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Stop the Divorce — 8 Comments

  1. Yes, I wish I could pull the plug from this relationship, but some questions keep popping up in my mind and
    1. I ask myself over and over again “what do I want from a relationship exactly?
    2. What is that vague feeling of “something is missing” between us?
    3. Why I don’t feel connected with my husband (and think I never did)? “.
    4. Is it just that we matured differently?
    5. Do you think there exists that undefined “something” that makes two people attracted to each other, fall in love with each other in the beginning of a relationship?
    6. Do you think that “that something” is a prerequisite to forming a relationship?
    7. or can you work on any relationship and become connected emotionally with anyone matching some decent criteria that come from your conscious mind (without having felt that something in the beginning?
    8. Can you imagine somebody living such a false life, so disconnected from herself, that when she married it had nothing to do with what she wanted and felt? (because she didn’t have any clue about what she wanted or felt?).

    9. And now it feels like I woke up a in strange world, married to a nice man whom I wouldn’t choose a second time.

    A lot of questions… maybe I should move them on the forum…

    I wish I could keep this relationship, for not to hurt our kid… but that is not enough for me. It’s not satisfying enough – I want a relationship for the sake of the connection, of love, not for kids.

    10. You Al, divorced your first wife. And eventually started searching for somebody else. Why did you choose your second wife from the many women you got a date with?
    11. Did you feel “that something” grow between you, did you feel you could connect with her on a deep level, or was it more like a conscious, logical choice (based on qualities and values etc)?

    Thank you.

    • Hello Marta, I thought your questions all were good so I broke up you piece and numbered the questions. When I was struggling in my 2nd marriage, when I thought it was falling apart just as my first one had, I asked a lot of the same questions. At that point I had no answers. Now I have lots. Here goes.

      No. 1. I believe that “everyone” is built with the same answer to this question – you, me, your husband, everyone. The answer is bound to the biology of our bodies and brains. When I figured it out, around 1998, I called in the Biological Dream. I think of this answer as elegant in its simplicity. I’ve taught it and tested it and all these years later I still think it’s pretty good. I have numerous friends who think it is the best thing I ever came up with. Try it for size.

      No. 2. That old vague feeling of “something missing.” Actually I think the source of that collection of feelings comes from a) many awarenesses of missing out on something, and b) almost no training on how to describe these feelings. E.g. If you haven’t felt safe all your life, how do you describe the feeling of missing safety – safety which your body (Lizard) requires. If you’ve never trusted anyone, how do you describe to yourself the feeling of missing out on reliable community – which your body (mid-brain) requires. How do you describe the sense of not being best buddies with your partner, when people tell you not to expect that feeling, and you totality needs it. etc.

      No. 3. Just cuz you don’t feel connected doesn’t mean you don’t want connection badly. Most people I meet yearn for connection (enough but not too much) and have terrible skills at achieving that. Connection has a lot to do with intimacy. If you knew how to achieve intimacy with him, you would have done it by now. So you don’t feel it cuz you don’t know how, haven’t learned how, and haven’t applied that learning — YET.

      No. 4. I think the first seven years of growing up have a lot to do with the learning environment and a bit to do with genetics. After 7, a lot more has to do with choices about taking advantage of learning opportunities. I often think a couple forms a bond with both being differently trained, but both tending to be more or less equally smart and dumb. Choices about learning will always be different and it is easy for a couple to get further and further apart or closer and closer together. A lot of this learning has to do with choosing to identify the dumb things our parents/caretakers taught us and re-learning wiser things.

      No. 5. Yes. I think that something is a mostly unconscious recognition in our partner of a very familiar situation, attached to a profound hope that things are now going to be much better. I’ve often described this. During my training as an Imago Workshop Presenter I wrote this up in a paper I did not publish. Here it is.

