To Fight or Not to Fight? Individual Therapy Can Help
This article first appeared on Marriage.com.
At some point in my late twenties, it became clear to me that the men I was most attracted to were the worst partners for me. My most passionate relationshipleadshe ones I felt were “meant to be,” the men who were my “soulmates”…these were the ones I had the most drama with, the most ugly fights, the most chaos, the most pain. We triggered each other like crazy. These relationships least resembled the healthy relationship I wanted.
I’m sure some of you can relate.
(Guess what? I know how to fix this. Keep reading.)
This led me to feel pretty hopeless. How could it be true that I was destined to either be in a relationship with lots of passion and lots of fighting or be relegated to a boring relationship that was stable but passionless? This seemed like cruel and unusual punishment for having grown up in an unhealthy family.
I did all kinds of things in my mind to cope with this. I decided at one point that the only solution was having an open relationship so I could have a stable marriage with a dose of passion on the side. But I knew in my heart that wouldn’t really work for me.
Why I chose therapy
For many years, while I was struggling with this dilemma, I was also doing my work. I was well aware that the reason I was attracted to these kinds of partners was my unstable childhood. So I was in weekly therapy, of course, but also more than that. I went on retreats instead of vacations to do more therapy. The retreats involved baring my soul and diving deep to innermost workings of my Self. They were expensive and they were hard. Did I want to spend a week crying and re-visiting childhood pain when I could have been on the beach in Mexico? Nope. Did I want to face all my demons and fears? Not especially. Did I look forward to letting other people see the parts of me that I was ashamed of? Not one bit. But I wanted a healthy relationship and somehow I knew this was the path to it.
I was right. It worked
Little by little, I shed my old ways, old beliefs, old attractions. Little by little, I learned what was holding me back. I healed. I forgave. I grew up. I learned to love myself and I stepped into my full self.
Now mind you, I never realized that I had growing up to do. Or healing to do. I felt fine. I wasn’t depressed or anxious. I wasn’t lost or confused. I wasn’t struggling in any way except that my relationships sucked. Serial monogamy was getting old…as was I. But I knew that the common denominator in my relationships was me. So I figured something in me needed to change.
A lot changed. I changed in ways I couldn’t have imagined. And I found myself, finally, with a man I’m crazy about who is as healthy and stable as can be. Not surprisingly, he’s one of those rare people whose childhood was great. (I didn’t really believe it at first, but it turns out to be true). We don’t fight and we rarely trigger each other. When we do, we talk about it and it’s sweet and tender, and we both feel more in love afterwards.
These days, couples often come to me for therapy and tell me that they fight all the time but they’re so in love and want to stay together. I always tell them the truth: I can help you, but it’s going to be a lot of work.
I explain to them that the reason they fight is that their partner is triggering some unhealed bit in themselves. And that healing yourself is the only way to stop the madness.
I think mostly they don’t believe me. They think they can just find a partner who doesn’t trigger them. They believe “it’s not me, it’s him/her.” And they’re scared. Of course. I was scared, too. I get it.
But some couples agree to embark on the journey. And this is why I’m a couples therapist. This is my raison d’etre. I get to join them on a miraculous and beautiful journey. I get to be with them as they grow in love with each other in a whole new way, as people who are more whole and more capable of adult love.
So go ahead, keep fighting if you must. Or keep searching for someone you won’t fight with. Or give up and settle. Or convince yourself that you weren’t meant for marriage. I know better. I know you can have what I have. We’re all capable of healing.
It wasn’t that bad really, all that therapy. It’s kind of like childbirth…as soon as it’s over, it doesn’t seem that bad. And actually, you kind of loved it. And want to do it again.
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