Monday, October 16, 2006

Imago for Singles - Answering Questions

In a comment to the previous post, detailing the Imago theory for singles, Karma of JuBuQuest asked two questions which I thought merit a separate post.
The first question was this:

“I think that there's a contradiction here - that the person you fall in love with is the right person AND/BUT it will only work if the person is a willing partner in this journey of healing.”

For Karma this is a contradiction since, as she commented, in her relationship, she is perfectly willing to do the necessary healing work while her partner absolutely refuses to do so.
I can think of several solutions to this contradiction:

1 – You have not met the perfect fit
According to Imago theory you will be attracted to a person with the same wounds as you have, just opposite defenses. This does not mean that the person you will be attracted to is a perfect fit. Perhaps you fit enough to be attracted to each other, but not to the extent that you can actually heal each other in all areas. It may happen that you will heal yourself to some degree with that person – and then, when you reach a dead end – you will move on to a different kind of partner, one who has the capability to move ahead with you.
Another variation on this theme is this: occasionally one partner will be more adept at using the relationship to heal, leaving the other partner “in the dust” so to speak, so that one partner becomes bored or frustrated with the relationship, while the other one has no idea that anything is wrong. Since women are raised to value, and even over-value the area of feelings, and men are usually trained to deny that they even have feelings, then usually the women will take responsibility for the relationship while the man is left to wonder, perhaps during a break in the game, if he even is in a relationship. In an Imago relationship, the woman would attempt to learn how to stop taking sole responsibility for the relationship, and the man would try to learn how to be a responsible partner in the relationship. This is not easy at all for either of them. In any case, I have known married women who, for some reason, developed spiritually to the point where their husbands seemed like children to them, and they then had to face the choice – either to leave a stagnant relationship or else stay with the man they married, raised children with and still love.

2 – You have met the perfect fit
If you are stuck in a relationship where your partner refuses to do any of the healing work required then this may mean that you have chosen such a partner exactly for that reason – so you will be able to be in a relationship without having to deal with the many painful wounds that it arouses.
If you are wondering how anyone can fool themselves in such a way, let me assure you – self-deception is a human condition, and no one is exempt. I have lost count of the many times I have found out that I had been deluding myself about all kinds of things. This happens a lot, if you are dedicated to finding out the truth about yourself.
You may wonder why anyone would want to be in such a relationship. I think it is possible, if you were trained to feel absolutely worthless unless you were in a relationship with a person of the opposite sex. In that case even a bad relationship is better than nothing. It seems to me that many women are trained in this manner.

In any case, at the moment you are facing a situation where you are basically alone in the relationship, so the relevant question is:

How long should you wait till your partner wakes up and joins you?
That’s a tough one. Hendrix is adamant that a bad relationship cannot continue in a healthy manner if both partners are not committed to the healing process, and he definitely says that such a relationship is better terminated than continued.
But that still begs the question– how much time do you have to give your partner – whom you love – in order to “get with the program” so to speak?
I would think that is an extremely individual issue.
I know my wife read the Hendrix guide for couples and then had to wait for two years until I was even willing to consider dealing with it. She was prepared to wait even though we had a lot of trouble in our relationship, to the extent that finally, she was even thinking about a divorce. At the same time I knew – and told her – that I have to finish my studies and only then I would be available to deal with all this emotional – relational- touchy-feely stuff that she is always going on about. As you can see – this was not a pleasant moment in our relationship.
There is one obvious difference here – you are not in a relationship where both partners are committed. Imago theory states that in order to be healed within a relationship both partners must be committed to it at least to the extent that they have married each other. So your case does not really fall into that category.
Your current relationship, as described on your blog, would be an experience that, according to the theory, would fall in the category of “ using your time as a single to heal yourself”.
Personally, there is some doubt in my mind as to the theory’s insistence on marriage as the sole framework for a healing relationship, but then, to put it mildly, I do not have the extent of experience that Hendrix has. (Although I must admit there was a palpable change in our relationship after we got married – as if all of a sudden we realized that it’s for real.)

The second question was:
“…it is time to move on to find someone who can truly be a partner...who won't see my wounds as things to be hidden, who won't hide their wounds, but who we can work on healing each other. Is this really what you and your wife have? It really isn't just idealistic to think this way?”

Yes we really have this.
I do not understand what you mean by being idealistic – what’s wrong with that? If being realistic like most people makes you happy then great – be a realist. If not, if the normal reality that most people live in seems to you unsatisfying, then why not dream? One thing is for sure – if you do not dream, your dream has zero chance of becoming reality.

