Section 5: The Other Doors (CLICK HERE to print entire Map.)
© Al Turtle 2006
Door #1 – University of Life
And so let me introduce you to Door #1. I think you might be able to guess what is behind this door, for it is the one that leads to Vintage Love. I call this path, the University of Life, because it is all about higher learning, takes years and seems to have many steps: freshman year, etc. This is where you learn the skills that go along with the Biological Dream. Proficiency in these skills leads to Relational Maturity – competence and confidence in getting along with anyone. Vintage Lovers understand Technology of Relations and are practitioners of the Biological Dream.
The good news is that this material is relatively easy to learn. It is not rocket science. The easiest way to learn it is during childhood, by watching parents who knew and used these skills, and who helped us practice. Sadly, this didn’t happen for most of us. As you learn the skills of the Biological Dream, you have to unlearn the Traditional Family Skills that conflict. You also have to recover from any damage done during your childhood, and get back on track toward fulfilling your purpose in life. And all this is not endless, but a finite task with an end. That’s it!
Easier said than done! How long does it take, you ask? In that original Outcome Study, people reported that they made it in 12-28 years. Wow. But they had little help. Now that there is lots of help, I see Vintage Love, the relationship of your dreams, as being achievable in about 3-7 years. Some couples take longer than others, and here are the factors that I have found.
The more the childhood damage, relative to the Biological Dream requirements, the longer it takes. And the more passionate your romance, the longer it takes. (Remember, this is probably the same phenomenon.) The longer you’ve been together, before starting work on it, the longer it takes. I think this has something to do with the amount of resentment that has been built up between you and your partner. And finally there is a thing I call “degrees of difficulty.” It seems that the more college degrees you have, the more difficulty you have. PHDs, MDs, law or divinity degrees, plus Military or police background make it more difficult. In my experience, ex-Marines and drill instructors have the hardest time of all.
I will talk more about the University of Life later.
Door #2 – Giving Up, Going "Home"
And I imagine you now know what is behind Door #2. I call this door … sadly…, “going home.” This is where people go who unconsciously give up seeking the Biological Dream, who reproduce a “normal” marriage or relationship – a relationship just like the one their parents had. This is where most couples end up. As many as 90% of all couples are in a Giving-Up relationship.
Looking back to that original outcome study, these people developed only one of the four traits. They have Commitment, but Give-Up having Intimacy, Passion and especially they do not have Safety. Still these Giving-Up Marriages can last forever. They are all about survival, using all those Traditional Family Skills, and living with fear. Harville Hendrix called this area, The Invisible Divorce.
In a Giving-Up Marriage people tend to Flee from each. They often have quite separate lives – a parallel relationship some call it. Living together, but not close, they often become buried in work, their children, TV, addictions, etc. They just get away from each other a lot. But they don’t divorce – which is the ultimate relationship form of fleeing or getting away. In a Giving-Up Marriage couples tend to Fight a lot. They argue or avoid conflict by silence. They often use many forms of passive aggressive fighting. But they don’t fight illegally – not as much as would bring the Police. In most states this means no physical bruising. These couples Freeze a lot. Ask them if all is going well and they will say, “It is just FINE!” when it is not. Conflict avoidant, they try to keep each other calm by keeping secrets. They may share a lot with people other than their partner. There is often a lot of evasion and silence between them. “Better quiet than upset.” These couples Submit a lot. They say they agree verbally when they don’t really, and seek to do what the other wants and never what they want themselves. And of course they build resentment, slowly and steadily over time.
In a Giving-Up Marriage people grieve quietly for the loss of the Biological Dream in their lives, even though they may not know why they are grieving. They often disparage and make fun of lovers – believing that romance is foolish. The sight of romance often hurts them – reminding them of what is lost. Their grieving often shows itself as depression and various illnesses.
In the last 5 years I have seen more and more of these Giving-Up Marriages coming to my office. People married 20 – 35 years are waking up. It seems that “normal marriage” is not as stable as it used to be. I think there are several factors that contribute to this. In my office, the most common trouble for a long term “Giving-up marriage” is brought on by affairs, either sexual or emotional. The driving factor seems to be the loneliness inherent in a relationship that has not solved the Reliable Membership issue of the Biological Dream. Sometime the addictive behavior, that is a result of people trying to cope with the depression or grief of loss, unstabilizes a Giving-Up Marriage. The build up of Resentment, due to all that submitting, often boils over. Resentment never goes away by itself. It must be processed away. Another common contributor to the awakening of people in a Giving-Up Marriage is when the children start leaving home. Very often when the youngest child reaches 11 – 15, the wife begins to look for more in life. She begins to consider what she has given up.
Here is a sad, but quite typical story, from last year. A man called our office on Sunday, saying he wanted to get his wife in to see me. “She is going crazy,” he said. “She wants a divorce after 23 happy years. She says she doesn’t love me anymore.”
He made the appointment and sent her in. And, surprising me, she came.
I asked her what the problem was. She said, “I don’t love him any more.” I asked, “How long since you last loved him?” She predictably responded, “22 years.” So much for the “happy 23 years” idea.
Seeking to find out the factor that had kept her from sharing this secret unhappiness with her partner for 22 years, I said, “Perhaps we should tell him.” She almost jumped, “No, no! We couldn’t do that. It would hurt him too much.” And so I gathered his fragility and dramatized pain had kept her quiet all these years.
I asked, “Well, what makes you think of doing something about it now.” And the predictable answer was, “Well, I met this guy who makes me feel like a real woman.”
By the way, she did tell her husband about being unhappy for 22 years. They did get a divorce. After a short happy 5 months, the woman and her new friend broke up. She found the new guy worse than her ex-husband. She decided to come back and try again. Her ex-husband would have none of it. “You lied to me for 22 years. How can I ever trust you now?”
