Tuesday, April 27, 2010
This post is a continuation of yesterday's Love is a Science post. I thought it was important to bring it closer to home with some human psychology.
The ways in which people fail to sustain loving relationships are many, but in general it is a matter of perspective taking that allows some relationships to succeed and causes others to fail.
In psychoanalytic self psychology there are two concepts that influence all human relationships: 1) the selfobject experience and 2) the repetitive dimensions perspectives.
The selfobject experience describes all of the vitalizing, uplifting, life sustaining, warm and yummy feelings we get from our interactions with significant others. It starts early in life when we have our earliest experiences with our initial caretakers. If initial caretakers are reliable, consistent, and on-time with meeting our infantile needs, we learn that others can be trusted and that the world is safe and predictable.
The repetitive dimensions concept describes all of the times that our initial caretakers were absent, unreliable, and did not adequately meet our needs. When that occurs, we learn to expect frustration and disappointment from significant others.
We all develop both the selfobject lens and repetitive dimensions lens in our early years, and we carry them forth into all of our relationships throughout life.
In the beginnings of love relationships we see our significant others through the selfobject lens. We tend to see all of the good, fulfilling, vitalizing functions they perform for us and we tend to block out any faults or shortcomings. During this phase of the relationship, we get most of what we want. Inevitably though a rupture must come. It can be a simple disappointment or slight. The more similar the issue is to the ways our early caretakers failed us, the stronger our reaction to it. At this point of rupture, we begin to see our romantic partner through the lens of repetitive dimensions. Now we pay more attention to their faults and shortcomings than we do the good things they provide. During this time in a relationship it becomes difficult to get what we want. We become more likely to be disappointed and frustrated in our relationship.
The sad thing about this process is that both lenses are made of funhouse glass. What we perceive in the person we are with through these lenses are a distortions of their true self (which more realistically is a mixture of desirable and undesirable traits).
As I suggested in Love is a Science, each person has the ability to adapt and adjust so that love can be maintained. Focusing on what you get out of being with someone rather than what you are not getting from someone makes people more content in their loving relationships. When the inevitable ruptures come, it is necessary for the affected person to reach into their breast pocket and pull back out their selfobject lenses as soon as possible.
This in no way is meant to suggest that all relationships should last. Some people are just too toxic and some are sociopaths bent on destroying others. But it may support an argument that all love relationships can last.
Remember that just as you flip flop your lenses and move in and out of love with your partner, they are subject to their own flippity flops as well. Patience and communication (fueled by self-awareness) are the keys to mastering Love.