Is The Relationship Really Healing You?
It may be that you are asking how do I know that we actually have such a relationship? Maybe this is just another case of self-deception?
Well, there are many ways to find out how your relationship is going. For one thing you can ask your partner. You can also measure, subjectively, the level of tension between you, the ease with which you communicate, how comfortable you feel in various situations around your partner as compared to a month or a year ago.
A relatively objective measure is to map out your wounds in the different areas of life (using the exercises described in the Imago guide for singles), and then you can always check your progress. Usually, healing will progress in a mutually dependent manner, especially if you do the exercises in the guide for couples.
For instance, in one such exercise each partner is supposed to compose a list of requests, things that you feel will heal you if your partner does them. Theoretically, every such request will heal not only the partner who originated it, but also the partner that complies.

Healing Wounds Related to Eating
One of the things my wife requested was that once every two weeks I prepare the Sabbath dinner. Apparently she was pretty sick of doing all the cooking by herself, and being the endlessly nurturing Mother Earth stereotype. I readily agreed to do this – I have always had an unfulfilled attraction to the kitchen and cooking, but in the environment I grew up in it was unthinkable that a man would spend his time in the kitchen. As it turns out – I enjoyed it very much. With the help of my wife, I began to learn how to cook, and soon even my wife – an excellent and extremely talented cook herself - was satisfied with the results. Due to certain circumstances, I eventually volunteered to cook the Sabbath dinner every week, to our mutual satisfaction.
I was surprised at how quickly I took to this cooking thing. From the beginning I felt completely at home in the kitchen, and even now I cannot believe how much peace of mind I get by simply cooking – I love it. I had a lot of trouble coming to terms with this new passion of mine – it’s like I have a woman inside of me, that likes to cook and clean and do stuff around the house. It feels pretty weird, but I’m happy, and my wife is very happy, so really, who could ask for more?
Well my wife , for one - recently she asked that I cook all the meals, on the Sabbath and also on weekdays! This was an unprecedented vote of confidence. For her this will be the first time that she is being taken care of by someone who actually loves her, listens to her, and cares for her. For me this is a chance to be myself – a man who knows how to nourish and nurture others, something I have always felt was there but never got out in the open. It is also a chance to heal my own childhood trauma, consisting of a mother who hated to cook and did it half-heartedly, doing just enough to fulfill her duty as a mother, but no more than that. The food was consistently mediocre and worse, and just enough for all of us to not feel hungry, but not to feel actually satisfied either. As you might imagine, none of us suffered from obesity…and I am dying to get a chance to finally do it right, and be the mother that my mother never could be. I am doing it now for my wife, and who knows – this may be the prelude to taking care of our children (God willing!).
Actually, in caring for my wife in this manner, we have come full circle.
When we first met I had existed for years on a not entirely wholesome diet of coffee and cigarettes, and as a result I looked, as my wife puts it “like a starving alley cat”.
We never spoke a word about it, but when I moved in with her she immediately began to cook enormous, delicious meals for me on a daily basis. I think I was never so happy in my life – finally I got to eat good food and lots of it everyday! My wife enjoyed cooking and enjoyed watching me eat – an environment I had never experienced. For her this was the first time she was cooking and I think it let her feel that she was a legitimate woman, and really boosted her self-confidence. As for me - I filled out to the tune of about 15 very happy kilos (about thirty pounds). Now, many years later I am only too happy to return the favor.
Where will it end? I imagine that eventually my wife will feel that her wound has been healed. Eventually I will feel that my childhood trauma has been completely healed. Then we will be free to make decisions in the area of eating and preparing food based on who we actually are and not on what we were forced to become.

A Word of Warning
This is the sort of thing that can happen to you in an Imago relationship. But I must add that this is a brief description and I skipped all the years where we were both very frustrated with our roles and we were struggling with each other in a futile, and desperate attempt to get what we need from our partner whether they wanted to give it to us or not. I also left out describing how difficult it is to change, even when the change is good for you, even if it is what you have secretly longed for your whole life. And you don’t want to hear about the continuous objections of both our families to this process.
In other words – this kind of relationship is by no means a piece of cake. It hurts – a lot! It is a lot of work, and a lot of pain, and it is not suited for the faint-hearted. People in a relationship go through this only when they absolutely have to, and only with a partner that they feel they cannot, under any circumstance, live without. I think that otherwise, it’s just too hard.


Karma said...

Again, how lucky am I to have you giving my situation so much personal attention?! You and your wife give me hope. Your relationship sounds like something I didn't even realize existed. And, it gives me hope that I can move on from my relationship with *A* and find someone who will be better for me and with whom I can engage in a process to heal.

Jerusalem Joe said...

i'm glad to be of help, and i hope that you find what you need. good luck!

Karma said...

So how did you and your wife meet?

Jerusalem Joe said...

we met by way of a miracle, or at least an extremely unlikely chain of events. definitely a story worth telling. i'll write it out and post it in a few days.

mother in israel said...

Looking forward to that story!!