You can Live Without It

When we were little children, we were completely dependent upon our parents for the details of our survival. Our "relationship" with our parents, although not full person-to-person, still brought us all we needed to keep us alive and functioning. Instinctively, at a very early age, we knew that without the relationship we could not survive. As we got a little older, the rational part of our minds confirmed this intuitive reasoning. Without our relationship with our parents we would survive extremely poorly or for a limited period of time. The possibility that some relative, friend of the family or government agency would take over in their stead would enter the minds of only the rarest of children.

The equation is elegant in its simplicity: mother and father equals survival. Later in life, for most of us, it becomes: “Relationships equal survival.” It is this that becomes a lifetime trap for many of us. To arrive at true maturity as adults, we must, all of us, come to both the intuitive and the logical conclusion that upon becoming an adult, the old equation no longer applies in its original basic sense. Now, as an adult, we can provide for ourselves the basic necessities that were given to us as a child.

For many people, however, this new reality only seems logical to their thinking, reasoning mind. There remains some part of them that still insists: “Relationships equal survival.” These people enter each relationship from a position of fear, a weakness that flaws the relationship and dooms it to failure from its inception. It will fail to become a real person-to-person interaction while it exists, and will usually fail to exist at all after a few years. One or both people finally reach the point where they can no longer tolerate what the fear is doing to them. Oddly enough, the one with the greatest fear of losing the relationship will often do all of the things that would guarantee its loss, all the while proclaiming, "Don't leave me, I can't live without you!"

The reality is that they are sick of living with the pain of fear and want to get out of the situation that they feel is causing that pain, but the child- like part of them believes that they can't survive outside of the relationship. When we enter into a relationship from a position of weakness caused by fear of loss, it is impossible from the beginning to establish ourselves as adults dealing with other adults. We invite the other person to treat us as a child and become our pseudo-parent. Often, if they themselves are not fully mature, they will fill this role automatically, some reluctantly and with great anger and some taking to it like the proverbial duck to water. We thus create in our lives a variety of pseudo-parents, some benign and some tyrannical according to their own liking for the role. None of this does anything for our own dignity, and if we dare think about it at all, we realize that we are miserable beyond all description with what we have done with our lives.

Many of these sad child-adults begin to do all of the things that would seem calculated to wreck any relationship. The unconscious desire is that if they are inept enough, unlovable enough, the other person will take the initiative and one day walk out, thereby releasing them from a misery that they don't have the courage to get out of themselves. So they burn the roast, over-salt the stew, stay out late and come home drunk, leave dirty underwear strewn about, flirt with other people, leave beer cans on the good furniture and on and on and on. Usually, there are innumerable small explosions from the offended "parent", and it's then that the “child” cries, "I'll change, please don't leave me, I won't do it again." But they do, until one day it all ends in a split, often a divorce, sometimes a shooting and too often just living together as complete strangers for the sake of the children.

If you are in such a situation now, you know that it feels as though there can be no solution. For all of the years of childhood the equation "relationship equals survival" was a part of us all. For many of us, the adult years have been a striving to keep that equation intact. To the extent that we succeed, we remain children.

©2010, Irv Engel

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One's life has value so long as one attributes values to the life of others, by means of love, friendship, indignation and compassion., - Simone de Beauvoir

Irv Engel is a successful salesman, builder, husband, father, grandfather and friend. He loves to sing, dance and is currently taking an art class to learn water color painting. He is the creator and coordinator of the Relationship Training Course for Men. This book, The Real Deal: A Guide to Achieving Successful and Real Relationships, is the result of hundreds of hours spent writing down the lessons learned in a lifetime of marriage, divorce, re-marriage and raising four kids. He hosts free telephone conference coaching sessions in the evening or on weekends.The conference is a good way to find out about relationship coaching and to ask any personal questions around your own relationships without risk to your money or your privacy. E-mail him for phone number, access code and schedule. Irv and Monica live in Lake Forest, Calif. They have eleven grandchildren. They have celebrated their thirty-fifth wedding anniversary.

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