Different from Vintage Love
Differences really show when Vintage Lovers and Giving-Up couples talk. The Vintage lover clearly recalls all the struggles they went through, and recognizes the troubles of the Giving-Up Couples. Vintage Lovers have a lot of empathy for “normal” couples. But Giving-Up couples don’t believe Vintage Lovers exist.
When I share the Map of Relationships it is also quite common for people in a Giving-Up relationship to claim they are in Vintage Love. And so let’s look at the difference. Here are some other differences.
Vintage lovers focus first on both feeling safe and relaxed.
Vintage lovers are patient.
Vintage lovers feel understood by their partner.
Vintage lovers enjoy differences and are comfortably aware of each other’s points of view.
Vintage lovers are firmly and pleasantly opinionated and are eager to hear and learn differing opinions, and do not argue with anyone about anything.
Vintage lovers are caring and nurturing of others.
Giving up people are often persuasive, want agreement, rush.
Giving up people often like to argue, either are abrasively opinionated or try not to hurt people’s feelings by being quiet, are quite often competitive.
Giving up people often feel misunderstood or don’t understand their partner.
Door #2 people sometimes say they are in Vintage Love, but that their partner isn’t.
Both Vintage lovers and Giving-up Couples “say” they are happy.
Different from Power Struggle
And while we are looking at distinctions, you may be wondering what are differences between Door #2, Giving-Up, and the Power Struggle. In the Power Struggle, people are still trying to achieve Romantic Love. The motive of the conflicts, or the conflict-avoidance, are to bring about love. In the Power Struggle you see the cycle of violence: a romantic period, a more or less quiet build-up, and then an explosive or implosive confrontation aimed at returning to romance. Remember that principle is “hurt ‘em till they love you.”
Behind Door #2, people have given up improving the situation and are just trying to survive. Giving-Up couples “hurt ‘em to maintain the status quo.”
The Last Detail: The Unconscious
While the Map of Relationships is complete, the story is not complete without this last piece of information. The driving force beneath both Romantic Love and the Power Struggle is in your unconscious mind.
During the Romance our deep minds are focused on two things: Fear and the Biological Dream. In our fear we become neo-phobic, or fearful of the new. This fear-of-the-new drives the entire process of partner selection. Basically people always pick a partner that seems familiar to your unconscious mind. This means that you pick someone who has many of the specific characteristics you met in childhood, in your Traditional Family, those of your caretakers. Harville Hendrix calls this the Imago: the familiar traits of childhood caretakers – both positive and negative. Along with your fear is the hope that the Biological Dream is coming true. Put the Fear and Biological Dream together and I think that people seek the familiar, but hope for change. What I think this sounds like is, “I’ve found someone just as bad as my parents, but who has now turned over a new leaf and is going to be really wonderful.”
Now, during the Power Struggle, at the unconscious level, your partner still appears familiar. In fact, they become more and more familiar over time. “I married someone just as bad as my father/mother, etc.” This, of course, is the source of that common belief that “I married the wrong person.” But now the hope of the Biological Dream seems more and more illusive, decreases bit by bit, until hope reaches zero. Then you are at the Choice Point: Door #1, Door #2, Door #3.
Follow the Relationship Path
So, here is the whole Map of Relationships. Take a look… I want you to get the feel of the whole map, the entire territory of relationships. So let’s trace the life of a client I saw, all the way from birth to the time she came to see me.
She was born (let’s call her Anne), a human with the Biological Dream fully active, but with a body that wasn’t ready to operate on its own. She met her caretakers in her Traditional Family. Dad was ex-military, very firm and frequently absent – a “my way or the highway” fella. Her mom was fairly passive when Dad was home, a bit on the fragile side, while at the same time a model of neatness and correct behavior. Anne learned to survive by figuring out what she needed to do to satisfy these two. She became good at reading their minds in order to determine her best course of action. When she was 16 the fell in love (Romantic Period, 1st time) with a “nice,” strong guy who played sports. He led her into many experiences she might never have ventured into on her own. He became more and more demanding (Power Struggle, 1st time), and she began to withdraw. After he hit her for not answering his phone calls, they broke up (Divorce #1). She swore off boys. It took her a time to get really lonely, but when she was 22, she met a gentle guy and they dated for a while, talked a lot and were married in a colorful ceremony (Romantic Period, 2nd time) with all her family around her. His irresponsibility began to provoke her sharp tongue (Power Struggle 2nd time), but a 1st baby distracted them both. She took care of the family and home, and he buried himself in work (Door #2). Sex became very infrequent and while sharing the same house and bed, they shared little else. They stayed together this way for 18 years. When her youngest child became 12, she went back into the work force. At work, she met a guy who “made her feel important and pretty.” After a brief affair, Anne’s husband found out. In a very unfriendly way they split (Divorce #2). For six years Anne lived alone or with her kids part time. Then, when the loneliness got too much for her, she met a business man who had been recently divorced and dated him for 2 years (Romantic Period 3rd time). They were thinking of marriage (already they lived mostly in her house), but his moodiness, temper, and his sloppiness bothered her (Power Struggle 3rd time).
She came into my office.
Where are you?
Now let’s look at you. What I suggest you do is mentally put a “I am here” sign on the territory where you think you are. I can’t tell you where this is, by looking at you. But you can. I know where I am. Now, look at the territory you came from to get here, where you are now. Try drawing a line starting in your Traditional Family and following the path of your life up until today – just like I did with Anne’s story. Try putting down the length of time you spent in each area.
Now, stop for a moment. Ask yourself, where do you want to end up? Given where you are now, what is the path that you choose? What is ahead of you?