Trick to Having Healthy Relationships: Knowing Thyself

When evaluating different suitors, a big factor that weighs in the potential mate dance is “Does he/she really get me?” In other words: will you complete me. Now since I dropped the Jerry McGuire reference I’m going to open this post by referencing the some tantalizing celebrity gossip that has hit the airwaves- the Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes divorce.

Five years ago everything was hunky-dory with their love affair, an A-list celebrity started courting Joey Potter. A bit of a whirlwind romance, but they settled into a life together and even had a kid. A pretty freaking adorable kid at that. But as most Hollywood romances unfortunately end, they too, ended in a mess of divorce papers and tabloids. Reports haves stated it was Cruise’s support of Scientology as the driving force behind the break up, views that his ex-wife cannot come to terms with. Herein lies the issue – in relationships it is definitely important to recognize the morals and viewpoints of your potential partner, but it is more important to recognize and come to terms with your own. This bit of soul searching -deemed shadow work – is one of the keys behind maintaining healthy relationships or perhaps even avoiding them from the beginning.

What is shadow work you may ask? In one of the best classes of my undergraduate career, my interpersonal communication professor introduced the novel “Romancing the Shadow: A Guide to Soul Work for a Vital, Authentic Life.” The novel, by Connie Zweig and Steve Wolf, describes the theory of the shadow work. Shadow work, inspired by Jungian philosophy maintains that we all have a shadow – if not many – that lies dormant and repressedImage.

“Meeting the shadow in ourselves is disquieting because it tears holes in our masks. It causes us to act irrationally and feel ashamed, embarrassed, unacceptable, regretful – and to quickly deny any responsibility for what we said or did.” (p. 5)

We do not like to recognize this shadow as it makes us uncomfortable and uneasy. It can take the form of depression, addiction, insecurity and so much more. If we continue to ignore the shadow – it manifests and can profoundly effect our interactions with family members, friends and lovers. Acknowledging your shadow helps you to not become consumed by it.

Our shadows come out when we least expect it, as we do a good job of pushing them out of consciousness. It is those unconscious moments, the slips of the tongue for instance, that bring an awareness.

Here are the places our shadows like to hide:

  • shame  – what do you regret? do you ever feel incompetent or unacceptable?
  • projections – we project when we see a trait in others that we fail to see in ourselves and react strongly, what gets that reaction? how do we judge others?
  • addiction – in what facet of life do you lose control?
  • slips of the tongue
  • humor

Our shadows are not going away any time soon. In fact, they are unconsciously governing your every move, so it’s about time you start recognizing them. Learn to know thyself, truly and deeply, then you will be able to recognize what you want and need in a relationship. Romance your shadow; take it out to dinner, drinks and invite it home with you. Trust me – its more than just a one night stand.


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