Interviewer: Hidden beliefs about relationships number one:
If you are with the right person the relationship will work. If it's not working, it must not be the right person. A relationship will only work with the right person.
What exactly is this and what should people do instead?
Laurie: It's actually the belief in soul mates that says there's only one right person out there for you. It's a belief that is wonderful at the beginning but it leads to disappointment, if not panic, when problems come up for the first time.
It may cause people to just decide this is the wrong person, it's time to end the relationship and never even learn to solve problems together.
Jonathan: I think what they need to do instead is to learn to focus on what's really important in the relationship and to talk about it.
Talk about what's desirable, what's truly a deal killer, what they want, and learn how to discuss and solve problems when they come up because they're going to come up. It happens in every relationship and it's not a sign of anything other than they are two different people.
Laurie: The thing is that soul mates are really a myth and every relationship has to be created.
If a marriage is going to last people have to learn the skills and be willing to deal with the kinds of feelings that come up that are not as happy as they were during the courtship.
Jonathan: If they don't do that they're going to get disillusioned, they're going to get angry at the partner for not being the perfect person they thought they were.
They will blame them, they wind up looking outside for somebody better, and they wind up being very vulnerable to having affairs or having serial marriages.
Interviewer: Tell me just a little bit more about this soul mate thing because that's actually something you read a lot about, you hear a lot about, especially on top psychology-type talk shows and things like that, people talk about their soul mate. What are people trying to accomplish with that?
Jonathan: It's kind of a nice, mystical, romantic idea that there's the perfect person. The truth is that every single person out there has flaws and has strong points, and anybody that you're reasonably attracted to, from our perspective, is somebody that you could work out a really good relationship with using relationship building skills.
Interviewer: Does this mean that, instead of saying that there's only one person out there, there's a certain type of person that is better suited for you than another?
Laurie: I would think that there are a whole variety of people. I wouldn't say that there's a certain type out there, there's just a person that you might hit it off with somewhere.
It might be somebody who's very much like you or it might be somebody whose needs and feelings are very complimentary to yours so that you can take care of them and they can take care of you.
I think one of the main beliefs that people have that gets in the way of marriage is the belief that we are all the same. We are not, we are very, very different.
If you think there's a soul mate, it means that we're already fixed, we're not going to grow, we're not going to change, we are the way we are, and we're perfect for each other. That just isn't true.
Very often people will get married and then what happens is, everything they thought about the other is wonderful, is there, but then something else will show up.
I was working with a client on the phone the other day. This was a second marriage. People generally don't come to us with this kind of problem when it's a first marriage, they just find another one. In the second marriage...
Interviewer: They try again?
Laurie: They find another partner instead of working it through with the first marriage.
Interviewer: Do they typically look for someone completely different than the first marriage or do they end up with someone who's very similar and just repeat the same mistakes?
Laurie: They repeat the same mistake. It's somebody who's wearing a different mask almost. They think, “Oh, this time it will be different. This time I've got the right one” but it doesn't turn out that way.
Jonathan: You have a bunch of criteria for what's going to be a good mate. When you start to form a relationship you're evaluating the other person, sort of testing them and seeing if they match your list, and that kind of thing.
That's a very different procedure and not a very helpful one compared to what can we create together? What is it that together we can do and create that is satisfying to both of us? It's different than testing them to see if they match your standard.
Interviewer: Okay, excellent. Anything else about this that we should be aware of?
Laurie: Well, my client who thought it was perfect, discovered it wasn't, called me when she discovered all the messes her husband had hidden in his closet, and then she worked out a way that she could help him clean up those messes instead of running, which was her first impulse.
Interviewer: So she decided to stay in there and actually work at it this time instead of cutting and running?
Laurie: [affirmative] Mm hmm.
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