Every argument with your partner contains a secret wish for growth
For most children “good enough” parenting, enough of the time is all that’s needed for healthy development. At the same time, since children are exquisitely sensitive and adaptive they pick up on their parents’ nuanced non-verbal messages about what their parents can handle.
Moreover, each child has her own temperament, sensitivities, sensory thresholds and biological rhythms that also impact how she interprets her parents’ intentions, how easily she is comforted or soothed and what frightens her.
The child’s psyche naturally shuts-down or suppresses urges, wishes and desires that are deemed dangerous or unacceptable in an attempt to preserve an essential connection with her parent, whom she is dependent on for her survival. This is how parts of ourselves become sealed-off, even to our own experience.
Our relationship with our intimate partner can re-awaken the rejected parts of ourselves that have gone ‘underground’ that are yearning to be seen, known, loved, cherished and integrated. However, we also risk tremendous disappointment (or even rage) if we share these parts of ourselves and our partner does not respond positively to our delicate, fledgling strivings.
Intimate partners unconsciously look to one another to validate and ‘grow’ the parts of themselves they could not acknowledge, experience or express in their families-of-origin. While relationships can potentially be catalysts for these sacred developmental tasks, they can also become stifling or outright damaging.
The problem is, most couples don’t see what’s truly driving their arguments and instead, get stuck in endless cycles of defensiveness, withdrawal or angry demand. Some partners become so disillusioned and filled with contempt that they give up in hopeless resignation.
The good news is that it’s never too late to turn things around, to get meaningful support and to acknowledge what the real struggle is actually about. So many of the couples I’ve worked with are amazed at how hopeful, expansive and ALIVE they feel again when they take a stand for their own and one another’s growth.
Next time you find yourself getting triggered or becoming defensive, slow down and become curious about what you’re actually fighting for. How can you acknowledge and talk with your own inner child, even if your partner is unable to in the moment?