Why Do Most Relationships Fail?. The Myth of the Magical Other | by J-Loaded | Mar, 2024

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Why Do Most Relationships Fail?

Photo by Dr Constance Avery-Clark

In the early stages of a relationship, it can appear as if one has found their magical other. With dopamine and oxytocin flooding the brain and with evolved mating instincts playing tricks on the mind to increase the probability of reproducing, the experience of falling in love is rife with illusions.

The primary of which is the idealization of the significant other. The faults and flaws of the partner are ignored or glossed over as eccentricities that only add to their charm. The novelty of the other coupled with their perceived perfection engenders, deep feelings of infatuation, happiness and euphoria, which can breed the illusion that life is now complete.

Furthermore, our ego boundaries collapse as we Psychologically merge with the partner just as in early infancy one is psychologically merged with the mother. “In some respects, the act of falling in love is an act of regression”. Observed James Hollis.

Or as M.Scot Peck. Wrote regarding this experience, “The unreality of these feelings when we have fallen in love is essentially the same as the unreality of the two-year-old who feels himself to be king of the family in the world with power unlimited. Just as reality intrudes upon the two-year-old’s fantasy of omnipotence so does reality intrude upon the fantastic unity of the couple who have fallen in love. One by one gradually or suddenly the ego boundaries snap back into place. Gradually or suddenly they fall out of love. Once again, they are two separate individuals”

When reality intrudes upon the illusions of falling in love the romantic partner rather than being a magical other is revealed as being human – all too human.

Seen without rose-colored glasses, their faults, flaws, rough edges and bad habits grow apparent. The partner does not always make one happy, meet one’s needs, or fulfill one’s expectations. And so in place of sustained infatuation and happiness at times, there are feelings of indifference, disappointment, or even disdain. These feelings are a normal component of long-term relationships.

for as M. Scott Peck writes “Real love often occurs in a context in which the feeling of love is lacking, when we act lovingly even though we don’t feel loving.” However, for individuals enthralled by the myth of romantic Love, the conclusion of the honeymoon period and the awareness of the widening gulf between their fantasy of who they want their partner to be and who they are can be a troubling experience.

Or as James Hollis writes, “Why don’t you make me feel good about myself? We ask, usually unconsciously, but sometimes straight out. Why don’t you meet my needs? What a disappointment, how unromantic – the other was not put on earth to serve or take care of me, protect me from my life!”

Or as Hollis continues, “If I do not see and love my partner as a real person in the real world, if instead, I elaborate a fantasy about him or her, using the person merely as a springboard for my imagination and my wishes, then I am doomed sooner or later to resent the actual person for not living up to my fantasies”

So long as one remains captured by the myth of romantic love and chained to the search for the magical other, one dooms their relationship from the start. Holding on to the expectation that a romantic partner should be the primary source of life’s meaning leads to resentment and mounting pressures that either strain or break the relationship.

A pathological dynamic can also develop. The individual in search of the magical other manipulates and controls their partner in an attempt to mold them into their idealized image. The other partner fearful that they will be abandoned hopelessly strives to live up to this fantasy by submissively devoting almost all their time and energy to satiating the other’s every desire, wish and need.

Or as Hollis states. “The search for the magical other accounts for the fact that so many couples move from naive relatedness to the joustings of power. If you do not act as I wish I shall bring about your compliance by my actions. I will control you, criticize you, abuse you, withdraw from you, sabotage you and so through tactics of dependence or anger or control mixed with emotional and sexual withdrawal, one of the partners tries to force the other back into one’s original imaginary mold. Seldom are these attitudes and behaviors conscious”

To avoid the unnecessary suffering that plagues so many relationships, we must discard the myth of romantic love, abandon the search for the magical other, and rather than seeking salvation in someone else’s affection, concentrate on cultivating self-love. For as the psychologist Nathaniel Brandon wrote. “The first love affair we must consummate successfully, is the love affair with ourselves, only then are we ready for other love relationships”

Or as M.Scott Peck observed, “If being loved is your goal, you will fail to achieve it. The only way to be assured of being loved is to be a person worthy of love. And you cannot be a person worthy of love when your primary goal in life is to passively be loved.”

One of the most effective ways to find the motivation to cultivate self-love is to recognize and accept the fact that we are and always will be inescapably alone. We are born alone and die alone, and though the boundaries that separate us from others can be bridged, they can never be transcended. “We are each of us in the last analysis, islands of consciousness. And that is the root of our aloneness,” observed James Hollis.

Relationships come and either through breakup divorce or death, they end. But what always remains is our journey, the _Magnum opus_ of our life. “The ultimate goal of life remains the spiritual growth of the individual, the solitary journey to peaks that can be climbed only alone,” writes M. Scott Peck.

Focusing on expanding our skills, pursuing excellence in a vocation, cultivating enriching hobbies, sculpting our mind and body, creating a network of inspiring friends, seeking adventures, and devoting ourselves to rewarding goals, is how we make our solitary journey meaningful and therein cultivate self-love. And with sufficient self-love, we do not need a relationship to thrive and paradoxically, this is when we are at our most attractive and capable of cultivating a healthy relationship that is based on the following foundation of realism. A romantic partner can support us and enrich our journey just as we can support and enrich theirs.

However, to use a relationship to flee the burdens of our existence and to look to another person to provide us fulfillment is to damage the relationship and cripple ourselves with infantile dependencies. The earthly salvation that we seek can only be found by cultivating and affirming our journey. It cannot be found in the arms of another.
Those vested deeply in the idea of romance will no doubt protest, but then they will remain enslaved to the pursuit of the illusory Magical other.

Or as M. Scott Peck concludes. “It is the separateness of the partners that enriches the union. Great marriages cannot be constructed by individuals who are terrified by their basic aloneness, (as so commonly is the case) and seek a merging in marriage. Two people love each other only when they are quite capable of living without each other, but choose to live with each other. Genuine love, not only respects the individuality of the other but seeks to cultivate it, even at the risk of separation or loss”

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