When loving you means losing me

Center Street Coaching
losinJuly, 2014
Center Street Coaching Newsletter

When loving you means losing me

Save Your Self
Romantic love is not long lasting. When it wears off realize we married our worst nightmare or our mother/father. It is a rude awakening.  Yet, this is all still good! Its good because it wakes us up to the work that needs to be done to become complete and whole ourselves. It is true for both men and women but for this writing I am focusing on women. The lostself can be rediscovered with a little work and maybe a little help.
Here’s a few pointers:
1.  Discuss expectations of one another and through active communication, come to agreements.  They have to work for both partners so don’t expect it to be all one way.
2.  Set boundaries and then respect each other’s boundaries.
3.  Keep up old interests, hobbies.
4.  Keep old friends.
5.  Think in terms of I rather than we when it is appropriate.
6.  Reciprocate.  Reciprocal relationships allow for differences. It is our differences that make relationships interesting.  They need to be honored and validated.
7.  Act like the adult you have become and not like the child or parent you carried into your adulthood.
8.  Take a chance on yourself.  You will either be loved for who your are or the relationship will end.   You may stay together but you can not have a true relationship when you don’t have a self.
Well, that’s all I have to offer for now. Remember, we are constantly on a journey to self discovery.  Get to know yourself and be your best friend.
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Dear Reader:

I am a relatively independent woman.  I say relatively because we sentient beings are interrelated, need connection with another and function well in relationship however that may be defined.   While I am single and run my own show I am in a long-term committed relationship with a relatively independent man.  It works.
It wasn’t always that way, however.  In past relationships I lost parts of myself in order to feel lovable.  Now I understand why and how that happened and in my work I see it over and over again with the couples who come to me for some marital guidance.  Of course I’m the “go-to” person for that because I’ve been there.  I get it.  I understand.
This month’s newsletter is going to be psycho-educational in nature.  I want to write about the aspect of relationships that is counter productive to safe connection with one’s spouse/partner.  So read on….this is important.

What happened to my dreams, my plans?  I wanted to be a nurse, I wanted to travel, I wanted to have what I thought was an ugly scar taken off my leg.  What else…..I forget.  I got married instead.  I married a very, very nice man who worked hard and came from a good family.  Ergo, I gave my hopes and dreams up and did what every good wife should do….followed his lead.  There was no longer a me but rather a wife and a mother.  Not a bad life, mind you. Perfect and safe and proper. God knows what would have happened to me had I been thrown into the boiling cauldron of life, all on my own.  Certainly it was my parents worst nightmare.  So marrying was inevitable and losing myself was just collateral damage.  And my husband was completely blindsided by my ultimate rebellion.
As a therapist working with couples who are in a power struggle that is destroying their marriage I often witness this dilemma.  I hear the resentment and anger that comes from the wife’s realization that her self is slipping away and the husband’s confusion and hurt over the reactivity and over-compensation that comes from that realization.
How does that happen?  Well, falling in love causes all sorts of changes in the brain chemistry….but more of that later.  Romantic love causes us to become enmeshed with the other creating a feeling of wholeness and a sense of being complete.  The nature/nurture of women causes this enmeshment to be skewed, off balance.  Not always, for sure, but more often women cede to their husbands expectations and, as I mentioned above, follow their lead thereby causing constriction and conformity.
Beverly Engle coined the term “Disappearing Woman’s Syndrome, DWS, that explains how, when in a relationship, women lose track of what they stand for, what they believe, what is important to them and what makes them happy.
Is this the fault of the man?  Fault of the woman?  It isn’t even a fault.  It is a natural unfolding and, when recognized, can be instrumental in personal and relational growth.  To learn that no one can complete you, that your wholeness is created by your self acceptance and that you ALWAYS have a self. is the gift.
Brain Matters
When we are in the falling-in-love stage of a relationship we become blind.  I call it falling-in-illusion stage of a relationship because it is filled with hope, expectation, enmeshment, eros and ecstasy…hmmmm.  Here’s why. The critical thinking part of the brain, the anterior cingulate cortex, is responsible for making choices, judgments, detection of error and such.  It shuts off when you fall in love.  The amygdala, responsible for the fear response, also becomes immobilized.  Thus we are fools to love.  And that’s okay except when it causes damage to the self.
This damage happens to women more than to men because women are wired differently. They are wired for connection rather than competition. They produce oxytocins which are the compassionate/empathic hormones.  Men produce vassopressins which are the aggression/protect-the-homestead hormones.
Women  are culturally different than men as well.  Women are taught through parenting and media to please men.  They are taught to be caretakers, dependent and non aggressive. Little girls tend to be more overprotected by fathers then little boys.
Mirror neurons play a part in this conundrum too because they seem to be more present in women than in men.  Mirror neurons cause one to feel others feelings as if they were your own….like empathy when it is experienced in a healthy way.
Thus, one really has to pay close attention to the inter-relational mindset.  Once the self has gone missing, there is some work to be done. The rediscovered self is the prize.
Center Street Coaching and Sonoma Couple’s Retreat offer individuals and couples guidance in their struggle to have a satisfying and rewarding relationship.  It isn’t easy but I can help, its what I do.
Marianne Harms, LCSW/CSW/Coach
Center Street Coaching

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