Keep Each Other New
Drs. Evelyn and Paul Moschetta

Why is it that animals are so much more forgiving than humans? If you have ever had a dog or a cat you must have noticed this. If you use a sharp tone when reprimanding your dog for some "bad" behavior, does your dog hold it against you? No. He or she is there the next morning, tail wagging and as delighted as ever to see you. As far as your dog is concerned, the scolding never happened. If only we humans could follow that example.

Animals appear to be ego-free creatures, living totally immersed in the present moment. Their awareness-their entire beings-seem fully focused on right now. It's highly unlikely that they spend time lamenting the past or contemplating the future. They meet each unfolding moment fresh. Unless abused by humans, the way they react today is not determined by what happened yesterday.

Here on the human plane we do just the opposite: we remember the past and think about the future. This ability makes our lives easier, safer, and personally fulfilling in various ways. The down side in a loving relationship is that our ego uses these same abilities to create images of ourselves and of each other. Images distort the way we see ourselves and how we see and hear one another. They prevent us from keeping each other new.

No matter how well matched a couple may be together, they will always have their differences. Partners are not clones of one another, so differences are inevitable. Living together brings those differences out more clearly and tests a couples' ability to communicate and cooperate. When these skills fail and partners are unable to build bridges over their differences, conflict develops, and they begin drifting apart.

Each time there is a clash of needs (I want this; you want that), each time a problem is not solved amicably, each time an appropriate expectation gets disappointed, and each time there is a hurt that is not healed, there are varying degrees of negative feelings created. Over time, these negative feelings are continually being collected by your survival-oriented ego. Remember, we have repeatedly pointed out that your ego holds on to hurt and anger.

When negative feelings build up your ego turns them into a fixed image, a mental picture that captures your core complaints-the things that you wish were different about your partner. In the same way, your partner has solidified an image about you. So you have an image of your partner, and she has one of you. Now these images begin influencing how you see, hear, and react to one another.

In most cases these fixed images are unspoken and operate without your being completely aware of them. They become an automatic bias that distorts your perception and your communication. Everything your partner says and does gets filtered through the image you have about them. Once an image is in place you no longer see or hear cleanly without distortion. You may also attribute motives and intentions to your partner that may be completely off the mark.

In difficult moments with your partner your ego calls up this image as a way to protect itself or to gain an advantage. This never works. Having fixed images of one another hurts your relationship, because those images bring the past (images being a collection of past negative experiences) into the present. This means that the present is never free from the past; each unfolding moment is contaminated by negative thoughts, feelings, and memories from the past.

This is an extremely toxic situation for your relationship, because images keep you from meeting one another clearly and directly in each present moment. They lock you into recycling the same negative experiences of one another. The more you react and respond through images, the more disconnected you become from one another. This is exactly the place where most roommates find themselves in when they come for counseling.

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Drs. Moschetta


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