Without realizing it, you learned lessons about men from the time you bounced on your mother's knee. Clearly, though, all the troubles that you have with men and relationships are not your mother's fault. As an adult, you need to take responsibility for your life, your own images, and your ideas about men. Still, it is important to be aware of what imprints, both conscious and unconscious, have been made by your family of origin. These images and beliefs may be distorting the picture of your relationships today and interfering with your progress toward your objectives. The Smart Heart Partnering Process is not about shame, blame or guilt. Rather, it is about becoming consciously aware of what conditions and patterns you need to change, modify or invent in order to support your present needs and desires better.
When you are very young, you are influenced on two levels by what you experience in your family of origin. The influence could have been explicit or implicit; either kind has a major impact on a young child. For instance, you can receive the message that all men are bad if your father left your mother and not a day went by when she didn't rant and rave about how no man can be trusted (explicit). Alternatively, she may never had said a word about your father's departure, but never again had a relationship with another man (implicit). The end result is the same, because your mother transmitted a negative message that men couldn't be trusted and would always leave.
An unconscious map of defeat stemming from your parents' unsuccessful and negative relationship choices becomes an unconscious blueprint for defeat in your own partnerships. This unconscious blueprint determines how you run your life in a number of ways. It may override your conscious design for a relationship by attracting you to men who are similar to the men your mother selected. It may color your view of what men want, how you react to them, whom you can trust, and what is acceptable from them. It could cause you unknowingly to attempt to mold a man into someone like your father, who is therefore familiar. It may simply cause you to avoid intimate relationships completely.
To see how this unconscious map of defeat operates, consider the experience of my clients. Tina was a successful thirty-three-year-old advertising account executive. When she turned twenty-one, she made a conscious decision that her relationships would not turn out to be like her mother's who, before dying of cancer, had spent her life subjugating her needs to those of her husband. Even though Tina's mother was on her deathbed, all, her father could think about was himself. He never once focused on what his dying wife needed. "My mother is better off dead than spending more years as an unappreciated maid, cook, chauffeur, and call girl to a man who isn't interested in her," Tina thought to herself.
Tina was an adorable woman who found herself the center of men's attention at whatever party or business event she attended. Yet she didn't find herself interested in the many guys she met through her friends or work. Instead, it was the tall, dark, and handsome foreigners who set her pulse racing. She hoped one of them someday become her husband.
Rafael was typical of the men she dated. With his jet-black hair and dark eyes, he made Tina melt whenever he looked her way or whispered words in his native Italian to her. After six months, Tina enjoyed being with Rafael so much that she invited him to move in with her, even though she knew that his student visa would expire in a few months and he would be returning to Sicily. When those months flew by, Tina knew she had two choices: to either marry Rafael so he could stay in this country with her or let him return home. She didn't feel ready for marriage commitment to someone she had known less than a year, so she sadly took him to the airport and said good-bye. When Tina felt ready to date again some months later, she went to a party at the International House dormitory at the nearby university. This was where she had met Rafael, and she hoped that she would meet another exotic foreigner. Her wish came true. Through mutual friends, she met a man who was from South America. Carlos was also dark and handsome. Tina was smitten the moment he opened his mouth and spoke in heavily accented, halting English. An intense, passionate affair ensued. Carlos, however, was nearing the end of the exchange program that had brought him to the university. Thus, it wasn't long before he, too, boarded a plane for home, leaving Tina behind at the airport with a broken heart.
Although Tina believed she was genuinely attracted to exotic, foreign men, together we discovered, using the Smart Heart Partnering Process, that her true, unconscious motivation for falling for geographically undesirable men was that she knew they were unavailable. They could never meet any of her needs in the long run and therefore would not be able to hurt her. Although, on the surface, this motivation looked different from her mother's choice, after much work, Tina finally recognized the similarity. The men she found herself interested in were as unavailable to meet her needs as her father had been to meet her mother's. Until now, Tina had been able to rationalize that men like Rafael couldn't meet her needs because they lived so far away, not because they were uncaring. In reality, her choice was the same as her mother's. It was simply wrapped in a different package.
Because Tina's images from her childhood were that men cause heartbreak and loss and are never there for a woman, it was not surprising that she unconsciously chose partners who brought out the same dynamic I her own relationships. Only by bringing these images into her conscious mind and examining them could she finally choose to be with men who were actually available to support and love her in the way that she deserved.
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Get Smart with your Heart. Copyright © 1999 by Suzanne Lopez. Reprinted with permission from Penguin Putnam. All rights reserved.