      In our country, almost all relationships begin with the amazing phenomenon of “falling in love.” Literature for several centuries has been talking about this. The Scarlet Letter was all about this. Romantic Love is the gateway to relationships and has been that gateway for a couple hundred years—since the early settling of America. Amazingly if we go back further in history we find that falling in love was the basis for a hot romance, but was pretty well unconnected to marriage. And in most of the world, marriage partners are not selected by this process. For most people in the world, partners are selected for community reasons, by parents, matchmakers, sometimes community leaders. By the way, the divorce rate in communities where falling in love is not used as a basis for partner selection, that divorce rate is about 7%. Divorce has something to do with “Falling in Love.” I’ll talk about that more.
      So most relationships start with this phenomenon. But what is it? Well, we know quite a lot about this period. It has been studied pretty carefully for about 30 years. First, it is an emotional hi. For some higher than for others, yet it is a high. It is a time of play. You know I think that for most adults this is one of the truly wonderful times in life where they are free to play and thus they tend to keep it a secret. I recall some twenty years ago on a Monday morning watching a fellow worker come in to our workplace. She looked radiant as she came across the open area toward my desk. In fact I don’t think her feet touched the ground all the way. I asked her, “Who did you fall in love with?” Shhhhhhhh was her response. Don’t tell anyone. I think we adults fear that when we feel truly good, people will take it away.
      This period, this good feeling, is often spoken of in drug and addiction terms. Look on the Internet and you will find groups of Love Addicts getting together. And amazingly science has discovered the drug. It is called Phenelthylamine or PEA for short. It is a peptide in the brain and its effects are wonderful. Its an upper. Makes you feel great. Raises your energy, you can work more. If you’re depressed, you tend to rise. If you’re shy, you come out. If you’re nervous it tends to calm you. It kicks your libido, your testosterone/androgen, level up. And it is clearly nature’s tool to get the right two people together and to get on with the mating.
      Mr. / Mrs. Right
      But who is the right person? This morning a bit later we are going to do a process that will give you a pretty solid glimpse at the image of the person that is right for you. For Harville Hendrix was one of the first to show the structure of how “Mr. Right” was created in the mind. Let’s look at some of the clues. Remember that while in most of the world partners are selected by others in the community and their divorce rate is 7%, this IS the selection process in our culture, where the divorce rate is over 50%. So it is an important question, “Why did you pick the person sitting next to you?”
      There are several repeatable traits that describe the selection process.
      Phenomenon of Recognition
      Haven’t I met you before? While this is maybe a great line, it is also an experience. Couples report it frequently. A sense of “having known” this person before. Heck, past-life consultants make a lot of this period. You and she were the king and queen of Egypt. So you recognize each other. Do any of you recall that experience? It’s gotta come from somewhere. Let’s go on.
      Phenomenon of Timelessness
      I can’t remember when I haven’t been with you. I recall so well how that one felt when Sandra and I met. Within an hour of our sitting down for tea, we were chatting away as if we’d been together all along. We seemed to merge into a single person. I’ve known you all my life. Anyone share that one?
      Phenomenon of Reunification
      This one is fun. The feeling is of finally being whole. Like long lost friends coming together. I always felt broken, but now I am whole. And another critical thought, before I felt alone, but now I don’t feel alone anymore. I am “home”.
      Phenomenon of Necessity
      And the last one. I don’t think I can go on without you. I recall falling for a woman once, before I met Sandra. She had a condo up on Mt. Spokane. I sat at work all one day thinking about her, not working very much, just day-dreaming of the drive up to her place. And as I did drive, uninvited, I drove faster and faster. I had to be with her. The rest of the story isn’t so wonderful.
      The Imago
      These phenomena were pointers to Harville’s identification of the Imago. The Imago is a picture in the mind of each of us that we use when selecting a mate. This picture is developed in the first 6 or so years of life, and assembles our experiences of our caretakers into a single image. Then as we wander around looking at people we compare each one to this image, this imago. We reject hundreds and thousands. But then every-so-often we meet someone who is close, and bingo, the PEA flows and we gravitate rapidly toward each other. We will get an glimpse of your Imagoes in just a little while. They are pretty easy to identify.
      While the Imago is the criteria you use for partner selection, it has a down side. For that image contains both positive and negative traits. Let’s see what happens next.
      I recall in the 70s a movement to rename Love of this kind, the Romantic kind. The word used was Limerance. It meant that high energy, infatuated state of being. While the kids call this falling in love, people who have gone through it many times have realized a problem. I remember a wonder line. I love the person I see when I look at you. I don’t even know who you are. But I love you. I recall being up on a Mountain walking with my son and his bride-to-be. The were pretty excited about their wedding for the next weekend. They had known each other for 8 months. Suddenly he turned to her and asked, “Do you like to ski?” Now, I knew he loved to ski and it was an important part of his life. I was surprised that he hadn’t in all the 8 months asked this one. I was even more surprised by her response. “No. I don’t even like skiers.”
      “I love the person I see when I look at you.” Romantic love is a very delusional situation. Yet it is the basis for marriage.

