Thursday, August 20, 2009

Making Up Is Hard To Do

Most of us have had - and some of us still have - the fantasy that if someone really knocks your socks off, and if they are a scintillating, fantastic person with no problems, then they will make a constantly delightful, always exciting mate, and life will be one big high, all free and easy, for evermore.

Sorry to break the news, but it just doesn’t happen like that, at least not to members of the human race. The fact is, we're all - emphasis on the all, including men, women, straights, gays, and others - fallible, sensitive, vulnerable people, with blind spots and weaknesses. It's exciting to meet someone and feel that old sexual chemistry; but when you get really close, sooner or later the other chemistry inevitably kicks in - the chemistry of buttons getting pushed.

Nobody pushes buttons like those we come closest to. It's a fact of life. When we're born, we start pushing our parents' buttons, and they push ours, and from there on, you can be assured that later in life, anyone you become intimate with will eventually push your buttons, and vice versa. And that especially includes the one person you were most sure was in no way like either of your parents.

That's because, in any couple, both parties bring their relationship history with them - meaning that how we saw our own parents relate to each other, and how we related to our parents, is deeply rooted in our psyches. Once the initial potency of the chemistry between new lovers begins to cool down, our buried relationship history will usually turn up like a bad penny and get acted out, in one way or another.

That is the point where the real work of intimacy begins. Intimacy is not about never having fights and always having good times. Intimacy is about recognizing that we are always vulnerable to each other, always needing one another, and always capable of hurting one another. It's about learning to respect that vulnerability while being more and more honest with each other. It's about making it through hard times, each other's hard times. And it's about learning how to have fights that end - not somewhere in the middle with nothing resolved, but all the way to a point of better understanding and deeper connection, with real apologies and forgiveness.


That's how intimate trust and mutual appreciation deepen and grow. When human beings get close, we inevitably come into conflict. Personal growth for couples comes through struggling, over time, to learn how to negotiate conflicts. Repetitive arguments are signals that each member of the couple - not just one, but both - needs to grow, change, bend. Couples who get really good at repairing the disruptions that inevitably arise between them become able to breathe clearer emotional air. When a couple has learned well how to make up, how to apologize and to forgive, they have more than just fun - they have love.