It’s official. I’m in love… with the latest new TV drama series, The Americans. If you haven’t heard of it yet, it’s another of those clever stories in the same vein as Breaking Bad and Homeland, that plays with your allegiance, tests your ethics and makes you question exactly who are the ‘good guys’ and who are the ‘bad guys’ in a story that’s far from black and white. Centering on a couple of undercover KGB operatives and their oblivious US-born kids, living as an all-American family in the midst of Cold War America, it raises all kinds of potent questions as the two secretly fight for their motherland, while the FBI draw ever-closer to uncovering them. Equally fascinating is the fractured relationship of the two parents themselves, brought together to pretend to be a happily married couple as part of their disguise.
In the latest episode I watched, Elizabeth (the wife) brings up the idea that people often fall in love, or make friends, form political allegiances or are drawn into business deals because they often see something in the other person that isn’t necessarily actually there. It started me thinking about how often we project our desires, fears, wants and needs onto another person, especially within an intimate relationship, imagining them to have certain qualities because we want them to have them.
When we look at someone and decide to begin a relationship with them, we often see a reflection of ourselves in that person. It’s sometimes experienced as a feeling of ‘falling in love’ – but many times, this unconscious, narcissistic impulse is a distortion of reality, and it’s the gateway to us getting involved in some rather unsuitable, self-destructive and soul-destroying relationships.
It’s very easy to fall into the trap of wanting to be ‘mirrored’ instead of actually relating to the people in our lives for who they are. Some will even go on to marry, only becoming disillusioned when they realise their partner isn’t the person they thought they were.
The trick with all this is to grow into your relationship, to become more conscious as the projection wears off and to work on embracing your own missing ‘half’ rather than seeking it from your relationship. Often this can be a painful process as we acknowledge and embrace our incomplete or ‘shadow’ side – but in accepting our own missing parts, we can begin to see our partners for who they are, not who we wanted them to be. That allows us experience real love, and a willingness to support our partners to be their own, unique, authentic selves.
What’s most important to remember is that two people can’t properly know each other until enough time has gone by to enable them to see who the other really is. It takes much honesty and self-disclosure to get to this point – but the reward comes with the freedom we can give our partners to be authentically themselves, without the weight of our expectation, and the enjoyment of a balanced union of two separate, whole, but connected beings.
In love and light,