Love Lingers Here: Intimate Enduring Relationships–Essay IV: The New Self and Founding Story
The first myth that we are likely to embrace when we are looking for and establishing an intimate relationship concerns the sense of a “new self”. We often, at least unconsciously, assume that we can be reborn in a good relationship and can leave our past behind. Alternatively, we embrace the opposite side of this myth. We assume that we are doomed to relive the lives of our parents. In one of her first popular songs, Carly Simon sings about this first myth: her lover asks if they can move in together and start a family of their own. Yet, Carly’s protagonist looks at the relationship that her parents have established and sees only pain. She’s not sure if she can somehow overcome this legacy and live in a more gratifying relationship.
The First Myth
The reality of intimate relationships seems to lie somewhere between these two extremes. As many psychologists and psychoanalysts have pointed out we bring our past lives with us. We live with the ghosts of failed relationships in our own past as well as the past of those who have played central roles in our lives (our parents, siblings, uncles, aunts, in-laws and so forth). However, this doesn’t mean that these “ghosts” must necessarily dominate our relationship. The theologian, Paul Tillich (as quoted by Moore, 1994, p. 42) has written lyrically about this potential in a loving relationship: “when the old compulsions reign within us as they have for decades, when despair destroys all joy and courage, sometimes at that moment a wave of light breaks into our darkness, and it is as though a voice was saying ‘you are accepted. You are accepted.”‘