The 50% success rate of marriage in modern day America makes perfect sense to me. As a Licensed Online Therapist and married person, I’ve seen and experienced my fair share of successful and unsuccessful partnerships. Above all, ONE thing has become crystal clear: people pair up because of shared traumas rather than shared interests. And very very few people are aware of this fact. Let me explain…
Harvel Hendrix wrote all about this phenomenon in his bestseller, Getting the Love You Want. Most humans experience some degree of trauma or wounding from the beginning of life, onward. If what the Buddha said is true, Life is Suffering, this is not a shocker. One or more of those traumas will be experienced as such because they lack resolution or the resolution that occurred left essential needs unmet or caused further wounding. These early childhood wounds have a major influence how we relate to others since trauma almost always include other people. Typically, the first several ‘traumas’ in life are connected to our parents since they are our primary relationships. These early, completely natural and expected experiences set the tone for how we will relate to all people and especially our lovers, going forward.
Freud described a human tendency toward what he called the repetition compulsion. We continually re-create our most painful experiences seeking an alternate outcome. Since many of our traumas are preverbal, we may not even consciously know what exactly we are re-creating. But, we keep engaging with people in highly patternistic ways, re-enacting the same dynamics and/or conflicts, hoping and subconsciously desperate to elicit the outcome that we originally wanted or needed. Let me give you a real-life example:
We have a woman named Tasha. For some unclear reason, she keeps dating guys who cheat on her. Every single time she discovers the infidelity, she is De.Va.State.Ted. She is emotionally destroyed. She feels like the ultimate fool, blaming herself for being ‘so stupid’ and ‘so blind’ and with every incident, her self-esteem tanks deeper and deeper. The self-hatred is profound. Tasha seeks therapy. It turns out that after some reflection, Tasha reveals to herself that she still feels unresolved about her father who walked out on her when she was only 18 months old. She’s never met him and has no memory of him. She’s never understood ‘why her father didn’t want her’ and realizes that this abandonment feels like a personal rejection. Every time Tasha begins a new relationship, she is unconsciously seeking the loving acceptance, devotion, and permanence that her father failed to provide. Every time another man betrays her, the original injury is re-injured. Her internalized beliefs that she is ‘not good enough,’ ‘worthless,’ ‘unloveable,’ and ‘leave-able’ are all reaffirmed.
Why does Tasha continually just happen to be attracted to men with fidelity issues? The answer is twofold: her subconscious is seeking a reparative experience and the men that are attracted to her likely have their own repetition compulsions that Tasha is well suited to help re-create.
Here’s what happens when we ‘fall in love’. Our highly intelligent body/mind/spirit recognizes a perfectly ripe opportunity to get a deeply compromising internal conflict corrected. We are constantly seeking wholeness, hunting down lost and amputated parts of ourselves, in order to live as our fullest, brightest version. When we meet someone who will potentially harm us in the same ways we were harmed very early on, we are also offered an opportunity for healing. Because if somehow we can find a way to create the outcome we need/want in order to change the narrative that “I am worthless” or “I am unloveable,” it is totally worth the risk! We become enamored, entranced, engulfed in a new opportunity to change our past and therefore our future. That’s Love, folks, however unsexy it may seem. But the beauty of this truth is that the Love we ‘feel’ toward another person is actually Love of the Self. We are the only ones who Love ourselves enough to keep trying, relentlessly, to heal our hearts.
Here’s the catch — and truth behind the 50/50 martial success rate. When we pair up, without knowing how we are re-creating our core traumas, we have a 50/50 chance at getting a corrective experience. There are only two ways for it to go, either we get re-wounded or we get a different outcome. It’s that simple. Every single new relationship has this 50/50 chance. Unless, you are willing to do the difficult work of catching on to yourself.
I offer a service designed specifically for this task. I provide proactive couples counseling to help new couples reflect upon their earliest childhood disappointments and determine how they’ve continued to be influenced by them as adults. We uncover the hidden patterns, the hopes, and fears that stem from our very first relationships. As people catch on to themselves, they have more control over how they choose to respond to their partner and how they elicit behaviors from their partner. When you have two people, willing to provide a corrective experience for one another, and ultimately for the Self, you have a real shot at success. When you have two people, newly in love, without a shred of awareness, you have a crap shoot.