Love Lingers Here: Intimate Enduring Relationships X: Forming A Relationship

Love Lingers Here: Intimate Enduring Relationships X: Forming A Relationship

As in the case of virtually all intimate relationships, Dan and Mary went through a period of disillusionment. They discovered inevitably that many of their most important needs could not be met by their partner. In many instances, these needs can never be met by any one person.    It is very hard, for instance, to meet another person’s need for self-esteem, or to offer

unfailing companionship. Each couple must come to terms with this disillusionment.  Each member of the couple must decide which needs their partner can meet and which roles their partner can play in their life. Both partners come to realize that these needs and roles may change over time,, as each partner and the relationship itself change and mature.

If this realization does not take place, then we may continue to expect our partner to fulfill all or most of our needs and play many roles in our life. He or she will inevitably fail in this task, leading to anger on the part of both partners. Even if our partner fulfills all our needs and roles (at least superficially), we will become absolutely dependent on this partner—which is ultimately even more destructive. We see both failed attempts at meeting all needs and the absolute dependency on one’s partner in the wonderfully romantic, but disastrous, relationship between Heathcliff and Cathy in “Wuthering Heights.” At various times in their relationship, either Heathcliff or Cathy except their loved one to meet all their needs. They essentially take oil the other person’s identity (Cathy” statement that “I am Heathcliff”) and demand that the other person become fully absorbed in meeting all of their needs (even those of which they are not fully aware). Heathcliff, as a result, takes on the image sometimes of being the perfect, absolutely-devoted lover; at other times, he is a selfish, brutish and ultimately evil force in the world. Cathy, similarly, shifts from being a lovely and loving spirit in the world, to being a self-possessed, insensitive force of indifference and destruction.

Enmeshment and Disengagement

Family psychologists would identify the relationship between Heathcliff and Cathy as “enmeshed”—in contrast to relationships in which there is virtually no interaction between the couple, which are identified as “disengaged.” Initially, most relationships are rather heavily enmeshed. In essence, when we fall in love we tend to move backwards in terms of our own way of functioning in the world. Psychologists describe this as the process of “regression.” However, this is a good form of regression (called “regression in the service of the ego”) that parallels the regression occurring in acts of creativity, inspiration, spiritual reflection and many forms of psychological healing.


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About the Author

William BergquistWilliam Bergquist, Ph.D. An international coach and consultant in the fields of psychology, management and public administration, author of more than 50 books, and president of a psychology institute. Dr. Bergquist consults on and writes about personal, group, organizational and societal transitions and transformations. His published work ranges from the personal transitions of men and women in their 50s and the struggles of men and women in recovering from strokes to the experiences of freedom among the men and women of Eastern Europe following the collapse of the Soviet Union. In recent years, Bergquist has focused on the processes of organizational coaching. He is coauthor with Agnes Mura of coachbook, co-founder of the International Journal of Coaching in Organizations and co-founder of the International Consortium for Coaching in Organizations.

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