How To Break Your Negative Relationships Patterns
After spinning into the depths of despair when my girlfriend (Amy) broke up with me last month, I’m on the up and up again. This is good news!
The easy thing to do would have been to take my foot off the gas after having experienced so much pain, but I know that NOW is the best time to do the important work of turning myself inside out to ensure that I don’t repeat the same patterns in my next relationship.
Adele (my ex-wife) stepped in to support me healing and recommended I re-read Harville Hendrix’s book, “Getting The Love You Want.” It was an eye opener, so much so that I want to dedicate a post to what I learned from this extraordinary relationship therapist…
Have you ever wondered why you keep attracting to the same type of relationship over and over again, even when you don’t want to?
Has this happened to you before?
You end a relationship and a few months or years later, you meet a new partner. You fall in love again and everything feels rosy for the first few months. Then, before long you realize that you are basically in the same relationship as you were in before, just with a different person…
The same issues surface again. You have the same arguments and often, the relationship ends in the same way as your last one… Sound familiar?
Dr. Harville Hendrix has an interesting perspective on this phenomenon…
Are you an Isolator or a Fuser?
In his years of research helping couples resolve their relationship challenges, Harville discovered that he could divide his clients into 2 broad categories, Isolators and Fusers.
Isolators are children who never experienced autonomy and independence as a child. Perhaps their parents wouldn’t let them out of their sight or they were constantly concerned and worried for their safety.
These children grow up into adults who seek independence and autonomy in life and unconsciously push others away. As such, they need a lot of space around them and the freedom to come and go as they please.
On the other hand, Fusers are children who struggled to experience a loving connection with one or both parents. Perhaps their parents were always busy working or just didn’t have the ability to express their love.
These children grow up into adults who have an insatiable need for closeness and reassurance and often need to stay in constant verbal contact with their partners. Fusers want to do things together and often are prone to feeling abandoned.
Here’s the breakthrough phenomenon that Harville discovered…
Isolators and Fusers almost always end up in relationships together. They are attracted to each other like opposite side of a magnet, and so begins an infuriating game of push and pull that leaves neither partner satisfied.
Why are these opposites so attracted to each other?
Because both Isolators and Fusers are unconsciously seeking resolution of their fundamental childhood needs.
Isolators unconsciously seek Fusers who will re-enact their childhood feelings so that they can be resolved and vice versa.
So, are you a Fuser or an Isolator? The answer may help explain your entire life.
We all have elements of both Fuser and Isolater in each of us, just like we have a left and right hand…
…and like you have a preference for writing with your left or right hand, so you have a preference for Fuser or Isolator behavior.
These behaviors especially rear their heads when things are not going well in our relationships. Think back to how the major love relationships in your life ended and then see if you can see your pattern for Fuser or Isolator behavior.
The Primary Reason Loving Relationships Often Fail…
When a Fuser-Isolator couple come together, they initially feel the magnetism of falling in love, but soon realize that they are not getting their need for connection or independence met.
At this point, most couples end up in conflict and more often than not, either separate or only survive in the the relationship (often for the sake of their children).
The reason these relationships fail is because the couple is totally unaware of the unconscious dynamics they are playing out.
Like most things in life, the solution is AWARENESS.
When I read Harville’s book, I became acutely aware that I am a Fuser and Amy is an Isolator… unfortunately too late in the game.
Neither of us were aware of these unconscious dynamics between us and so when Amy became distant from me, the Fuser in me panicked.
“Is she going to leave?”
“Is she unhappy?
“Does she still love me?”
These were questions I constantly asked myself.
On the other side, Amy was probably thinking, “OMG, Bruce wants me to commit to him and seems to require so much of my time… I’m feeling trapped… I need to get the hell out of here… Oh my, I think I suddenly have feelings for Bruce’s friend Dave…”
Can you see the vicious cycle here? The more independence Amy craved, the more I connection I craved. The more I moved towards her, the more she moved away.
Can you recognize this in your own relationships?
How To Transform Your Relationship Into A Magical Union
According to Dr. Hendrix’s research, the only reliable proven way he has found to resolve the Fuser-Isolator dilemma is to:
- Have your partner share their needs with you and
- Make it your primary job to meet your partners needs… and vice versa
Before you scream, “Hell no! I’m not meeting my partner’s needs. That is their job, not mine!” consider this…
If you were getting your needs met by your partner, would you be more inclined to meet theirs? I know I would… and I’d be happy and secure giving this to my partner.
There is another reason why I can see this strategy works.
As I stretch myself to gift my Isolator partner space and independence, I learn that my world does not come crashing down around me, my partner does not leave and I become able to BE with my greatest fear… abandonment.
Conversely, as my Isolator partner stretches herself to gift me closeness and reassurance, she learns that her independence is not threatened and she can still be a separate Self while being connected to another… and she gets to heal her childhood fear of losing her sense of Self in relationship with another.
See how this works?
It makes a whole lot of sense to me.
Can you see how this could transform your current or future relationships?
I recommend you go buy “Getting The Love You Want” by Dr. Harville Hendrix today and begin transforming your relationship into the juicy, passionate, loving, sexy relationship I believe you want.
On the Amy front, I spoke with her today and shared with her what I’ve just shared with you. We had a beautiful conversation that culminated with a commitment to a friendship. I am incredibly grateful for this and for Harville’s work for illuminating this distinction for me.
One last thing…
Harville writes that his views on commitment have become more and more conservative over the years. He believes that couples, who choose a lifelong commitment, should make every effort to honor their vows for life, not for moral reasons, but for psychological ones.
He writes, “Fidelity and commitment create the feeling of safety that allows couples to work on their unconscious issues and heal their childhood wounds – the unconscious purpose of all committed love relationships.”
I trust that this post was as enlightening for you as Harville’s book was for me.
To you having the love you want.
P.S. Please leave me a comment and let me know whether you think you’re a Fuser or an Isolator. Then let me know what you’ve learned about your own relationship dynamics. I’m authentically interested. Thanks!