Many of you have heard me say that the longer you know your partner, the less you may really know him or her. This is because of our tendency to interpret what our partner says based on our world view
instead of taking the time to understand where your partner is coming from Because of this you you will often misinterpret, make negative assumptions based on your past/worldview and project them onto your partner. The purpose of this exercise is to get to know who each of you really are again – for each of you to truly understand your partner’s identity, instead of projecting all this negative stuff onto him or her.
Below you will find a series of questions that get at the core of who each of you are and how you view relationships. Take some time and think about them deeply. Write down your answers. You might be surprised what you learn about yourself.
After writing out your answers I suggest putting aside half an hour once a week for to have a conversation with your partner, and to only tackle one question at a time.
When answering these questions, try to talk a bit about your family of origin or other experiences in life that you think may have contributed to you feeling the way you do about these issues. How, for example, did your parents let you know that you were loved? “My father always kept his distance,” one woman told me. “Even on his deathbed. When he was dying, I said, ‘Dad, you never told me that you loved me. And now that it’s almost over, that’s the one thing I wish I could hear.’ But do you know what he said? ‘If you don’t know by now, you never will.’ And then he died. I walked out of the hospital and I was so angry. He was gone forever, and all I could feel toward him was anger.” When I asked her how this event had influenced her life from that moment forward, she was clear: “I tell my kids every day that I love them,” she said. “And I tell my husband that, too. No matter what’s going on, I always find a way to do it.”
I tell this story because it illustrates the power that our emotional heritage has on our current relationships. By “emotional heritage,” I mean the way we were treated in the past, and the way such treatment made us feel. It includes the way the people close to us acted when they were angry, sad, happy, or fearful – what they said and sometimes even more importantly, what they didn’t say. Your emotional heritage has a strong impact on your ability to connect on an identity level with one another. It affects your awareness of your own emotions, how you express them, and how you bid for connection. It also colors your ability to see, interpret, and respond to other people’s bids.
Your 7 questions:
1) What does home mean to you? In other words, what makes a home a home?
2) What does family mean to you? How much time would you ideally like to divide between your partner, your kids and your family of origin?
3) What are the upsides of being in a committed relationship? What are the downsides to being in one? What do you fear? What do you crave?
4) Why did you fall in love with your partner? What’s the hardest thing to love or accept about your partner? What’s the easiest?
5) What does money mean to you? Is it a tool for security, fun or some combination of the two? If a combination, roughly how much should go to each area? When it comes to money what are your strengths? What are your weaknesses?
6) What do possessions or owning things (like cars, nice clothes, books, music, a house, and land) mean to you? What makes them important, i.e. what do you feel like they give you or say to the world about who you are?
7) What’s your idea of fun and play? What’s your favorite thing to do with your partner? Are there fun things that you would like to keep to you and your friends?
For additional practical help breaking destructive patterns and rediscovering one another please contact me at 301-657-1144 or DrJoe@DrJoeJames.com. My over 25 years of experience can help you find new and more constructive ways of connecting.