John Bradshaw's bestselling books and compelling PBS series have touched and changed millions of lives. Now, in Creating Love, he offers us a new way to understand our most crucial relationships - with our romantic partners and spouses, with our parents and children, with friends and co-workers, with ourselves, and with God.
Bradshaw's compassionate approach shows that many of us have been literally "entranced" by past experiences of counterfeit love, so we unknowingly re-create patterns that can never fulfill us. Here he provides both the insights and the precise tools we need to keep those destructive patterns from repeating in the present. And then he shows how we can open ourselves to the soul-building work of real love - and create healthy, loving relationships where we can be fully ourselves in every part of our lives.
For the good that I wish, I do not do; but I practice the very evil that I do not wish.
The mass of mankind live lives of quiet desperation.
Henry David Thoreau
In my early teens I worked as a grocery checker at Butera's Food Market in Houston, Texas. I was, like most young teenage boys, obsessed with thoughts about sex. One of my unofficial jobs at Butera's was to be on the lookout for specimens of female pulchritude. When a good-looking girl came in the store, I'd press a buzzer to alert Leon in the produce department and Bubba and Phil in the meat market so that they could come and look her over. This was, of course, raw objectification and unhealthy male chauvinism. That's what I grew up with, but that is not the point of the story.
What inevitably happened, to our amazement, was that the shapely woman was accompanied by an unshapely, and to our mind, unattractive partner. "It's a goddamn shame," Leon would mutter. "Too bad there ain't more of me" (With two front teeth missing - lost in a brawl - Leon would not have won any beauty contests himself.) It was also astonishing to me how many handsome men came in with very plain partners.
This is a rather raw, physical, almost primitive example, but it was my first impression of what I am calling the bafflement of love. It all seemed so illogical to my l6 1/2-year-old mind.
When I started dating I was often bewildered by the strange reversals that could take place in the course of an evening. I can remember starting out on a date fall of excitement and vitality, and having it end in harsh words and door-slamming separation. Trying to reconstruct the sequence of events was never enlightening. I always felt confused, sad, and lonely.
Years later, I came to see that human beings live out the drama of their relational lives motivated by feeling and desire rather than by logical assessment. When it comes to love, reason is not our guiding light. In over twenty years of marriage counseling, I rarely saw a marriage where the partners could have been predicted. Love is not logical. This is one reason it baffles us.
In almost every case I dealt with as a counselor the spouses had made the seemingly illogical choice of marrying someone who had the undesirable character traits of one or both of their parents. They were repeating the destructive relationships they had in childhood.
Another baffling aspect of love is our hatefulness with loved ones. I have often been the most hateful and mean with the people I love the most.
After I married, I can remember driving home, vowing to be sweet and loving no matter what, and then walking in the house and immediately saying something critical. Afterward I would feel terrible about what I did or said. A week or so later I would do it again.
The "In-Love" Bafflement
I remember the day Jack and Jill married. What a joyous occasion! The dinner toasts the night before, the beautiful maids-in-waiting, the bridegroom, the flowers, Jill herself in her shimmering dress. I had counseled them during the year of their engagement. I had some serious reservations about their getting married, but no two people were more truly in love, I thought.
Jack's whole demeanor changed in their early days together. He started exercising, ate nutritious food, and completely came out of the depression he'd been in. Jill was radiant. She had started therapy, and she went at it with the excitement of a child exploring the world. Jack and Jill said they were happier than they had ever been. They seemed happy.
After two years of intensely dramatic conflict, affairs, and an unsuccessful attempt at annulment, Jack and Jill divorced. A split-screen movie showing this couple's courtship and early marriage on one screen and their bitter fighting and divorce on the other would offer an amazing, almost unbelievable contrast.
I remember how confused Jill was at the very end. I remember how baffled Jack was as he asked me, "What happened? What happened? How could this happen?"
This was the second marriage I had been through with Jack. There would be a third after I was gone.