What is the balance point between doing what a loved one wants and doing what one's self wants? And how do we deal with the conflict?

I had a CME (Continuing Medical Education) once from a psychiatrist, older, who had worked with couples for over thirty years. He said that couples always disagree about something. Common areas are money or sex. One person wants more sex than the other. How do they negotiate this?

He said that it really comes down to responsibility. If one person sees the other as responsible for filling their needs, it becomes an area of battle. "I want more sex. You love me. If you really loved me you would have as much sex as I want and need. You aren't meeting my needs." He said that if the couple can each step back and say, "These are my needs. They are mine. They do not belong to my partner. I have to take care of them." This does not mean running out to find another sex partner or an additional partner. It means assessing yourself and saying, how to I get the extra need met? Sex toys, books, masturbation, just tolerating longing for my partner?

Money is the same battle. One person likes to spend, the other likes to save. One likes to have group decisions about any big purchase, the other feels controlled if they have to consult. It is healthy and ok to have separate accounts. No matter who is bringing home the paycheck. Or perhaps a joint account but an automatic amount that goes to savings that is to be managed jointly. Or an allowance is set up. The more clear a couple is about what each person needs, the better job they can do negotiating something that works for both.

He said that when one partner saw the other as responsible for filling their needs, the second partner would resist, automatically.

You didn't fall in love with that person because they are exactly like you, did you? So why are you complaining that they are different from you? Why did you fall in love with her, if she is so different and difficult?

Carl Jung thought that we put aspects of ourselves into our "shadow", unconscious, that were unacceptable to our family culture and our greater culture. The shadow is often thought of as negative, but can hold positive aspects of ourselves as well. Who is your greatest heroine or hero? Why? What about them appeals to you? That aspect may be a part of yourself that you are afraid to take ownership of. Marianne Williamson said that “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our Light, not our Darkness, that most frightens us.”

In Passionate Marriage, David Schnarch, PhD, thinks that love and marriage are part of individuation. When we fall in love and are head over heels, we are projecting an idealized shadow onto a real live person. We are projecting parts of ourselves that we have not been able to consciously acknowledge. Eventually we need to take ownership of and responsibility for the aspects of ourselves and love the real person, instead of the projection. If we fail, we fight and divorce and fail to grow. The next partner may have the same aspects, if we really didn't take ownership of anything. Or perhaps we learned a lot, and a new person is the next level of what we have to learn. Work is involved. We should not be afraid of this work. But I am. And most people are.

One of example was a couple. I cannot remember if this is from Passionate Marriage or the psychiatrist at the CME. The couple was at an impasse. One wanted a dog. The other did not. The other said, "I said from the start that I don't want a dog, I don't like dogs, I want nothing to do with dogs. Why is this coming up?" The first one said, "But I truly deeply want a dog." Sounds impossible, right? The counselor said, "Are you both willing to sit in the discomfort of wanting something different? To sit there together and listen to each other? Because that is what this requires." The couple said yes. They spent multiple sessions with the first one explaining what a dog would mean and why and the second one explaining what a dog would mean and why. They had to go in depth to understand the background of the other's position. And at last they understood and were able to reach an agreement: they could get a dog, with a very strict understanding of who would train it, care for it and where it was allowed. Think of the love of this couple who were able to listen to each other so deeply. And both, in the end, were satisfied and happy and able to negotiate.

So when we reach an impasse with a loved one: go towards it, not away. It is an opportunity for growth. It is not an impasse. Every time that I reach an area where I don't want to look, I don't want to go, I want to be rescued, I want to hide, I know that that is the next fence that I need to cross. It is my barrier; it belongs to me and no one else. I can try to blame it on another person, if they would only give me what I want than I wouldn't have to deal with it. And when I recognize the fence, again, again, again, then I can own it and I am half way there.