On Relationship and Character Development:

There is some general knowledge in the general population about the phases of relationships. Most have heard of the concept of the honeymoon phase. The honeymoon phase comes to a close when each of the people realize that their beloved, … has some problems. It is also sometimes apparent that at least one of the people in the relationship have needs that aren’t being met in the relationship, as was previously hoped. This is where the relationship can begin to become a working relationship. But there is often resistance to this ‘work’ in the relationship. Why would anyone want to trade the fun, playful adventures of the honeymoon for ‘work’? Some aren’t willing to tend to this transition at all while others are willing, but only to a point. At this point in the relationship, a commitment of ‘til death do us part’ seems to extend one’s life in directions that are unexpected and often unwanted. But some are more willing to affirm their commitments and take greater risks for the possibility of establishing a more meaningful union.

A more meaningful union can ensue in a number of ways. New agreements can be forged, and new relationships can be formed with parts of each person that were formerly alienated. It is these alienated parts of ourselves within the relationship that have the ability to hijack the relationship. And they often do. These alienated parts want to be acknowledged and accounted. When the alienated parts of one person contact the alienated parts of a partner, conflict ensues, with each one vying for control of the situation in an attempt to get their needs met. This isn’t the case in dysfunctional relationships alone, this is the case in most relationships that reach this phase. And not all do reach this phase. Some aren’t willing to put forth the work that it takes. But those who are willing often don’t know where to begin. Some muddle for years or even decades either finding their way limping along for weeks, months or years and potentially dissolving the union sooner or later. But others realize that the union that they have forged, sometimes under God, or at least with the blessings of friends and family, are worth spending some time and effort in protecting. This is especially true when there are children counting on the success of the union.

A process of identifying the different parts of each of us is useful to individuals as it is to the union between two people. Archetypal Psychology has done a good job of providing a number of ways of looking at the sub personalities underlying the personal identity often referred to as “I”. The only capitalized pronoun (I) rests on a number of parts and ways of looking at these parts. If you have heard of the wounded child, the hero, the orphan, the wicked step mother, the rebel, the king or the wizard, you have a grasp of the concept of basic archetypes. Some archetypes are more basic than others. For example, the mother is a basic archetype. Hansel and Gretel are each specific examples of the orphan archetype. The orphan that lives within you is also specific with certain characteristics based on your personal history. But that orphan lives on within you and through you, as all archetypes do. Living a mythic life entails owning these archetypal dynamics that live through you. Identifying the mythic life that is living through you can be freeing. Providing a container in which those characters are permitted to express and be witnessed gives them a space in our lives so that they don’t fight the mature adult parts of us that want to “have a normal life”.

Engaging with your partner and a professional who can create a protected space to contain these underlying parts of yourself helps you to more fully enter, not just the working stage of a relationship, but to a relationship that is healing to you, to your partner and possibly to your children, should you have any. When we are able to get our needs met and learn to better meet each other’s needs, everyone benefits. The courage that it takes to open to the possibilities of risk often yields the potential for new meanings to emerge in one’s life and a new vigor that is often lost in the transition from honeymoon to work. The deeper meanings that emerge from these developed characters can’t help but to yield deeper character development.

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