Whatever we seek in life,
we need an ideal to inspire us.
We need an image of what is possible.
A portrait of our highest hopes.
This is especially true of love.
We need a clear picture
of what real true happy lasting love relationship IS.
Once we have that picture of the ideal,
we become able to imagine
what it would be like to have a love like that.
And by observing how a couple with such a love relates,
we become able to understand
what their happy relationship is made of.
So let’s begin by asking:
Whose happy love relationship inspires you?
Is there a couple in your family
that you hope your relationship will turn out to be like?
Do you have friends whose loving marriage
encourages and inspires you to build one like theirs?
I hope you do have real life examples in your own world
that you can learn from
and that provide a tangible vision of love
that encourages you.
But what if you don’t?
I sure didn’t.
I didn’t grow up with happy marriages around me.
My parents loved each other but were in a tragic relationship,
ruined by my father’s alcoholism and my mother’s mental illness.
Nevertheless, they both gave me a great deal of love
and encouraged me to find love.
Thus I began with a hopeful heart,
though without an example to guide me.
If you grew up in an ill or broken home,
you too may not have an example of happy parents.
You may not be feeling at all hopeful about your own potential
to create an ideal love relationship.
So how do we fill the void?
What can we do if we have no role models around us
of couples with a happy love relationship?
Well, we seek them out in the big wide world.
So ask yourself this:
Who is the happiest couple you have ever read about?
Or seen in a movie?
Or watched sing in a video?
I can think of several famous couples who look to me to be genuinely happy:
Blake Shelton and Gwen Stefani
Keith Urban and Nicole Kidman
Ryan Reynolds and Blake Lively
Austin Butler and Kaia Gerber
Does one of these couples inspire you?
Or is there another pair of devoted lovebirds you love to read about?
Whoever inspires you, do read all about them!
Read their interviews in which they talk about
what they value and respect in each other
and how they keep their love strong through tough times.
In your imagination, go ahead and feel what it would be like
to be in a relationship like theirs.
Try it on!
Or maybe, like me, you have found your happy couple in a novel or in a poem.
My ideal is the man and woman created by D. H. Lawrence
in his exquisite novel Lady Chatterley’s Lover
and the love described by Elizabeth Barrett Browning
in her sonnet How Do I Love Thee?
written to her husband Robert Browning.
If you have such an ideal story or poem
imagine it is about YOU.
What is the essence of this happy relationship I am trying on?
You will gain insight on what a fulfilling love relationship means to you.
The power of identification
Whether the couple you choose to hold up as your ideal
is in your family, among your friends,
is a famous couple, or is an artistic creation
your goal must be to build an identification with them
and with their happiness in love.
Identification is a very powerful phenomenon.
If the marriages you saw as a child were sick, unhappy or broken,
the biggest danger to you is that you may have identified with them.
You may have identified with their unhappiness —
and with their failure in love.
If you identify with their failure,
you may repeat it in your own life.
Freud discovered what he called the repetition compulsion.
We are compelled to repeat in active form
what we passively suffered in childhood.
Thus the child who was physically abused
is at high risk of physically abusing his or her own children.
And the child of miserable divorced parents
is at high risk of choosing a partner with whom a miserable divorce will occur.
We live out our identifications.
Sick or healthy, we unconsciously live them out.
A healthy identification can overcome a sick one,
but only if we expose and reject the sick one.
We have to actively face and conquer the undertow–
the downward pull of our compulsion
to repeat what we saw and experienced.
We are not doomed to repeat the failure we saw
as long as we challenge ourselves to wake up
and take a different path:
“Why would I be a passive puppet, a helpless robot,
and simply repeat the misery of my parents???”
“Why don’t I stand up tall
and set a NEW and HEALTHY example for MY family
by creating a HAPPY love relationship instead!!!”
By challenging our unconscious passivity
and actively identifying with the positive image of a happy couple
we give ourselves the tools to win.
We build our capacity to create our ideal love relationship.
You have the power to DO this.
I did it, and you can, too.
PS For more on how to create a happy love relationship,
please see my previous posts:
How can I tell if the person I meet would make a good partner?
How do I build a lasting relationship?
What is love?