February 8, 2009
“I’m not getting along real well with Amy right now,” Dillon confessed. “I get into relationships, and everything goes great, and after about six months, all these issues come up.”
“Congratulations,” I responded. “The relationship is working.”
Dillon was surprised but relived to hear my response. He was glad to know that something wasn’t dreadfully, fatally wrong.
“Look,” I told him, “I’ve always heard that the first six months of a love relationship are free. Then they start walking you through your fire. If you connect on a lot of levels, that fire will burn a lot hotter than if you don’t hook up so much. The fact that this person can drive you crazy means that she’s touching you on a really deep level. If she wasn’t, you could float along.”
When relationships start to bring up issues, some people try to sweep those issues under the rug and pretend they don’t exist. That’s a formula for bumping into the same problem again and again. In great relationships, partners untangle the mess and uncover the lesson in each collision. They walk through their fires and right out to the other side.
Dillon was guilty of jumping to a negative conclusion about something Amy had done, not listening when she tried to explain herself, and pressuring her to agree with his version of events. Amy was guilty of shutting down. She was shocked by Dillon’s harshness and stunned into silence.
Dillon could have won an academy award for best actor playing Amy’s father. Amy could have won an academy award for best actress playing Dillon’s mother. These two young adults triggered an emotional regression in each other that had them operating on the level of about age five.
But guess what! As adults they have more resources than they did when they were five. Sure, they never learned to handle those behaviors with their parents, and it’s a bit embarrassing to be five years old with your sweetheart when you’re in your late twenties. But when an adult walks through a fire they were not equipped to handle as a child, they come out stronger for it.
After all, Amy loves her father and Dillon loves her mother, and Amy and Dillon love each other. They love each other enough to admit what’s happening for them.
And that’s why their relationship will continue to work beautifully.