Midlife Years: Relationships

by Peter Milhado PHD on July 10, 2018

Because so much hope and so much need is invested in our relationships, the opportunity for disappointment is tremendous.  Most marriages who even make it to mid-life are under great strain.  It is pretty amazing, for those who can admit it, to realize that the enormity of such choices as picking a marriage partner were largely made unconsciously, usually a couple of decades before.  Unfortunately, the same holds true for career choices as well.

Intimate relationships reveal quite a bit about ourselves when we start them.  Beginning relationships are symptomatic of the state of our inner life, as no relationship can be any better than the relationship we have to our own unconscious.  How we are related to ourselves determines not only the choice of our partner but also the quality of the relationship.  This might be a bitter pill to swallow for those who passively ‘ended up’ in a relationship or those who were in obsessive pursuit of the ‘magical other’.  The bottom line is; however, no intimate relationship can be better than our relationship with ourselves. (J. Hollis)

The Fusion Model (1+1=1)

The psychological model for marriage in our culture is one of total togetherness and fusion i.e. (1+1=1).  The assumption is that only through union with another will I become complete; whatever I lack will be made up by my partner.  Whenever we feel that meaning in our life will be provided primarily through relationship with our spouses we end up in major trouble.  In mid-life we have to acknowledge that this enmeshment does not work, because this need to merge with another is largely based on insecurity and fear.  Each person is in charge of their own soul development, we all have to find meaning for ourselves in our naked aloneness.  There is a strong push from inside of us in mid-life to separate psychologically from our mates and to individuate.  This is a healthy impulse and can ultimately lead to much healthier intimacy.  Obviously individuation and psychological separation does not necessarily mean physical separation or divorce.  If only one partner becomes conscious of this and begins to individuate this will bring havoc into the established marriage for awhile.  The status quo needs to be challenged.

The Individuation Model (1+1=3)

Ultimately, we can only serve our marriages by becoming more fully ourselves and separate psychologically.  When we realize this, tremendous strain is added to our relationships…especially if only one in the partnership becomes conscious first, which is usually the case.  At that point the accusation ‘you’re not the person I married’ is actually a compliment.  Whereas in the first half of life we wanted confirmation, in mid-life we must accept difference.  “Where one wanted the simple love of sameness, one must now learn the difficult task of otherness.”(Hollis)

If we stop our growth because we’re afraid our partner can’t handle it we end up chronically depressed and angry.  On the other hand, if we try to block the soulful development of our spouses, we’re committing a spiritual crime.  In mid-life it’s imperative we grow, that we attempt to fulfill our potential and ‘follow one’s bliss’ so to speak.  We must grant the same right to our spouses!  The sooner both partners embrace the necessity of psychological separation and individuation, the greater the chance the marriage will survive soulfully.  Mid-life by definition is a time when change must be embraced otherwise we’ll wither into resentment and cynicism.  It’s either grow or die within.

To the poet Rilke relationship was the sharing of solitude with another.  He would defend the other person’s right to solitude as his own.  Another German poet Friederich Nietsche told us that marriage is a conversation…a grand dialogue.  When couples don’t talk anymore and have exhausted their conversation, growing as individuals stopped.  The ability to separate and be alone is essential, but so is the ability to dialogue and talk.  Long time intimacy requires a long time dialogue.  In a soulful relationship we share our outer and inner journeys with one another through compassion, sexuality and conversation.  When we’re able to stay connected with our partner through dialogue and yet support each other’s separateness we have a new model for relationship, namely 1+1=3… two individual souls who create a third entity, (the relationship) which stretches us beyond our individual limitations and brings us closer to the mystery of life. Gratitude to James Hollis Ph.D. in whose work this article is anchored.

One for all and all for one. Love to Mother Meera

Peter Milhado © 2018


True Guilt, False Guilt & Sociopaths

by Peter Milhado PHD on May 25, 2018

There are people who never experience guilt. They are not, however, the lucky ones nor do we want to be around them.  The inability to feel guilt is the basic flaw of sociopaths, who are truly ‘empty souls’.  In this article I’m not writing about the criminal sociopath, who makes newspaper headlines and commits the vilest of crimes without remorse, but I want to address the so-called ‘successful sociopath’ who is in abundance in our midst.

