Today's post will be the final installment in a series which has looked at different aspects of human relationships as outlined in Genesis.
Harville Hendrix, the relationship theoretician who has most influenced me, writes that we are attracted to our partners for their positive and negative resemblance to important people from our childhood, usually our parents. He describes the radar-like process by which we scan our prospective mates, finding a match only when we see someone who contains both these positive and negative qualities. He posits that the real work of our marriages, the real but usually unconscious contract we sign on for when we get engaged, is that our partner will help us face the demons and baggage we bring from our childhood by being just enough like one of our parents to make us deal with these issues. The purpose behind this is another wrinkle on our striving for our wholeness: for us to have the opportunity to transcend the programming and wounds we inherited from our parents, who inherited them from their parents, and so on through the generations.
Several weeks ago, in recommending films which do a good job of portraying the complexities of relationships, I wrote of All About Us, with Michelle Pfeiffer and Bruce Willis. There is a marvelous scene in there which I have used during talks to demonstrate exactly this principle. Bruce Willis and Michelle Pfeiffer are just about ready to "kiss and make up" in bed after a period of estrangement, when suddenly a voice in her head speaks up to spoil the moment. Rob Reiner, who directs the movie, has the voice embodied by Michelle Pfeiffer's mother who is suddenly actually sitting next to her on the bed. As soon as Bruce Willis responds with the tapes he learned about intimacy from his parents, his parents appear next to him on bed. Suddenly what started as an attempt at reconnection between two estranged spouses blossoms into a cacophony of competing voices from both sets of parents and Bruce Willis and Michelle Pfeiffer -- all of whom are in bed. The scene ends with an ugly thud.
Genesis 2:24 says: “thus shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife, and they shall be as one flesh.” Yes it is referring to a physical leaving of the home. But it also refers to an emotional leaving and a psychological leaving. Each partner must cleave unto whomever their partner actually is: without the filter of their respective parents, without the tapes they play from their personal history channel. Only when we leave our father and mother psychologically as well as physically are we truly freed up to cleave unto our partner.
Do you have a question about your marriage or relationship? Ask Josh in the comments below or email him at email@example.com.
Josh Gressel, Ph.D., is a couples therapist based in Pleasant Hill, CA. Visit his website at joshgressel.com.