OPPOSITES ATTRACT THEN TRY TO KILL EACH OTHER
According to Harriet Goldhor Lerner, author of The Dance of Anger (Harper and Row Publishers, 1985) opposites may attract, but they don’t always live happily ever after. While it may be reassuring to live with someone who will express parts of one’s own self that one is afraid to acknowledge, the arrangement does have its inevitable costs. A woman who expresses feelings for herself and her husband will end up behaving “hysterically” and “irrationally”. The man who relies on his partner to do the “feeling work” for him will increasingly lose touch with this important aspect of himself. Therefore, when the time comes for him to draw upon his emotional resources, he may find he has none. While we know and understand that society discourages men from getting too emotionally connected or expressive, the lack thereof creates enormous problems for the man and his partner in relationships. The problem comes in when we, as women, manage our partners half of the relationship thereby protecting them from their own feelings. Women are universally good at managing their partner’s half of the relationship. It’s because we are nurturing and can express ourselves easily that we fall into this trap. When you establish this pattern early in the relationship, it becomes almost impossible to change. I learned a brilliant saying from Anthony Robbins: “Kill the Monster while it’s little.” For those already in established relationships, it may be difficult to back-pedal and change things, but it is important to note that you cannot and should not continue doing the feeling work for your partner. When you react strongly to an injustice done to your partner, you are robbing him of having his own strong feelings about the situation. You actually protect him from recognizing his own anger. When you dive in to strongly criticize the party who offended him he is left with the simpler job of coming to that person’s defense. It can drive you around the bend! Very often women expect their partners to defend them when they can and should defend themselves. The perfect example of this is in-laws. When your parents-in-law offend you, descend upon your home without adequate warning, or overstay their welcome (or give advice not asked for), why ask your partner to come to your defense? You are quite capable of approaching your in-laws and calmly explaining how you feel. By the same token, if your parents offend your partner, it is not your job to tell them off. That’s his job! Don’t fight his battles for him, you will only create a spineless jellyfish in the process and that will drive a wedge between you because no woman wants a spineless man. When we stop over-functioning for others and start acting for ourselves, our under-functioning partners are more likely to acknowledge and deal with their own anxieties.
Author: The BITCH’S Guide to Dating