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Would You Marry Yourself – Or Someone Like You?

Click here to contact Debra and/or see her GoodTherapy.org Profile

 

A glance at many magazines today will offer practical advice and “how to” strategies for the pursuit of the man or woman of our dreams. Let’s face it—sexy tag lines and catchy subtitles make for good print copy but do little for building healthy and sound relationships. Projecting our wants, expectations, or intentions onto our partners-to-be only serves to foreshadow the inevitable relational demise. It is as if we build in our own obsolescence from the very start.

How is that possible you may ask, “when I’m doing all the right things, paying close attention to selecting my partner, and looking at what he or she has to offer the relationship?” I admit that these words sound counter intuitive, however, first consider this proposition.

Would you marry yourself or someone like you? Do you like the person you are and what you have to offer, enough to marry yourself?

Some time ago, I put this question to a client in therapy. During our session, in his plunge toward self pity, he began to lament the state of his personal affairs, citing one futile relationship after another. “I don’t know what else to do.” With exasperation he cynically sneered, “Just when I think I’ve found someone ‘special’ and things are going ‘swell’, she leaves me. How does this happen that I pick the same women who cheat on me time after time?”

That’s when I asked him to humor me since I was about to ask him a question that might strike him as weird. “You’re right that is a weird question—“Geez, no, I wouldn’t marry anyone like me!” He went on to state that he was amazed that anyone liked him at all. That response or a variation of its kind often followed when I posed that same question to other clients.

Our courage to look inward at our own fallibility and dark side will go a long way toward building the healthy relationships we desire; not just in romantic expression but in all the personal interactions of our lives. To know one’s dark side is to embrace the aspects within about which we feel shame or guilt. While our tendency might be to bury or dismiss those parts of ourselves that we don’t want to acknowledge, this deep seated inner truth will only serve to undermine any positive changes and inner strength we strive toward.

Initially our tendency might be to assess what our partners bring to the proverbial party without assessing what we have to offer. Are we that emotionally available person we are seeking? Do we remain open to constructive criticism and risk being known or do we defend ourselves into isolation staunchly committed to defending our self-righteous deception? Is it okay to be lonely just as long as “I’m not wrong?”

These are the hard yet essential questions to be answered. Only when we like the person we are and work toward becoming will we attract that very same energy which we seek in others. The journey to know spiritual peace and fulfillment is an inside-out endeavor.

That first step begins by defining what we want to change about ourselves and being honest about who we are. If you don’t really know what it is you want to change about yourself because you are too close for honest introspection, start with observing behavior in others that we find uncomfortable or unpleasant. These behaviors that we observe in others acts as our reflective internal barometer. In essence by being willing to note these unlikable behaviors in others we are facing reflections of our true selves and that is a good indication that we are ignoring who we truly are.

The initial work in defining what we want to change takes an honest assessment of our most rejected parts of ourselves. It is easier to seek the completion of ourselves and acquire what we believe we inherently lack than to actually empower it from within. How often are we drawn to attractive people while believing deep down that we ourselves are not as good looking or unattractive? When we accept and love our qualities without seeking to acquire them, we form the strongest foundation for intimacy.

By beginning with that one simple but profound step we begin the enlightened journey toward feeling inner peace and fulfillment. As propositions go, there is no better partner with whom you can say, “I do!”

Related articles:
You Never Know Til You Try
Marriage & Family Therapy: A Hope for Real Change
Can Reading an Article Improve my Relationship?

© Copyright 2008 by Debra L. Kaplan, MA, MBA, therapist in Tucson, AZ. All Rights Reserved.

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Comments
  • Lyle February 8th, 2008 at 4:32 PM #1

    I found this to be a very interesting blog entry. I really like the reference to observing things about others that annoy or bother us. I have found this sort of thing to be so true both within myself and within my clients.

  • Lisa February 8th, 2008 at 4:34 PM #2

    I find that many of clients are indeed trying to complete themselves by searching outside themselves for a person with qualities they wish they had. It is much better to appreciate all of your intricacies and then find someone who feels the same. All this is great talk, but would I marry myself? No way!! I’m way too hard to live with!

