A typical and potentially destructive bonding pattern in a relationship is mother-son, father-daughter bonding. In a love relationship, the mother side of the woman often bonds into the son side of her partner and the father side of the man bonds into the daughter side of the woman. This is a natural and normal process that cannot be eliminated. On the positive side, this caring connection provides warmth and nurturing in a relationship. However, if we are not consciously aware of this pattern, it is likely to turn negative.
During the early stages of love, the little girl or little boy inside us is happy. The substitute father or substitute mother that our partner displays tries hard to be a good parent. They are attentive, loving, giving, and generous. However, we are not our partner’s parent. Sooner or later, this interaction is bound to flip, when our partner cannot continue being a good parent all the time. They might become critical, impatient, or even hold back their love or attention in a given situation.
The little child in us is the part that allows us to be truly vulnerable and intimate in a relationship. “It is this child that carries the deepest feelings in our heart and that can recognize the feelings deep in the hearts of others. … This child cannot be fooled by words or by reason because it responds directly to energies or feelings.” (Hal & Sidra Stone, Embracing Each Other, 35) Without being vulnerable we are also not able to experience real closeness with our partner. A balanced inner child brings magic to our relationship.
The little child inside will never grow up or go away completely. However, it is not our partner’s job to parent that younger self of us that we all carry inside. It is solely our job and responsibility to parent ourselves. By taking care of our inner child we ensure a healthier relationship and learn to heal our own wounds.
The vulnerable child within wants to be listened to, acknowledged and honoured. This means taking the feelings of the inner child seriously “but not allowing them to tyrannize us or those around us.” (Hal & Sidra Stone, Embracing Each Other, 49). The more we are aware of the little girl or little boy part inside and of her or his needs and feelings, the more we can integrate that part of us into a harmonic whole.
A regular dialogue with that vulnerable part in us is very helpful. When fears surface that stem from that child inside, it is important to be compassionate, loving and caring with ourselves. Give your inner child what she or he needs—love and the reassuring words of an encouraging parent will gently shift the perspective for the fearful or anxious child.
At first you can make it a daily routine to check in with the little one inside to see how he or she feels, and if they might need something from you as the protective and loving parent. Once you are friends with your inner child, you will notice clearly when an emotion or story comes up, because your inner child is worried or fearful about something. Make sure you have time to acknowledge them, consciously shift their story, and clear out that fear.
Dreams can help you to connect with the needs of your inner child. When we have a dream about a baby or young child, this child is often symbolic for our own inner vulnerable part. The dream can be about a child that we know, or an unknown little boy or girl. Notice and analyze your dreams for what they say about your inner child. Does it feel forgotten, neglected, or in danger? Does it need more love, attention, security or perhaps more laughter and play?
Another very important way of taking care of our vulnerable child inside is to make sure that we have a network of people whom we love and with whom we feel safe. Through that network, our inner child will receive nurturing not just from ourselves, but from a variety of sources. By reaching out to our network of family or friends, we make sure that we do not strain our marriage or relationship with the expectation that our partner has to take care of our inner child by him or herself.
Parenting your inner child is the gift you give yourself and your partner. If both partners take responsibility for their inner child, they can live an open and honest relationship from their aware ego which embraces all our parts inside but does not over-identify with any of them. We can be vulnerable and truly connected to each other from the heart.
If you are interested to learn more about Inner Child Work and how to parent yourself, contact me for a free consultation