What do you do when you see the man of your dreams right before you — the one you asked God for help in finding, the one you took out a personal ad for? What else: You marry him. And then you live happily ever after, right?
The answer is “yes” — unless you happen to suffer from a myriad of unresolved childhood wounds and a partner whose issues match your own, which of course is a fairly common thing.
My husband is the man who, on our first date, I instinctively “knew” had nearly all the characteristics of both my parents, including their narcissism. He seemed critical and judgmental. He also seemed kind, gentle, compassionate and highly ethical — all qualities I longed for in a partner and all qualities I knew much about.
So, at age 36 (on that same first date), I knew that he would be the man I would marry.
I was a spitfire — passionate, creative, outgoing, intelligent and cute. He was tall, handsome and smart as well as stoic and reserved. He had children from a previous marriage, and I knew he was a great family man and provider. We made a perfect pair. We were from different backgrounds and faiths, but his (subsequent) conversion to mine cemented it all. I seemingly had everything I ever wanted.
Now, 17 years later, we continue our dance of intimacy — still together, but still apart. We’re married, but do not have the strong sense of connection and deep love that I dreamed of. The Imago principle says that we marry our greatest challenge and the person who will heal our deepest wounds. On a primal level, we both share so much childhood trauma and confusion. But, in our daily life, we’re really good parents and have raised two generations of outstanding children.
Here’s the thing: We come at each other at every twist and turn. And, when we’re really dancing, the tension becomes unbearable and feels impossible to resolve. I’m always seeking his love and attention and, failing to find it, feel rejected and abandoned. He’s always seeking peace and finding (ingenious) ways to be alone. I love him fiercely. He loves me, too. But we just can’t seem to get it just right.
We both have looked around at “greener pastures” and seen beautiful scenery, to be sure. But we're smart enough to know that if we can’t heal these wounds here, we’re unlikely to heal them anywhere else.
Recently, on a new therapist’s couch, we begged for help. And, during our third session, our highly skilled Buddhist therapist exalted, “You are the absolutely perfect pair. You found each other for a reason. You are here to heal!”
So began the hard work. In our latest session, we both did an “inner child” exercise.
Therapist: “Begin by looking at each other. What do you feel?”
Husband: “I feel like a kid.”
Me: “I feel like a kid, too.”
Therapist: "What does that feel like?"
Husband: “It feels like I don’t have any pressure and I’m hanging out with my best friend.”
In that exercise, we saw each other in a way we hadn’t for a long, long time. I imagined a cuter, younger, sweeter me — a small, slightly pudgy, curly-haired, sweet, fun-loving child — one who simply loves life. And I pictured him — skinny, straight-laced, bespectacled, quiet, a tad bit mischievous, but oh-so-sweet.
Since that day, I often visualize us as those two kids, holding hands and walking together in a beautiful butterfly-filled summer meadow. Two first-love sweethearts. In this scene, we are moving forward together into that larger-than-life proverbial setting sun. The scene doesn’t end there because, as young adults, we then share a passionate kiss and loving embrace. Picture two enmeshed silhouettes in front of that large yellow ball of light, worthy of a set on a Broadway stage.
I hold these images tightly in my heart. I hope he does, too.