When ‘love flies out of the window’

by Annie Kaszina on May 9, 2009

How long do the beliefs we learn in childhood colour our life?

Relationship beliefs we learn in childhood continue to shape our lives, until we consciously address them in adulthood.  But before we can do that, of course, we have to become aware of them.

When I started to think where I’d learnt the things that coloured my early – and not so early – attempts at relationships, my father’s words sprang unbidden to my mind:

“When you get married”, he used to say, because he was speaking before living together became socially acceptable, “love flies out of the window.”

He made it sound every bit as inevitable as it was depressing.  (My father’s most depressing pronouncements were always his most persuasive.)

I knew exactly what my father meant.  Throughout my formative years, I had seen the embodiment of his words in my parents’ marriage.  So the concept of the fleeting nature of love, care, and mutual respect lodged itself firmly in my brain, and there it has stayed for decades.

What my regrettably cynical father meant was this:

“In the early days of a relationship, you invest your partner with magical qualities.  The sun rises and sets because of them.  Every word they speak is profound, and wonderful.  In a flawed world they alone are perfect.  And then, with familiarity, that perfection vanishes. They become ordinary, dull, flawed, imperfect, part of the furniture.”

Now, my father was talking in terms of a relatively functional relationship, not a grossly abusive one.

Was he right?

He was right for himself.  He believed – and therefore he lived out – the belief that familiarity breeds contempt.

Do I believe that?

I would have said not, but recently I’ve become aware that, unconsciously, I still harboured that old belief.  I can still worry that with time my love for another will become more critical, less all embracing.

Obviously that is by no means the worst belief or scenario that you can be exposed to in childhood.  Still, it is damaging enough.

But more than that, I think it is worth mentioning because it is indicative of the damaging beliefs that you, and I, carry forward from childhood.

In my experience, abused women carry many old, limiting beliefs about relationships.

Most commonly, they are simply not aware of them.  They can long for the best in their life, but the beliefs that have been programmed into them lead them to expect… if not the worst, then something second – or third – rate.

I wasn’t happy to discover my father’s old belief about love and the window still lodged in my brain, so I started exploring the sense I could make of it.

When we find our partner flawed, dull and imperfect that judgement is really about us.  We find fault with them because we feel so inadequate ourselves that we need them to be better than we are, to confer on us the acceptability that we feel we lack.

Almost invariably they will fail to match our expectation, because they were never programmed to fulfil our every wish and whim. We feel critical and resentful when they fail to meet our expectation because they show us up; their table manners, for example, reflect badly on us.  Allegedly.

In reality, our partner’s behaviours only ever reflect on him, as ours do on us.

Curiously enough, love does not appear to fly out of the window when we are maltreated.  Abused women have, if anything, a pathological attachment to their abusive partner.  In reality, that has far more to do with fixation than love.

But then, when I think about it, I would challenge my father’s definition of love.   He confused love with putting another person on a pedestal.  The purpose of that is only ever:

  • To make the lover feel better, in the short-term (“I’ve got someone I can put on my pedestal”)
  • To give the lover the long-term satisfaction of saying: “It’s my pedestal and you’re not allowed near it, because you’re not worthy of it. Because I say you’re not!”

Kindergarten stuff, isn’t it?  But, how we take it to heart!

Because we choose to assume our partner is an adult, we fail to notice how often he behaves like an emotionally incontinent toddler.  So, we fail to picture our infantile partner, in the theatre of our mind, as he truly looks; a furious little boy, clad in emotional short trousers he has never outgrown.

My belief about love is quite different.

I believe true love is about constantly looking for ways to cherish the other person; healthy love cherishes, respects, and supports the loved one.

When you are truly loved, you are truly cherished, and safe.

Love like that has to be the pot of gold.  Too many of us believe we are lucky if we can have the crock of excrement.

What Next?

“Married to Mr Nasty” will show you how you can stop struggling to row that boat upstream and come, instead, to rest, at last, in the peaceful port of your choosing.


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