Author: Iro Dimitriou
Translator: Alexandra Petli
Companionship is a fundamental human choice and practice. We tend to choose partners by our physical attraction to them at first. We get to meet and relate to someone, when we decide that their way of thinking, their worldview matches our own. Thus, a wonderful and emotional journey begins, which lasts forever.
Or maybe not?
In the beginning of a relationship, we fall in love with every little detail of the person next to us. We experience a state of continuous euphoria, a thirst to constantly observe every little expression, even the way that person breathes, laughs and behaves. We try to discover his every aspect and we feel the luckiest people on earth. We tend to attribute to the relationship patterns that prove what a wonderful couple we are: if we are a good match, we talk about how suitable we are for each other. If we differ from each other in many aspects, we talk about how incredibly complementary we are to one another.
Our new partner is a person that we do not know very well. We fell fiercely in love, as we do not know the whole Other that is in front of us. The small piece of their personality that we did get to know, we perceive it in the way we desire, wonderful and flawless.
As our emotional bonding with our first caregiver follows us throughout our whole life and the child we carry inside us cries for love, feeling the need to love and be loved, we end up idealizing the other person without understanding it. We subconsciously want to revive the archetypical bond with our mother and more specifically the first year of our life, as Mathew Yosafat points out.
We project onto the person we have in front of us, everything we want and miss. The empirical knowledge we have for the other person, is then getting distorted, complemented, and enriched at will, namely according to our personal emotional needs. Our partner is unintentionally turned into all these things we need him to be, things usually far away from what he really is.
After the idealization often follows the… debunking. We inevitably let aside our distorting glasses through which we projected onto our partner various characteristics. We now see that the person next to us is vulnerable, has weaknesses, complexes and insecurities. The stage of debunking often causes breakups, as many people cannot handle once more the disappointment of their partner “deceiving” them, simply by being different from their initial high expectations. Always looking for a reviving of the maternal relationship, they distance themselves inconsolable and focus again on the pursuit of the next, very ideal “other half”.
A substantial relationship does not have any specific patterns. It requires mature people, who step into it grounded and look truthfully at the Other, who is free from the projected roles and characteristics, which serve the needs they themselves need to fill.
Everyone wants to be loved for his true self and personality that has been formed throughout the years of his existence. As we all are constructions of our nurture, inevitably shaped from our environment, with insecurities and vulnerabilities, why are we aimlessly seeking for the Ideal Other? Are we ourselves so wonderful and ideal as unities, that we pursue in companionship nothing less than perfection?
Besides, never someone onto whom we projected for a while our emotional needs was totally ideal. Someone becomes ideal gradually, when the projected and absurd elements of the first excitement in a relationship are removed and it still remains, untouched and more substantial. The partners that have passed through the first stages of love and have managed to see deeply into the personality of each other, accept the Other as he is, and not as they thought him to be. The partners that embraced those they debunked, these are ideal for each other.
An ideal relationship, therefore, is not defined from the start. It is built though time, everyday life, friction, and acceptance. And through debunking and conventionality, that remind us that even if none of us is ideal on our own, there are relationships that come very close to it.
Murray, Sandra L.; Holmes, John G.; Griffin, Dale W. (1996) . The self-fulfilling nature of positive illusions in romantic relationships: Love is not blind, but prescient. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol 71(6), Dec 1996, 1155-1180.
Kayser Karen. (1993). When love dies. The Process of Marital Dissatisfaction. The Guilford Press.