So, my brother in law is a clinical psychologist and we have had a number of conversations about projection and transference. At the risk of turning this into a debate on the merit of these behaviors, a basic understanding of the concepts are helpful. The bottom line is we carry a lot of stuff around in our backpacks. Stuff that we began collecting from the time we first opened our eyes and began absorbing the world around us. Some of it is good. Some, not so much.
Know what is in your back pack
It is imperative we have self-awareness of what is in the backpack because we unwittingly transfer and project much of what is in there on our spouse. Marriage is difficult enough without the confusion of all the needs, wants and desires that can be subconsciously thrown into the relationship. The simplest example I can share is this: My dad had an undiagnosed bi-polar disorder and a such, he self-medicated with alcohol and prescription drugs (or other) for much of his life. Needless to say, growing up in our household was a wee bit outside the bell curve compared to most of my friends families. He could never settle down, hence we moved a lot and oscillated between the brink of poverty and instant wealth. Neither of it lasted though which became the enduring “burden” that I learned to carry in my backpack, and ultimately project into my marriage. Though on the whole, our financial picture has been much more stable, it hasn’t felt that way emotionally. I have oscillated over the years between confidence and fear, of which my wife has had to bear the brunt of the dramatic swings in emotion.
Notice that I suggest know what is in your backpack, versus fix what is in your backpack. I don’t believe you can fix something if you are not in relationship, bounded by the obligations of marriage (admittedly, I’ve don’t have the experience of a lifelong companionship that did not have the formality of marriage. It’s hard for me to envision, however, though I am sure it happens, if rarely). I also believe in the grand scheme of things, that marriage is about healing through learning to put your needs and issues behind those of your spouse. For someone like me, that has been a lifelong work and if anything, has allowed me to become really good at apologizing…
How you do this? Well, that is a life-long work. For me, it’s been through therapy, painful mistakes, prayer, meditation, metacognition, and an over inquisitive mind that is fascinated with the cause and effect algorithms of the human psyche.
Regardless of how you travel this road, travel it. Get to know yourself. Know what is in your backpack and begin the work of healing with your spouse.