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April 27, 2004

After idealization

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All this bridal talk has inspired me to comment on what happens after the cake is consumed --the cake being idealization . What comes next in a developing relationship is differentiation. Although rewarding in its own right, differentiation isn't nearly the fun of idealization. It also takes a long time, and there is a risk of complete polarization along the way, sometimes leading to divorce, and with schizms continuing beyond.

Differentiation can be observed at various stages of development - it is almost adorable at age 2, somewhat less appealing during adolescence and often quite excruciating in adult intimate relationships.

The amount of tumult created in a marriage during the differentiation process seems to depend on how well the couple has managed prior tasks of this sort. (For example, one could view the proverbial mother-in-law problem as one in which the married child has not sufficiently differentiated from his or her family of origin.)

Differention is quite a shock to idealizers, who think that the person that they have married or procreated, is exactly like them. Sometimes the shock is so great, and they are so angered by this discovery, that bonds are broken -- although we are generally expected to stay in relationship with our children.

As a society, in many of our myth making activities, we endlessly focus on the idealization stage, falling in love, probably because it's so much fun. We need more stories of the rewards of working through differences and coming back into connection.

There are those who marry many times and wonder what happens to all the initial passion. It all goes into differentiation, transforming itself into less attractive forms, ferociously giving us the opportunity to see all the aspects of ourselves, develop new ones and work with all of them.

Here are the rewards of good differentiaion in connection. When you have a conflict in a committed intimate relationship you have an opportunity to learn lots of things. If your partner is into contemplation, you can look together at differences, learn new ways to cope and create, identify with feelings you may never have had or wish to have, and get in touch with the dissociated parts of yourself. Usually when something really upsets you, it is a "trail head" to an unintegrated, traumatized aspect of self, that is providing unconscious guidance with poor outcome. In a committed relationship, one is required to work on some of the more difficult parts of self , because the heat generated by rubbing one's partner the wrong way, is transformative.

Partners are IMAX screens for the projection of one's own foibles. Usually it's not a pretty sight. When we can find the aspect of ourself that is resonating with our partner's hideous obnoxiousness, we then have a chance to change ourselves, and therefore the relationship.

This is what we're going for here -- connection and differentiation. And then there's always couples therapy .

Photo note: The cakes multiplied and flattened out quite a bit. Added were two cars, a house, bushes to be trimmed and much reflection. Let's hear it for differentiation and mature love. What is that cross doing there? Martyrdom? And how about that pole in the middle. Polarization? I am becoming clairphotogenerant. It sure beats being clairgustiant .

Posted by Dakota at April 27, 2004 01:51 PM