According to Carl Jung, we all have a shadow side that we’ve hidden from ourselves, a deep fear that we’re ashamed to look at. Most of us are able to dance around it, deny it and project it, for a certain number of years. That is, until we meet a partner and seek new levels of intimacy.
Given the amount of time we spend with our partners, sooner or later they’re going to be the ones to bump into our shadows first. Most couples don’t stay together once the shadows have been exposed; there is just too much shame attached to them. Shame for having them. Shame for hiding them. Shame for not fixing them yet. Most of this shame comes from childhood, and are unwillingly (at best, willingly at worst) put on us by our parents or close relatives. Just being treated as inferior leaves a mark that can last a lifetime, so we wander from partner to partner, presenting our false, indestructible selves until one day the mask slips and we have to make a decision.
Should I stay or should I go?
I did a little of both, which is to say that I left, but saw my shadow on the way out (I was co-dependant, afraid of being abandoned). Now I have accepted this as a part of myself, and am able to laugh about it and see my vulnerabilities as an asset… for the first time ever.
What a relief, I don’t have to worry about the minefield in a relationship anymore! I can just be myself (whatever that means).
Funny, though, I still sometimes come across those toxic relationships most of us have been sentenced to, couples where on the surface there’s all sweetness. “Please pass the milk, love,” while underneath, there’s a kind of seething anger, anger at having to still wear the mask, anger at having been caught a few times naked under the light. The kind of anger that says, “I will kill you if I have to.” You can see it sometimes at the time of divorce, where that anger finally explodes.
Which reminds me of why I never really liked tango. Upstairs it’s all polite society, the back of my hand politely resting against a girl’s shoulder. Downstairs everything is simmering and explosive.