Ralph Butcher, MFT
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The 3 P's of Partner Selection

Have you ever wondered why your partner seems to want to pick a fight with you? Have you ever heard your partner describe you in a particular way; a way that doesn’t match what you know about yourself? Are you confused by these behaviors? Well, you are likely one of millions of people who encounter these behaviors on a regular basis. Welcome to the “Three-P’s” of partner selection.

In Imago Relationship Theory we believe that we Pick a partner who is a match for us based on our childhood experiences. The person we Pick has to pass through a series of filters in our unconscious brain before we will see them as a suitable relationship partner. We will talk about these filters in an upcoming blog. If you Pick a partner who is a close enough match to your childhood experience, you may not need to use the following Two-P’s.

What if your partner is a fairly close match to your childhood experiences, however there are some missing elements. For example, what if you had an angry or explosive father and your current partner is just a little bit too mellow. You unconscious brain will get busy and Provoke your partner into acting like the dad you remember. You know your partner well enough to know which buttons to push to get the reaction you remember from childhood.

Another tactic that is a favorite of the unconscious brain is to Project an image onto your partner. The image that you are Projecting onto them may not be who they really are, but you need to see them that way so they match your memory of the past. And in extreme cases, your partner (the receiver of the Projection), may give up trying to convince you that this is a distorted image and will act out and become the Projection.

Why do we go to these extremes? The answer is that we need to recreate our childhood experiences with our current partner so our current environment will feel a lot like our original environment with our parents, in the hope that we get a second chance to complete the task of growing up. We all experienced some level of childhood wounding, which interrupted the process of developing and mastering tasks. Then, we search for a partner who is similar to our original family structure, so the unconscious brain will recognize the familiar system and pick-up where it left off, meaning to continue the growing up process.

Just know that the unconscious mind is only concerned about two things: growth and healing. And while it is romantic to believe that we choose a partner based on the desires of our conscious mind (to be happy and to feel good), the directive of the unconscious mind wins every time. And if we follow the directive of the unconscious mind, meaning we work with our partner to grow and heal, the conscious mind will feel good and become happy.

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