For today’s show, we are going to take you deeper than ever before…all the way back to your childhood. Because the reason your spouse might drive you mad is quite simple. Philosopher Alain de Botton wrote in his book The Course of Love, “We believe we are seeking happiness in love, but what we are really after is familiarity. We are looking to re-create, within our adult relationships, the very feelings we knew so well in childhood and which were rarely limited to just tenderness and care.”
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“Philosopher Alain de Botton has devoted the lion’s share of his life to exploring the complex psychoemotional machinery that, despite our best intentions, inflicts the wounds of love upon us and our partners. Decades after Willa Cather termed romantic relationships “the tragic necessity of human life,” De Botton writes in The Course of Love (public library) — his stunning meditation on the fragilities of the human heart, the source of his insight into the psychological paradox of sulking in intimate relationships and what makes a good communicator:
We believe we are seeking happiness in love, but what we are really after is familiarity. We are looking to re-create, within our adult relationships, the very feelings we knew so well in childhood and which were rarely limited to just tenderness and care. The love most of us will have tasted early on came entwined with other, more destructive dynamics: feelings of wanting to help an adult who was out of control, of being deprived of a parent’s warmth or scared of his or her anger, or of not feeling secure enough to communicate our trickier wishes.
Our spouse drives us mad because:
- They are helping us recreate the very dysfunction we hated growing up.
- “How logical, then, that we should as adults find ourselves rejecting certain candidates not because they are wrong but because they are a little too right — in the sense of seeming somehow excessively balanced, mature, understanding, and reliable — given that, in our hearts, such rightness feels foreign and unearnt. We chase after more exciting others, not in the belief that life with them will be more harmonious, but out of an unconscious sense that it will be reassuringly familiar in its patterns of frustration.” – Philosopher Alain De Botton
- We think we are finding someone who will make us happy, but the negative side is also going to be there from our childhood.
- The romantic story of love tells us that our search for a partner is inspired, above all else, by a desire to find someone who can make us happy. But the truth is a little more confused and peculiar, for one of the oddest aspects of love is that in tracking down a mate, we don’t, in fact, look out for just anyone who seems kind, good, and attractive. We look out for someone who can fulfill a number of pre-existing psychological requirements — which could include a subterranean appetite for frustration and humiliation.
So what can we do about this?
- Recognize how you most likely did recreate what you knew from childhood.
- Cherish the good things and address the negative things
- “It’s not enough to simply know why we might be doing something negative, we have to learn new behaviors and attitudes to replace them.” – Michael Smalley, Phd
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