      No. 6. I used to think it (an Imago Match) was a prerequisite. But since then I’ve seen couple married only for a family’s convenience in which all the elements for reaching Vintage Love were present. I even met a couple where the husband had bought the wife from a family with two daughters, where he picked one, and the father sold the other. Still Vintage Love seemed on the way. Fascinating.

      No. 7. I think it possible but less likely.

      No. 8. What you are labeling a “false life” seems to me extremely common. My guess is that well over 90% of couples in the middle ages are living what you would call a “false life.” To get Vintage Love you have to willing somehow to be pretty abnormal.

      No. 9. Yep. Life seems all about waking up. Fun quotes are “one day you will wake up aghast at the kind of monster you’ve married, and on another day you’ll be thunderstruck by the kind of monster your partner married,” Or “you always marry your worst nightmare.” Etc. This awareness ain’t supposed to last forever, but it sure fits – for a while.

      No. 10. Simple answer is I fell in love with her. Went nuts. Later, about 5 years, I woke up.

      No. 11. It was a very conscious decision to not do the stupid things with this one that I had done with the 1st. She didn’t deserve that (and heck, my first wife hadn’t deserved it either.)

      Oh, and a last thought by way of encouraging you to grasp you power, I am reflecting on your first sentence. “I wish I could pull the plug…..” You can.

  2. Thanks Al for your reply,
    My opinion is that Vintage Love requires beside the individual emotional healing that each partner has to do for himself, and beside the skills for interacting with each other in the relationship, Vintage Love requires also some good level of compatibility between partners (values, views on life and society and other important aspects, which should team up well with your partner’s). You may say that people change and this views change in time, but I think people change significantly regarding this basic structure of values only until they get to know themselves and heal themselves and trust themselves. After that, changes are usually not so “deep”. And only after that I think we are suitable to make long lasting fulfilling relationships => Vintage Love.
    Of course this doesn’t happen in reality. We don’t know ourselves in majority of cases, when we first dive in “happy ever after” relationships. And this relationships shatter to pieces sooner or later. And it’s not only because we don’t have the skills to create this relationship, but also because we are not compatible in our view on life – basically I’m saying that we don’t like each other, but we couldn’t know this when we met, because we had little knowledge about our own individual selves.
    Having said that, I want to add that I appreciate all that you share with us, very valuable information. Helps us dig deeper into knowing ourselves. Thank you!

    • Hi Marta, I like your view and the additional idea about “similarity of basic values” as an important factor in achieving Vintage Love. You idea that “basically I’m saying that we don’t like each other” I would need to hear some more about – so please share. I’ve got two ideas to add.

      One is that I am guessing your thinking is somewhat related to thinking that “agreement” is comforting. The more the better. I think one of the common basic changes in values that people headed to Vintage Love is a fundamental rejection of “agreement”. I must admit that when I am confronted with an agreeable person, I get tend to get guarded – my Lizard wakes up. The opposite of feeling comforted. I ran into this phenomenon in Vintage Love couples before I knew the term, before I ever heard about Imago – in the 1980s. “Yup, yup, yup, Mr. Turtle,” said the old guy. “We think if two people are agreeing, at least one is lying.” Twas quite a shock to me. And so I tend to see Vintage Lovers more as the caretakers of a space where people don’t need to agree, are not pushed to agree, and feel more guaranteed of safety when the disagree. Anyway it’s a thought. Tis my experience that with the freedom of diversity and more more collection of similar experiences, I find Vintage Lovers sharing a lot of common terms.

