In seeing our mate as a "parental" figure, we of course endow him or her with all the associations we acquired in living with our parents: their capacity to wound us, to abandon us: their rules about sex, anger, and love.
In addition to our needs for protection and safety, we also have profound needs for autonomy and independence. These needs require that we be in an equal and separate relationship with our partner. The tension between these needs--for safety and protection, and for independence and autonomy--is fundamental to human life itself; and it is never "resolved."
But the way in which we deal with this struggle in marriage vitally affects the quality of our lives.
We may enjoy learning on our mate for leadership and strength but spending all our time on downside of seesaw eventually begins to feel degrading and limiting--a bit like perpetual childhood. While we may initially like being strong and in control in our marriage, staying precariously perched on the upside of the seesaw also begins to tire.
We sense the awful burden of responsibility, and the strain of having to give and give.
In healthy marriage, we can experience power and vulnerability. We can be strong and give support; we can be needy and receive it.
But support is different from "parenting" a distinction that will require some elaboration.
We can also be vulnerable together, sharing feelings of tenderness or sadness (perhaps this is that delicate teetering moment on the fulcrum when neither sends the board up or down).
But we should also be able to be simultaneously powerful, confronting each other, or trading ideas forcefully (and here we bounce the board up and down vigorously as we test the limits of our own strength).
If we dare, we can ride this exciting board for all it is worth!
There are many obstacles to this best of all possible marriages in which we can be both powerful and vulnerable. Most of these obstacles are the result of our having grown up in imperfect families, where we learned that in order to feel loved, we had to limit ourselves.
Each of us needs to know how we developed the inhibitions; we need to understand where, for us, the seesaw gets stuck.
The Fragile Bond - Napier