Our Story Of Our Primary Relationships
Amy is actually a very functional person. She is very competent as a paralegal and her attorney often says he couldn't practice law without her. She is a loving and supportive parent, she has good friends and gets along with most of her family, but somehow, her primary relationship is always a train wreck.
The people around her can't understand how such a great person can't find the right relationship. She would desperately love to find "the one", but she has been burned so many times she is afraid to put herself out there again. She doesn't trust men and she doesn't trust herself to pick men.
As a therapist, when I see this pattern of dysfunctional relationships, I look for the cause in their family of origin. As a matter of fact, the three most important questions I ask every client in the first session are: In a few brief sentences, describe your mother; describe your father; and describe your parents relationship with each other. It is in these three relationships that we first learn how to relate to others. How did your parents treat you and how did they treat each other?
When Amy began to take an objective view of her primary relationships, she realized she was often attracted to men who were unavailable and who took advantage of her. She approached relationships from a place of need and always put way more into the relationship than her partner did. She felt if she did enough, she would be enough. Her efforts to win them over, only seemed to entrench the dynamic of her neediness and their distance and lack of commitment. Her relationships were basically the same story just with different characters.
When Amy began to explore the relationships in her family of origin, she began to see how she had unconsciously recreated her parents' story, which was not what she wanted. Knowing what you don't want doesn't change anything, you have to decide what you do want. She realized she wanted a relationship in which she felt they were equally invested in. She wanted someone who valued her. As she further reflected on the dynamics of her relationships she realized something else about herself, she over invested in relationships because she didn't feel like she was enough and she failed to see the value in herself. How could she expect someone to value her if she didn't value herself?
She also noticed how she under valued herself in almost every relationship. Someone else's needs always came first. Her boss was notorious for giving her a day's worth of work just as he left for lunch.This often left her working through lunch or taking work home and her children relied on her to bail them out of situations they were equipped to handle, causing her to rush around and drop her own plans.
She also noticed the internal dialogue in her head. Had anyone else said the things she said to herself, she would have called it verbal abuse "Amy what is wrong with you." "Amy you are so fat." "Amy you are unacceptable." "You are hopeless". She was hoping a man would recognize the value in herself, that she was unable to see. She was hoping someone would bring her flowers when she needed to plant a garden.
It was time for a change and she knew what she had to do. Amy told her boss that she was not going to work through lunch or taking work home, she told her children that she would not be making any "emergency" trips home to bring forgotten items to school, and she was going to invite Mr. Rogers to live in her head.
This wasn't easy. There were some very tense moments with her boss but he eventually realized Amy meant what she said. There were tears over a forgotten lunch when it was mystery meat and turnip greens in the school cafeteria, and a bad grade from a missed homework assignment, her children also learned.
Mr. Rogers was with her reminding her that it was okay to take care of herself and that she was perfect just the way she was. Everyday during her lunch hour she drove to a park or her gym and went for a 20 minute walk/run followed by a delicious lunch she packed herself. As she prepared her lunch the night before, her children began setting up for their day as well. The deliberate planning allowed for a slower pace in her family and in her own mind and Mr. Rogers was there reminding her "It's Such a Good Feeling".