      The second thing I’ll add is my concern that the topic of Purpose, which you’ll see mentioned in my Map of Relationship, can bring about a situation where Vintage Lovers separate. I have no model as to how Purpose fits into partner selection. My experience of Purpose is that it often shows up as mid-life crisis, and such stages of life. Tis possible that as a couple matures alongside each other, their discovery of Purpose could be pretty different from each other. E.g. one could be a childcare specialist and one a far lands explorer. Could lead to a lot of tension. This may be what you are referring to.

      By the way, I am unclear about whether you are speaking (when you say “we don’t like each other”) about your experience with your partner(s) or couples in general. I’ve seen up close well over 3000 couples, most more or less clearly wanting Vintage Love and are blocked. The “reasons” they come up with for their trouble is certainly dramatically varied, and I respect their thinking.

      • Hi,
        “we don’t like each other” for me means exactly what you said about Purpose: we matured together, I had some sort of mid-life crisis and found out that I am very drawn to a different life style than his, and yes, this brings tension, not understanding each other, and little common ground between us. Like the fact that he doesn’t find my view on life interesting and vice-versa. Because my different views on lifestyle (more toward downsizing) I also feel that I am not attracted to him anymore.
        I didn’t mean we need “agreement”, because I recently started to conquer my “need” to agree with everybody and please other people, and I feel my self-esteem is higher. It’s just that I feel we are diverging from each other and I’m drawn to people who share similar life views with me.
        I am a little torn between what I want from life and keeping the relationship with him (but not just keeping it – making it worth, fulfilling).
        Thanks Al for your kindness.

        • Now if either of you approached me and said, “I wanna stay close with this person. Here are our challenges. What would you do?” then it looks fairly clear where to start. But I get the impression you are seeking support at pulling the plug on this relationship. I say, “Go for it.”

          Either it will work out fine for both of you OR one or both of you will learn cool lessons. Either way you both win. (Will probably be a bunch of pain along the way, but learning almost always seems to involve some hurting.)

  3. Dear Al,
    I’ve been reading through your website for a while, I’m familiar with your concepts and I find most of them helpful, but I have one question. You seem very optimistic about every relationship, all seem to you like they are worth and possible to repair… but what about a codependent relationship of 15 years, the wife is codependent and has tons of resentment for the husband, who eroded her fragile personality for years, by dominating her life, interests, thoughts, everything, through emotional abuse, shaming, insistent requests etc. Now the husband doesn’t understand her issues and thinks their relationship was good, he considers he has nothing to change about himself, and since she started introspection and learning and growing, he thinks of her that she is similar to a fanatic religious person (there is no religion involved, just plain psychology). In other words, he doesn’t understand her search of self (he is not an introspective man). Plus there was a long emotional affair on the wife’s side, which they cannot overcome. And there is a child involved.
    She wants to divorce and continue her growth journey (finally) without the blockage that comes from husband.
    Why shouldn’t she divorce?

    • Hi Marta, Good questions. Perhaps I am not clear enough. If the person you are speaking of wants to divorce, let her do it. I’m fine with that. I make suggestions based on what I’ve learned but I hope people won’t take my suggestions as some kind of order. Reading your example I prefer that path forward that leads most likely to Vintage Love in the shortest way. The simplest/quickest path is to divorce the kind of relationship, the dysfunctional patterns of communication and control attempts, get rid of all that, but keep the partner who is ready to learn, too. A longer path is to divorce the partner she chose, take a break, for years maybe, find/chose a new partner (who will likely by similar), get into the Power Struggle again, and then start to learn the lessons. Nothing wrong with this path – just longer.

      In your example for me the critical issue is self-responsibility and blaming. How does this gal learn to be responsible for her part, not his part, in the chaos and learn to fix her part? All about Boundaries. A big challenge.

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