We are conditioned to believe we are “less than” without a successful relationship as defined by the dominant culture that centers the nuclear family as the right kind of family. Heterosexual. Male and female parents with children.
Someday my prince will come. When I meet that special someone, I will be happy. What’s new – are you seeing someone? Always a bridesmaid, never a bride. Old maid. Loneliness is the new smoking. You’re a failure if your marriage fails.
Shaming ourselves for failing to have a “you’re my best friend, love you forever” marriage is like a woman with a healthy size ten body feeling like a failure for not having a size one body. We put too much pressure on a primary romantic relationship as a cure-all and an indicator of success. What if we were to first focus on emotional maturity, learning to like ourselves, and being on our own side?
We do not live in a kind, supportive culture. Extended family support is often missing as people move away for jobs or adventure. Some parents are abusive to their children and many more are disconnected – pressured and exhausted by the demands of life. People who are having trouble “coping” are stigmatized as having something wrong with them. Anxiety and depression were skyrocketing even before Covid-19.
The rise of the nuclear family after World War Two as the ideal has contributed to widespread unhappiness, a crisis in parenting, isolation, and neglect and abuse of children. We bring our shaky selves into relationships that can’t possibly fulfill the holes in our hearts. We leave childhood with deeply held core deficiency beliefs that we are not good enough. We both romanticize what a relationship will bring, and have a profound distrust of and limited ability to form and sustain intimate connections.
Divorce rates in the US are about 40% with problems with money and sex being the biggest contributors. Intimacy disorders. Partners turn against each other. How could we expect anything different when we turn against ourselves, shaming and believing we are somehow inherently wrong or bad?
To add to that, what if you don’t match the dominant heteronormative conditioning? Until the last few decades, we never saw positive representations of LGBTQ2S+ in popular media. Ellen, Neil Patrick Harris, Laverne Cox and other brave people came out and let us know more about who they are. There are still a range of reactions and consequences for a professional athlete to come out publicly or for your co-worker to bring their partner to a company function. This adds additional pressure to our romance and relationships.
“We trade authenticity for attachment.” Gabor Maté, MD
Join us Sunday for part two of looking into conditioning around relationships. What is your childhood conditioning? What are your beliefs about relationships and what your relationship status reflects back about you?
Children have little power and few choices – we trade authenticity for connection to make it through to being an adult. Those patterns stay with us until we see and heal them. How necessary is that trade now? We’ll look at romantic relationships, friendships, family and work. Where do you trade authenticity for fitting in? And how can you widen your window of tolerance and be more true to yourself?
Childhood Conditioning and Adult Relationships