Magazine article Family Therapy Networker

Imperfect Lives

Magazine article Family Therapy Networker

Imperfect Lives

Article excerpt

OSCAR WILDE TOLD US THAT IN this world there are only two tragedies. One is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it." Those who don't get their heart's desire seem to complain more about it. They show up almost daily in therapy, bewailing that they are miserable because their lives are, in some way, imperfect. Their actual problem may be imperfect genetics, disordered brain chemistry or a shortage in their schedules of hard work and vigorous exercise. They may well suffer from poor social skills and bad manners. -Most likely they suffer from disordered expectations of what life is like. But to them, it makes perfect sense to declare a sense of tragedy when they discover their life is not exactly as they had desired. In expensive restaurants you can send back the wine if it is not precisely to your taste; in marriage, childraising and life, it is not the easy, though people still try to do it.

Particularly trendy is The Tragedy of Imperfect Parents. There are people who fee! crippled by imperfect parenting and actually believe that they can't function successfully, sanely or politely in life because their parents ran too hot or too cold, loved them too much or 100 little, felt them up or let them down. And there are therapists who encourage such beliefs!

The Tragedy of Imperfect Children. I see parents who are driving themselves and their children nuts because the children are not at the top of the class or captain of the team. They see themselves as having made such an investment in the child that the child should repay the parent with not only adoration, but even glory.

The Tragedy of Imperfect Love. People come in and complain loud and long about the imperfect love they got from partners whom they berate and torment unmercifully for not loving them ideally. One man inspected the house each night, telling his wife that she would have starched his socks, polished the faucets or waxed the lawn if she had really wanted to show him her love. A woman followed her husband around with a pad and pencil writing down the responses he would have given her if he had loved her right. Such creatures declare that this torture is their way of getting the love they deserve by teaching the poor slob they've married how to love them properly. This is a crazy effort to mold an unsuspecting partner into a fantasy of the love these pitiful people think they need in order to feel whole, or in order to feel like giving anything back. Tragically, it just removes both partners from the real relationship they could be negotiating, working out and living. As soon as one partner tells another, "If you loved me you would do this, that or the other" or "feel this, that or the other," 1 know we are watching a tragedy unfold. …

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