“In quarreling about the shadow, we often lose the subtance” – Aesop

“In quarreling about the shadow, we often lose the substance”.  – Aesop

In treating couples who are in dysfunctional relationships, it is not unusual to find that instead of dealing with the underlying reasons for the problems in their relationship, they focus on arguing about the surface irritants. These irritants soon mushroom into all encompassing barriers to the closeness they claim they had once experienced before they moved out of the “honeymoon stage” of their relationship.  They go around in circles, arguing about the same old things and ending up in the same old place, feeling frustrated, angry and misunderstood.

Resolving these irritating issues is like pinning shadows to the wall. So, instead of resolution, comes a piling on of the same old, same old.  As strange as it may seem, this shadowy dance serves a purpose.  It keeps the couple connected and from dealing with issues of substance which, believe it or not, can seem more threatening to the relationship.

The desire for intimacy, closeness, feeling understood, accepted and validated are all issues of substance that are deeply valued, yet rarely talked about.  To truly discuss these takes courage and honestly that far too few couples, who are having relational problems, possess. The fear of discovering they may be with the wrong partner may be too threatening for them to discover.   However, in order to have a relationship that is truly rewarding, these underlying issues of substance need to be successfully addressed.

These individual values should not be labeled as right or wrong though they may be expressed or experienced differently by each person. However, time would be better spent in negotiating getting those needs met appropriately rather than engaging in power struggles over the shadows that have no real substance.