There are certain unconscious demands we place upon our partners. These demands usually have to do with righting some wrong from the relationship with primary caregivers.
Consciously we’re concerned with pulling out concrete behaviors, behaviors whose necessity we rationalize on some grounds, while unconsciously we’re concerned with the symbolic undertones, with what those behaviors mean.
And of course perception and derived meaning are different for all of us based upon our own unique constitutions and life experiences. Say for example that you were abandoned by one or both primary caregivers. In adulthood, whatever you consciously tell yourself, at the deeper level you’re likely to be concerned with belonging above and beyond any other concern and you’ll be highly sensitive to any and all displays you perceive as disinterest, exclusion, etc.
What ends up happening to a lot of us is that we blame our partners for not living up to their side of the bargain, for not fulfilling our relationship demands, when these demands are actually unconscious and have never been adequately communicated in the first place. We expect our partners to live up to a contract that they never signed, a contract whose existence they aren’t even aware of.
When we’re upset with our partners but can’t really explain why, or they’re upset with us but can’t really explain why, it can usually be traced back to the perceived symbolism behind the behavior we’re upset about and how this perceived symbolism fits in to an unmet need from the primary relationship.
We’ve got to work through the unfinished business with our primary caregivers and be able to say out loud what it is we need from our partners and why. What we often find is that we’ve misinterpreted the behavior we’re upset about, we’ve placed it within our own psychological schema when it had an entirely different meaning in the eyes of our partners. At any rate, how can we expect our partners to live up to our demands when neither of us knows what they are?