By Neil Strauss
The unconscious purpose of marriage is to finish childhood.” The speaker is Harville Hendrix, a former preacher turned relationship guru. He’s Messianic in his delivery and sense of self-importance. It would almost be off-putting if his message wasn’t so accurate.
Ingrid, my wife, and I sit in a classroom full of oldermarried couples who’ve been having problems for decades. We’ve only been having problems for years.
But we’re here because I broke trust in the worst possible way: by cheating on her. And we’re still in the process of repairing the relationship.
Trust is something that can’t be given back. It must be earned back. And as a journalist who’s spent most of his adult life on the road with the world’s most decadent rock bands and undercover with the world’s weirdest ‘pickup artists’ – a clandestine group of men who consider themselves experts at seducing women – for books like The Dirt andThe Game, I was already operating at a deficit from the start.
A man with salt-and-pepper hair next to me is doodling a gun on his notepad as if he wants to kill himself.
Hendrix explains that we subconsciously pick partners who in some way embody the traits we didn’t like about our parents. And then we try to get our unmet childhood needs met by that person in order to resolve the wounds of our childhood.
“We’re attracted to what we dislike most,” he elaborates. “Often the very trait we’re most attracted to when dating, we find unacceptable in a marriage and want our partner to get rid of.”
And so what happens is that either the partner doesn’t fulfill that need, and that leads to tension and conflict. Or you get what you need, then don’t know what to do with it because it’s so unfamiliar and overwhelming—so you change the person back into a replica of your parents.
“That’s you,” Ingrid whispers to me. “You always wanted trust from your mum and I gave you unconditional trust. But you broke the trust, and then the relationship turned into what you had growing up.”
The way Hendrix sees it, relationships move through specific stages. First there’s romance, then commitment, then a power struggle, and finally a power struggle outcome.
That outcome can either be a hot marriage (with lots of conflict), a parallel marriage (with two people basically living separate lives under one roof), a divorce (or separation), or what he calls conscious destiny.