  • Art February 8th, 2008 at 4:35 PM #3

    I have to chime in on this one-I would definitely marry myself! Although I can argue w/ me, myself, and I on occasion, I can’t think of anyone I’d rather spend the rest of my life with. :)

  • Amy February 8th, 2008 at 4:36 PM #4

    After much soul searching and working on all my many issues, I can honestly say that I would marry myself. Although it has taken me a long time to get to this point, I can honestly say that I like myself well enough to want to find someone who is a lot like me. Is that wrong? Or, is it better to let all of that go and find someone who challenges me?

  • eeabee February 11th, 2008 at 6:14 AM #5

    I feel I have to say something about the tone of that one bit about the client plunging toward self-pity and cynically sneering–while I’m sure that his attitude may well have been unpleasant, I found this tone/attitude toward the client to be judgmental.

    I am on the client side, not a therapist, so maybe that’s why it hit me this way. I know how important it has been for me to feel like I’m not being looked down upon.

    It sounds to me like you’re skillful in many ways and insightful so I’m thinking you might be open to hearing this, and I do intend it helpfully.

    But I also wanted to say that I liked what you said about this way of viewing things–it’s a great question and helps reframe the relationship issues and open things up.

  • Debra L. Kaplan February 11th, 2008 at 9:33 PM #6

    Hi Eeabee,

    Thank you for taking the time to comment. For that matter, the same applies to all whom have shared on the article/topic, as well.
    I want to take this opportunity to respond to your comments.

    The line regarding the “client’s plunge toward self-pity” was born out of a session that examined how the client benefited from romantic pursuits (rescuers) who perpetuated his negative feelings about self. By remaining in the victim position, he secured protection from looking at his own issues, taking risks, and most importantly owning his own behavior that kept him safely stuck in the problem and avoidant of the solutions.

    I admit that the word cynical does not sound therapeutically supportive. Yet it aptly described the tenor of this client’s process; oppressed, helpless, and powerless.

    There is no excuse for judgement nor meanspirited superiority. That being said my therapeutic style does not work for everyone. It is direct and upfront and I don’t pull any punches. Nor would I tip-toe around or ignore issues that present for examination if the client is open or willing to do so.

    As he moved toward self empowerment he began to understood and thus “get” his unconscious need to be dependent and thus become a “victim” by his own hand. He also gave up his need for sarcasm and cynical barbs.

    As a therapist, therapeutic consumer and writer, I am open to examination of my own process. For me the greatest therapists are those that were/are willing to own their own shortcomings and acknowledge/own their own style.

    So thank you Eeabee for your comments and input. I hope this clarification shed some background on the situation.

    Debra L. Kaplan

  • eeabee February 12th, 2008 at 7:25 AM #7

    Thanks for replying.

    Those kinds of phrases do depend on context–and of course upon how much of a shared use of the phrase there is between therapist and client. I know that sometimes I identify a dynamic in myself in ways that I might not think sound flattering (and I overdo that sometimes, but that’s a whole other issue!), and if a therapist is using a phrase that I’ve introduced myself then it wouldn’t feel judgmental necessarily. It does all depend on the relationship.

    I appreciated your willing to think about it and respond–that’s really what makes therapy and therapists a special kind of resource.

    I think it’s such a danger of of the therapy relationship that these kinds of power dynamics need to be discussed openly and often. I think about this a lot from the other side in my own profession (college teaching of literature and writing), because some similar kinds of power dynamics (not on such a close/deep level, but with larger amounts of people) can show up there too.

    Thanks,
    eeabee

  • Debra L. Kaplan February 12th, 2008 at 5:40 PM #8

    I enjoyed hearing from you…thank you for the feedback and the opportunity to look inward!

    Debra

  • Ilissa Banhazl, MFT July 29th, 2012 at 11:07 AM #9

    What an awesome concept! A great way to put it. I will ask my clients this question! Thanks!
    Ilissa Banhazl, Marriage and Family Therapy in Glendora, CA

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