To understand how we interact with our spouse or partner, we need to know about our inner children and about bonding patterns.
Bonding patterns are basic units of interaction between people. The primary bonding pattern emerges at birth between the child needing nurturing and the mother giving nurturing. Our primary bonding patterns with our parents or primary care givers become recreated in all our relationships as adults. We are able to solve the issues from our original families in those new relationships.
The mother parts of the woman are bonded into the son parts of the man, and visa versa, the father parts of the man are bonded into the daughter parts of the woman. Bonding patterns represent the interactions between our sub-personalities or selves.
Our Aware Ego allows us to become aware of the bonding patterns, for example to realize that we are in our inner child part in an interaction, or our parent part in another interaction. Through this awareness, I can separate from this bonding pattern. The bonding pattern itself won’t disappear but I am able to meet my partner from the place of my Aware Ego. It gives us choices in our interactions as opposed to interacting automatically.
Hal and Sidra Stone
Hal and Sidra Stone are very clear that there is nothing wrong with the parent-child bonding pattern. It is a basic unit of interaction. It is always present in our love relationships. It happens automatically and allows us to be intimate and close. When we love somebody we are protective and want to take care of them. Judging these bonding patterns as “co-dependency” is not helpful. As human beings, we are naturally inter-dependent. The key is to become aware of the bonding dynamics in our relationships, enjoy them when they have a positive impact, but also separate from them when they cause problems.
The positive bonding pattern can tip over into a negative bonding pattern. When the negative bonding pattern is activated because our vulnerability is triggered, we might switch from “good parent” to “judgmental parent”, and that’s when we realize we are in a bonding pattern.
Let’s take an example. Mark makes more money than Barbara and enjoys buying gifts for her or surprising her with get-aways or other special activities. Barbara feels good about having things bought for her as it reminds her of her father who had a similar love language to show his affection. Over time, she is getting used to those gifts and might ask Mark for something more expensive, for example a bigger house. At that point, Mark’s vulnerability is triggered and his fear that he is unable to keep up these expenses. If he is not aware of his fear—and most of us aren’t—he will move from the loving caring father who fulfilled Barbara’s desires into the judgmental father. Barbara is stunned to hear him say, “You are really ungrateful and spoiled. Why do you need an even bigger house? Who do you think you are married to? A millionaire?”
Barbara’s inner child is surprised and hurt and she might in turn judge Mark now as being controlling with money or cheap. With awareness, they are able to realize they are in a parent-child bonding pattern. Mark can then from his Aware Ego explain to Barbara, “My fear was triggered by you asking for the bigger house. I am worried we won’t be able to carry a higher mortgage. Several people have been laid off at my company and I am afraid this might happen to me as well down the road.” Instead of having to protect her inner child by going into a primary personality part to defend herself, Barbara can now respond with love and understanding from her own vulnerable part.
We have to be kind to each other and ourselves when it comes to these bonding patterns. They are natural and we spend a lot of time living in these bonding patterns. Most bonding patterns exist in a positive form. They are not causing trouble. As long as Mark is behaving like a good father and Barbara is the pleasing compliant grateful daughter they might not even realize they are in a bonding pattern. However, the moment Mark becomes the negative father to the frightened little girl inside Barbara, it lets them discover that Mark was taking on the role of responsible father and Barbara was letting him take all the financial responsibility.
This bonding pattern also exists the other way round. When our inner child isn’t taken care of by us, our inner child will hook into our partner and expect them to take care of him (or her). When real physical children come along, and the woman is all focussed on nurturing the little baby, the little boy in the man can become triggered. He might unconsciously drift into a more passive role and let the good mother in the woman run the show. He most likely is not even aware that the only way he feels he can get her attention is by being a little boy himself. That can quickly tip over into a negative bonding pattern when the woman refuses to mother her partner as well because she feels overwhelmed and vulnerable with her new role already.
A bonding pattern tips over when our vulnerability is triggered. That could be because we are frightened, hungry, tired, abandoned, lonely or feeling misunderstood, unappreciated or unloved. When our needs aren’t met, a primary self comes in and takes over. We might get angry or judgmental. These conflicts can go on for a long time or be re-activated over and over again, especially if we are not aware of the mirrors and our disowned selves.
When I have disowned certain things in myself which my partner carries for me, I might get angry at what I don’t like in myself. If Susan is over-identified with being productive and her partner is able to relax and do nothing, she might begin to criticize and judge him for being “lazy” or a “procrastinator”. If John is more serious and his partner is more playful, he might over time judge her as being “immature” and “childish”. If Rita is thrifty and her partner is less concerned with saving money, she might judge him as “irresponsible” and “wasteful”. The ability to relax, be playful or be generous which each of them originally loved in their partner is later on the trigger for judgments.
They might express these judgmental opinions either in words or with looks and in turn their partner will flip into judgmental parent judging them for the opposite. At that point, love “goes out the window”. What once was dear and fascinating to them about their partner is what they now hate. The partner’s inner child feels betrayed and is quite confused, “Wasn’t this the wonderful person who at the beginning loved me for who I am?”
Our disowned selves which we are so ready to criticize in the other person become the bats we are beating each other up with. We forget that what our partner mirrors for us is what we need to embrace and heal inside ourselves. We need to stop when we find ourselves being judgmental and examine how our vulnerability was triggered. How do I really feel underneath this judgmental voice?
We also need to realize that no energy is bad. Energy exists in polar opposites when we have not fully integrated an energy. What if Susan allowed herself to relax more and just be in the moment without the pressure to be productive? What if John took life less seriously and allowed himself to be more playful and laugh more? What if Rita realized her fear is triggered around money but that she can allow herself to be more generous without ending in poverty or debt?
It’s the job of the Aware Ego, not your partner’s responsibility, to properly parent your own inner child. Like a real parent, the Aware Ego has to learn to be a parent to the primary selves and to the vulnerable child. That parent voice is not critical or harsh like the inner critic or a primary self can sound. The parent voice is encouraging, loving and takes care of the inner child’s needs.
If I consciously take care of my own inner child, I won’t expect my partner to do it for me. That prevents these negative bonding patterns from continuing and opens up opportunities to communicate openly about our true feelings and our vulnerability. By taking care of my own inner child, I give myself the gift to have deep, intimate, mutually supportive and honest relationships.
If you want to listen to Hall & Sidra Stone’s “The Dance of Our Parts in Relationships”, go to http://www.voicedialogueinternational.com/bookshop.php
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Angelika, 905-286-9466, firstname.lastname@example.org