People can be verbally, emotionally, sexually, or physically abused; there’s also exposure to substance abuse, borderline disorder, post traumatic stress, and there’s more too. An abused person could become both a victim (say of a spouse or boss at work) and an abuser (say of a child). A victim could turn to eating disorders or even multiple personalities (now known as “dissociative identity disorder”) as a way of hiding from the pain. He or she could just have a bad temper, or the opposite–be emotionally withdrawn–or be depressed, or a not-so-talented parent. Besides substances, a person could become addicted to sex, gambling, shopping, or work. Any possibility goes.
Given all that, did you ever wonder why a person marries someone who seems healthy, clean, sober, whatever, only to discover something from the above list lurking underneath? And you wonder: How did I miss it? And when you stop wondering that, you start to go, “Woa! Why do I keep meeting people with all these problems???”
Here’s my answer: It’s not your fault. It was built into our souls. I’m not kidding. I don’t want you to think that means we are fated to keep making a mistake. In fact, I don’t even think the whole thing IS a mistake. I think the ending can be good, so hear me out.
You’ve heard the term “soulmate” before. Did you ever wonder where it came from? Here’s my take on it. According to the Bible, when Adam and Eve were created, they were actually a complete man and woman that were joined. (I know, I know, you never heard that one before. Well, you have to read the Bible in the original to get the real flavor of it.) Anyway, the Bible says each one was complete in him/herself. In other words, the ideal man and the ideal woman are not incomplete people who need one another to complete themselves; they are already complete. So what is the idea of a soulmate?
The Bible says that Eve was created to “help” Adam. And more–help Adam “as if” she were his “opposite.” Weird, huh? Help with what? Opposite of what? Now, there are many interpretations of this stuff by Biblical scholars. Here’s DrDeb’s interpretation: I think the Bible was saying that although each person is born whole, we do have to learn. I mean, Life is a great big learning experience, right? And a lot of it is painful. So, we have to learn how to navigate our way through Life with the least amount of pain. And that’s where our soulmate comes in. Our soul instinctively recognizes another human being who is like us in many ways but also unlike us in having some strengths that we don’t have.
That is, any person, whatever his or her family history, has to learn how to function at peak performance. Therefore, that person is attracted to someone who is both (a) like them in important, fundamental ways, but also (b) has strengths that they don’t have. That’s attraction.
Now, what happens when you don’t acknowledge your weak area? What happens if, besides that, you find someone who is strong in that weak area and his/her presence kind of rubs it in your face that you are weak there? Well, that feels not like “help,” that feels like an “opposite.” Take an example. Suppose Richard is the strong, silent type. He just gives off an aura of being confident and sure of himself. Underneath that, in the hidden recesses of his soul, he may really not feel all that sure. He may wish he could express himself better, make his point more clearly. He meets Sally with whom he has many things in common. They come from a similar family background, have values in common, and so forth. (That’s (a) above.) Besides that, there is one big difference that is both attractive and scary about Sally: She could argue her way around a telemarketer. She has the gift of gab. She has many friends who just gravitate to her like bees to honey. Richard admires that in her, but it’s also scary because he knows–on some level–that if they ever got into a fight, it would be all over for him.
Now, on her part, Sally has a hard time being alone. She has gotten so used to attracting people, both men and women, as freinds and co-workers, that she hardly knows who she is in the silence of the night. There is a part of her that envies people who can be alone with themselves in silence. Then she meets Richard. Got the picture? Love at first sight. (That’s part (b)–the “opposite” for both of them.) Sally’s weakness is Richard’s strength. Richard’s weakness is Sally’s strength.
In couples that enjoy this oppositeness and learn from one another, you notice that after long-term, happy marriages, they start to seem more alike. He starts to come out of his shell and she learns how to appreciate the quiet of her own mind. He talks more; she, less. For them, she is a “help” to him, and he, to her. The opposite qualities of each help the other. And over time, their opposite-ness is less real and less real because they help each other meet somewhere in the middle. So it is only “as if” they were opposite. In appreciating what the other has to offer, it never felt particularly uncomfortable. The opposite-ness was only “as if.” They handled it; they enjoyed it.
Now what about the other kind of couples, the ones who are threatened by their partner’s opposite qualities? Suppose Richard was scared of Sally because he knew that in a fight, he’s toast? Suppose that Sally was scared of Richard because she knows that in living with him, she’d have to endure silence a lot and be alone with her thoughts? Then, the “oppositeness” feels very real. It doesn’t feel “as if.” It is!! In fact, it feels more like “antagonism” than just plain old “opposite.” (In Biblical language, the word used is “against.”) And, of course, the help part is lost on them because instead of seeing each other as helpers, they see each other as threats.
That’s often the scenario in couples who were abused in their families of origin. Deep inside, they don’t believe in themselves. They feel they are no good because they were told that over and over. That’s the meaning of abuse. Or they weren’t told in so many words, but they got that message loud and clear. They are attracted to someone who shares those deep scars of abuse. Only another abuse victim would understand the hurt and pain. Only another victim would understand what it took to survive. They have a lot in common. The attraction is powerful. (Part (a) again.)
Naturally, they are also attracted to someone who has qualities they feel they lack because they want to be shored up. Makes sense. So of course they’re attracted to their opposite. So the person they fall in love with has the abuse in common and also has special opposite qualities they admire and desperately need and want. (Part (b) again.) The only problem is that their abuse history prevents them from embracing the “help” extended just by their partner being him or her. Seeing their own weak points is too threatening. It feels like a replay of their childhood pains. Instead of being a help, their opposite is rubbing in the oppositeness.
What to do?
The solution is simple on paper and hard in real life, but it is nevertheless possible.
If you believe in this concept of soulmate and you accept the fact that different people are bound to have strengths that others lack, it is possible to return to that point in which your soulmate is truly your helper and the feeling of antagonism is only “as if.” The steps, as I say, are easy to just write down, but harder to actually do. But, hey, did I say Life was easy?
1. Learn who you really are. All those stupid messages clouded the picture. You’ve got to get back to your real self. You’ve got to start testing Life. Do I like vanilla or chocolate? Well, taste ’em! Put it all to the test and find out.
2. If you are totally clueless, you are not the only one. No matter. If you can’t find out what your tastes, interests, values, strengths, weaknesses are, well, just invent ’em! Decide who you want to be and start practicing. You know, that’s what we all do anyway. I’m 55. You think I’m the same person I was 30 years ago? Nah. How about 20 years ago? Nah. How about 10? Nah. How about yesterday? Well, actually I learned something yesterday that kind of changes how I see some of this. Something about myself. So, no, I’m not *quite* the same person I was yesterday. See how it works? We actually all reinvent ourselves anyway. So for an abused person, it’s just somewhat more difficult because we wouldn’t have a starting point to work from. So be it. Do it anyway.
3. As your soul develops and grows, the person you will be major-big-time attracted to (part a) would naturally be someone in spiritual recovery for the abuse. It would no longer be attracted to someone totally wounded because you are no longer totally wounded. Makes sense? So you will automatically be attracted to someone who is growing like you are.
4. As you grow, you will enjoy it. Growth itself will be liberating instead of frightening. You won’t be scared of uncovering your weak points. They will take on an “oh, well” perspective. You know, they’ll just be no big deal. We all have ’em. So what? So you won’t be threatened by your opposite. He/she won’t feel like your antagonist. That opposite quality will only be “as if.” Makes sense? Yeah, I know, it’s not easy. But there is such a thing as recovery from abuse.