I am listening to what you say but it doesn't seem to apply to me so where is it coming from?'
If you are now becoming more aware of your feelings and the voices talking inside your head you may be able to express your irritation and then tie it in with an earlier relationship. Sometimes people even use the old person's name in their anger, and that is a real clue to where the problem is coming from. Listen to the voices, do some reflecting, and when the new friend says that does not fit with them, try to discover who it does fit with. When you begin to recognise who it is you are actually angry with analyse your feelings for insight into what makes you behave this way. Communication with another person is helpful at this time because it provides a sounding board to bounce your feelings off just as the wall at school bounces back the ball and demands you handle the ball.
Add some more but going on to the table now and marked where I got up to.
In the shell stage one does what one should do; in the rebel stage what one should not do and in the love stage what one wants to do. OK many times the behaviour in the love stage will be similar to behaviours in the shell stage but the motivation behind it is entirely different because instead of trying to please someone else you are trying to please yourself.
So what does this have to do with rebuilding? Well as it happens many marriages are built on the foundation of immaturity with one partner stuck in the shell stage spending their whole life trying to please and do what others want. Eventually they get fed up with this shell existence as the inevitable pressures of personal growth become present creating a tremendous strain on their partner in the relationship.
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