A brief break from the Narratives series to cover an important point about growth in committed relationships. It’s about relationship regression.
Erotic narratives push personal growth. Pushing personal growth means that regressions or setbacks will occur. People who push forward often get anxious (and try to manage it). But when development is very active, people often retreat from their truest selves
Committed relationships push partners’ levels of personal development. Which means they push partner ability to simultaneously bond and differentiate in the relationship. This often creates massive levels of anxiety, and unstoppable change.
Partners push each other’s growth frequently enough. Erotic, sexual and relational change are especially powerful. Change in those domains can push people right to the edge of emotion and psychological self-control.
Here’s the regression
Growth isn’t comfortable, and we tend to regress from it (some are able to stay at roughly the new level, but it’s never easy.) Where partners so often regress to first is what I call the “comparative/competitive” mode. Regression is essential to the learning process, so I think of it as part of the growth experience.
Retreat & guard
Faced with the problem of mutually managing new relational development, it’s common for partners to retreat, and to guard the self. Feelings of envy, insecurity or jealousy are common emotions that reflect this backwards tumble. Partners first apply ‘solutions’ learned during their adolescences, which of course don’t work well.
Protect at all costs
Comparing your behaviors to your partner’s, or feeling competitive – each is self-protective in nature. People separate, pull back, defend or qualify their investment and commitment to each other. All of this usually takes place before thinking takes over again.
It’s fairly clear that comparing and competing is not mature adult behavior. They are closer to the child and adolescent process of gauging one’s status and standing via comparison (and competition) with peers and/or siblings
Thinking is needed to guide the relationship forward when the storm of emotion and the confusion of regression subsides.
I’ll pick up Narratives again. This brief pause of a post will hopefully be helpful.