The WHOLE picture

"Under the horse chestnut tree", 1 p...
“Under the horse chestnut tree”, 1 print : drypoint and aquatint, color ; (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sometimes we date people like our parents because we have no other model of who might be appropriate for us to date. When we don’t have an identity of our own, we tend to let others (like parents) dictate what is best for us. That’s not to say our parents, when we are adults, interfere or tell us who to date. It is to say that we, subconsciously, think we need to follow that same model of love that they set for us. When that is the case, we tend to only allow people into our lives who are familiar to us, never realizing we don’t have to “choose” people like our parents. We stick with what’s familiar, instead of questioning whether we might want and need something completely different.

And here’s the thing: if you have/had a good relationship with your parent(s), then, it’s all good. You can date someone who reminds you of your dad or mom and the relationship will most likely work out well. But if you had a bad relationship with a parent (despite loving him or her) you should not date them. That’s when we begin to confuse the big “L” (love) with “healthy relationship.” The two don’t always go hand in hand.

Case in point. I loved my father. I was entertained by many of the crazy things he did. But I inherently didn’t value the way he lived his life and he always made me feel uncomfortable and mistrusting. Yet, I always dated men based on the two things positive qualities I saw in my dad: love and entertainment. Well, guess what? That won’t get you very far. You need to like a little more than just a limited number of qualities. And “love” should not start off being one of them. That comes later.

And yet, we tend to see the “purpose” of people as having two sides instead of seeing the WHOLE picture. WHat I mean is this: your PoA has all these great qualities and you love him, but he’s a narcissist, a manipulator, and doesn’t pay you the attention you want. You’ve split your PoA in two. You stick around for the half good, but are in pain or suffering for the half bad. Essentially, you do what you did with your parents– you overlook the bad, so that you may love.

But that’s not how a healthy relationship is built. In order to have a healthy relationship, you need to think about and search for the whole picture!  You can’t cut people in half and say: I like these qualities and I will focus on them, and then I will ignore the other stuff. Nothing’s perfect, after all! Well, guess what. You don’t have to do that anymore! You had to do it with your parents, but you don’t have to do with the person you choose to be your partner.

We have no choice selecting our parents. We have to love them, despite their shortcomings. We have to find a way to adapt to them, accepting their negative qualities and love them at the same time. We do this as children to survive. But when we are adults, we DO NOT. HAVE TO DO THIS. We have a choice as to whom we select.

This brings me to the ultimate lie we tell ourselves in the game of love–that we will never find someone who FULLY satisfies us. There will always be issues, or problems. And while that is true, for the most part, there is a HUGE piece of that truth missing. You can, and must find someone with whom you share most of your same values. And you can and must find someone who does not cause you pain. That is not what love is about. ANd that is certainly not what a healthy relationship is about. There are degrees of discomfort and here are two examples:

-You love playing sports or working out at the gym, but you don’t particularly like a few of the exercises the instructor makes you do. The big picture is that you love the exercise class, and while you don’t like a couple of the exercises (who loves ab workouts!?), in the end, it’s a positive thing for you and your body and your peace of mind. Most of the class is worthwhile and so you can overlook the discomfort of what you don’t like because the class as a whole (and even those parts you don’t like) are in perfect alignment with your value system: to be healthy and fit.

Second scenario

-You love playing sports or working out at the gym, but the instructor is a total bitch. She belittles you, she reprimands you if you don’t do the exercises the right way and you don’t particularly like anyone else in the class. In fact, even though working out is good for you, you feel completely mentally and emotionally beaten down by your experience in the class. So, why do you stay? Well, you BELIEVE exercise is good for you and that you’re doing a good thing. But what you’re failing to see is the whole picture and the fact that you do NOT have to tolerate that kind of belittlement or pain just to reach your goal.

See the difference? I hope so!

5 thoughts on “The WHOLE picture

  1. Thank you thank you! 🙂 You sort of hit the nail on the head of something I’ve been ruminating about. I have been doing a lot of thinking about the value system and I think for addicts its such a huge issue. I’m 24 and I’d never even thought of values being important. Although there are things I see as right and wrong – the whole living by your value thing totally slipped my mind because it was so unclear while I grew up. In my case I learned every body is imperfect so I bent all my rules, values and the bars I always initially set to protect me disappeared and reappeared later on as a torture prop in my sick fantasy. Only until recently could i clearly see that values are there to protect and give my life structure with friends, family and relationships. It makes things a whole lot easier. It’s refreshing to take a step back from dating and determine who I am and what I value. Thanks again! 🙂


    1. Nice post! I too had a really hard time understanding values. It seemed like such an ambiguous word to me. Knowledge is power! Keep up the good work. There’s no stopping you now 🙂


    2. I’ve been caught so many times in the grey-haze of shifting values. For me, I get paralyzed when I don’t have absolute confidence that the values-structure I have crafted is “right”. There comes a times, it seems, when you just have to trust the structure, even if it isn’t perfect. A certain freedom comes from knowing the rules are in place, even if they aren’t always right. I lose so much time re-evaluating these structures; time that could be spent living. I’m now trying to look at the structures in my life which I never have to question; my morning routine, my exercise workout, my music practicing routine, and I see that I get so much more done when I just accept the structure. Once I can apply that to my personal life and to my core career, life is just going to be easier, and I know that it will be for all of us. When it comes to interpersonal values, consistency and efficacy in decision-making are two meta-values that come with committing to the intrinsic values-structure, even if the structure isn’t perfect.


  2. I just finished reading your blog over the last couple days. I’m so thankful I discovered it last week after a very painful breakup with my most recent (and if I have anything to do with it my LAST) PoA. Thanks for sharing your journey with us, it has helped me feel like I’m not alone, and that there is legitimate hope for me to recover. I am still missing my ex an incredible amount, but I’ve read a couple of books from your list and am currently working on the Self Esteem Workbook which I will be bringing to my therapist’s office this week (I’m sure he’ll be glad I’m finally doing something positive). Things are looking up even in this time of sadness, I just wish I could shake this sorrow over knowing I’ll never be with the guy I imagined my ex was.


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