I'll Show You Mine, If You Show Me Yours: How to Know if our Emotional Wounds are Compatible
Updated: Feb 5, 2019
The first meaningful gift he gave me was a box full of dark challenges.
From the outside, anyone might have mistaken them for sweet chocolates, but each one was filled with expectations, rules, projections from his past and clingy, codependent needs. I was choking with every bite and the only thing I could wash it all down with was the sour tasting, imitation-style of love that had become part of my daily diet.
I got used to this debauched style of cohabitation—it was the dysfunctional paradigm for pretty much all of my relationships with men. I’ll show you mine, you show me yours, and let’s cross our fingers that we can at least tolerate what we see.
Thankfully, I’ve come to learn that this brand of confection is in fact, a toxic concoction.
Whether we realize it or not, all of us are in some stage of recovery. Yep, you heard me correctly, and it’s all because our emotional wounds are as persistent as the almighty cockroach. Some of us, through conscious choice and action, put our lives on the healing plan and venture inside the dark cave of our psyche, while others — not so much. And that right there, is a critical component for compatibility.
In a healthy, non toxic relationship — I call them Green Relationships since things can grow within them — there will be a fairly high degree of self-awareness and accountability. The focus will be on nurture, care, love, kindness and growth. This is a couple that has explored their inner world and has at least a basic, working knowledge of what makes them sing, buzz, hum, grit their teeth or want to stab you in the back multiple times with a large kitchen knife.
In a Green Relationship, the shit from one partner’s “emotional landfill” can co-mingle with the shit from the other partner's landfill, and Voila — compost is created. (Or something productive and sustainable like that).
While there are no guarantees in life besides death, there are smart and sensible ways to approach relationships and potential partners so that we increase our likelihood for “compost creation.”
But before I get into that, a few thoughts about our shitty landfills.
Our landfills are our internal dumping ground where we store all the hurts and traumas our tender little selves felt and perceived starting from the time we were born (and many say starting in the womb). These hurts run the gamut of intensity between physical abuse, emotional abuse and/or neglect.
We all have a landfill and as I said, we’re all in some stage of recovery, working to “clean up” aspects of it even when we are unaware that that’s what we’re doing.
This is partly because our subconscious self seeks out the people and experiences that give us personalized, custom-tailored opportunities for healing. And yeah, it does seem counterintuitive. I mean why would I want to be with someone that validates and/or brings out my greatest fears and insecurities when I’m already so good at punishing myself with them? (Devouring the entire pizza definitely deserved that thirty-three minute inner rant of self repudiation.) But that’s exactly what we do. And if we pull the lens of our life out wide, we can see the patterns and common denominators of our choices.
As we age, our landfill becomes a mash-up of "treasures" running from the present all the way back to childhood. It’s well stocked with accumulated crap we hold onto from our family, friends, teachers, ex-lovers, ex-bosses, conditioning from the social and cultural narratives we live in, and more. Anything and everything we’ve experienced is fair game if it hits the right nerve.
It is the rich density of our "stuff" that makes it so hard for us to blend it easily with our partner’s "stuff."
So how do we know if we've met someone that we'll be able to create a smooth(ish) blend with?
In short, we don't.
What we need to focus on are the little-big things I mentioned earlier—Self-Awareness and Self-Accountability.
These are the things that will get you through the night better than a bottle of Jack and a Joni Mitchell record. (Okay maybe that's not true)
When we are willing to know our shit, own our shit and commit to the relationship, we have a very good chance of making it through the toxic wasteland we will enter at some point.
When both partners share this high degree of emotional maturity and take the time to respond, not react, get curious rather than blame or shame and share openly and honestly rather than shut down or stonewall, they exponentially increase their chances to make it into long-term-territory.
Welcome to a healthy, mature, Green Relationship.
Here's a short but power packed check list to help:
1. Self-Awareness — Know Thy Self (honestly) and don’t expect to match well with someone who upholds certain values and traits that you yourself do not. If you say you value good health but live your life eating ding dongs and binging Netflix on the couch while he's clocking gym time every night — you are not sharing this value! It doesn't mean he can't inspire and motivate you to change, but be honest and self-aware of current reality. Denial is not attractive.
2. Curiosity is your best friend. Remain curious — rather than indifferent or certain —about their life and how they show up in it. Questions and open, honest conversation are the initial ways we really get to know someone before we start to see them engage with the world. So keep an open mind and catch your judgments in order to question them. Ask yourself if you're applying rules and perception filters that may be coming from your shit and not the actual information you are receiving.
3. Listen more than you talk. There's not much point in being curious if you spend the whole time talking about your trip to Machu Picchu and how the Shaman blew your mind when he read your coca leaves and predicted you'd be sitting here having this exact moment with a ginger-haired Scotsman. Share yourself, yes, but listen, even more.
4. Observe their actions both with you and the rest of the world. Do the actions match the words? Do they treat others well? Actions really do speak the loudest because anyone can talk a good game but only someone following through with actual proof is worth our time.
5. Assess the gathered information like Sherlock Holmes. Rather than (only) being swept away by the early intoxication of the chemical high, take some time to assess all your intel objectively as if you are a third person in the mix. While there are still no guarantees, you will at least be armed with some really valuable information for deciding if this person is a Big-Hot-Yes, a Lukewarm-Maybe, or a Hell-No!
It's show time!