We each have a personal narrative which emerged through our formative years, primarily moulded by our familial and cultural programming. Add in DNA and life experiences and a youth emerges with established beliefs, attitudes and desires, all evidence of the narrative. Unaware of this narrative and its strangle-hold on the emerging adult, a life unfolds less by choice and more by default to one’s programming.
This is no more evident than in how we approach love, marriage and divorce. It makes sense that since we’ve been modelled all through our childhood what relationship looks like, and what one would expect a partner to look like, that many times people choose a partner that is not too dissimilar to their parent. They end up marrying their father or mother. Of course, rebellion might result in choosing someone who is the antithesis of their parent, but the flip side of a coin is still the same coin, and this is true of this scenario.
One of the more challenging issues, given this concept, is that for many of us the roles displayed by our parents are no longer current. Never before has the inequality gap between men and women been so small, which has resulted in women being more independent, more sexually empowered, and less defined by domestic roles. In fact, we see men taking on more domestic responsibility than ever before. This means that translating programmed beliefs, attitudes and desires from our formative years can be challenging in our ‘modern’ world.
So we marry someone who possess their own personal narrative. Rose tinted glasses means we filter out the differences and only focus on the similarities of these narratives. Of course we can see each other’s faults but we rationalise that in time we can change this other person, or that we can change in order to make it work. Once the honeymoon period finishes and the impact of the differences in our narratives begin to fully emerge, the weight of the differences begin to take effect.
The hidden expectations of our programming (most of which we are not conscious of) fail to be met, and resentment, frustration, judgement or disappointment emerge (to name a few). When these feelings are sustained over longer periods, we become less attracted to this other person and the intimacy begins to disappear, resulting in infrequent sexual intimacy. Because we feel trapped, we also begin to feel loveless or unloveable and resort to addictive behaviours in order to cope with our predicament. This might lead to shopping or gambling addictions, which places the relationship under financial stress. It could result in alcohol or food addictions that compromises health and wellbeing.
If we haven’t experienced this personally we have certainly witnessed it in the lives of friends and family. Unresolved, these all can eventually lead to separation and divorce.
So what does a personal narrative look like and how can it impact on a relationship. I thought I might share mine to help create a picture.
What does a personal narrative look like?
The full understanding of my narrative has only been fairly recent. It reads ‘In order to matter, I seek validation in the world of the feminine.’ Even from my earliest memories I preferred to be with girls. Of course I went through life with my cultural programming of acting out from having been born a male, but I was more at home in the world of the feminine than I was in the masculine world. It was often said that I had a highly evolved feminine side. (I want to state, I am not gay.)
How can the narrative it impact on a relationship?
Even my career choices saw me in professions highly represented by women. I freely enjoyed the company of women, and in fact preferred their company to that of men. If the narrative of my partner included the idea that men couldn’t be trusted, or that they needed to be the favourite, or that the relationship provided their security, you can imagine how my behaviour could be seen as threatening. You can also imagine the various impacts that might have on the relationship.
How can being aware of the narrative help a relationship?
No longer needing to live in the world trying to be a stereotypical male because I have a male body, I could finally be more mindful of who I truly was. Being aware of my narrative I could be more mindful of my partner’s needs and better communicate who I am and how I related to women. I have been in two previous long term relationships and my narrative had a significant impact on why those relationships ended. I would go so far to suggest that most relationships that end in separation do so because of the narratives of the parties involved.
I know this is simplified, but I share it as an example of how this can play out. Only when we can recognise our narrative can we fully understand why we are the way we are. And only then can we identify the way that impacts on our relationships. Otherwise, we are none the wiser and we continue to do what we have always done (out of not being aware) and getting and creating what we have always got.
If you are dealing with separation or divorce, there is a good chance that you and your partner have no idea of what your personal narratives are. Getting your narrative may or may not resolve the relationship, but it will mean you will be more self-loving, while being respectful and loving of your partner. It will allow you both the opportunity to seperate lovingly and respectfully.
It will also mean that if you do move on, being more aware of your narrative you will be more mindful of who you would choose as a new companion. The chances are that not being aware of your narrative, you will choose someone similar to your last partner, since you will still be functioning from your programming. That means you will end up dealing with the same issues and maybe dealing with another divorce.
At EAP, we help people become aware of their narrative, allowing them to create a new way of experiencing life and relationships.
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