Successful sociopaths don’t lie, because lying is not an issue- the idea of the image of truth does not exist!  They say whatever is convenient, whether it’s true or not, is never even contemplated…you get the drift?

Many sociopaths in our society are very ‘successful’ as they’re not hemmed in by worries and neurotic inhibitions.  They just go for it- whatever it may be – power, sex, money etc.  They’ll have sex with a 95-year-old woman or man to get to the money.  As they have no guilt or inhibitions they can ‘make love’ to anybody, anyplace, anytime.  Many of them have tremendous charm and charisma and are envied by many because of their apparent freedom. Their ease in social situations along with their lack of inhibitions and air of freedom makes them attractive to a lot of folks. A person, who falls in love with a sociopath, after loosing gallons of blood on the way, eventually realizes that they’ve fallen in love with nothing- with an empty soul.

Jungian analyst Craig Guggenbuehl warns that if you feel someone is marvelously tuned into you and makes you feel great, be suspicious, because sociopaths have these endearing people skills.  So if your real estate agent makes you feel absolutely wonderful and has all the right answers, it might be time to be cautious.  An agent who doesn’t know it all and appears more complicated might be a better choice.  It’s relaxing to be around certain sociopaths because you feel absolutely at ease. If you want to be free like this person or have the feeling that he or she fully ‘agrees with me’… Watch out!!

No vocation is safe from sociopaths; be it blue collar, white collar, professionals, politicians, preachers etc.  Just watch a session from Congress or turn on the religious TV channels, you’ll see plenty of them.  There are true sociopaths who compensate their sociopathy by extreme moralism – as some preachers, gurus or health professionals do.

None of us are pure.  Purity is irrational and fanatic.  All of us have a shadow as I’ve talked about so often in these articles.  Purity and decency are not the same!

Back to the hurtful and somewhat complicated emotion of guilt, of which sociopaths have none.  ‘True Guilt” is not a useless feeling…as a matter of fact it serves the individual and society.  Let’s assume the cashier at the market makes a mistake and gives me $10 bill instead of the $5 bill she owes me.  If I stash those $10 bucks in my pocket I will feel the painful emotion of guilt on my way home.  It is a signal that I have transgressed my own values and personal code of honor.  Guilt, then is a form of self-disappointment… we’ve fallen short and have failed our ideals.

Guilt is the most personal and internal of emotions…. it’s you against you.  All the significant battles are waged within the self.

From the soul perspective, guilt, even though highly personal, wants exposure.  How often have we all heard of the spouse who’s had an affair and leaves behind evidence – a phone number or lover’s note in the coat pocket, an e-mail not erased etc. Guilt needs expiation and forgiveness – only then can our souls breathe again freely and creatively.  Often we have to accept the punishment our guilty acts might incur.  Confessions obviously can be healing, but only when the attitude of atonement and remorse are present.  Guilt, from this viewpoint, becomes the guardian of our goodness…it serves the noblest and most generous character traits of our species.  (Gaylin M.D., 1979)

“False Guilt”, or neurotic guilt, is another matter and occurs when we transgress other people’s rules or values embedded in us, usually early in life, which are no longer appropriate.  For example, if we have an old rule that says  “I should always be nice and pleasant” we wind up in trouble, because life brings us situations when being “nice” is totally out of line and self-destructive, but the “nice” person feels guilt when he or she responds with anything but pleasantness.  False Guilt stops action…and often self-protection.  If we have another old rule that says, “I should never be angry” we set ourselves up for depression, anxiety, ulcers, digestive problems etc.  The ‘inner work’ sorts out true from false guilt, and therefore helps alleviate psychoneurotic symptoms.

Another form of “False Guilt’ is called ‘unearned guilt’ and goes like this… “If only I would have known then what I know now, I would have done things differently”.  The fact is that we didn’t know then what we know now and having pangs of guilt over that is a waste and unfair to oneself.  Finally, a word about the difference between guilt and shame.  Guilt occurs when we feel we have behaved badly.  Shame cuts much deeper- it’s not only that I’ve done something bad, but that “I am bad”.  More on this in another article. Knowledge can be gotten over the internet, but wisdom comes only through suffering!

As always love to Mother Meera, who represents the best of the Feminine to me… unconditional love, trust, peace and related dialogue.  One for all and all for one.

Peter Milhado © 2018


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I Don’t Want to Be Part of This Revolution if I Can’t Dance

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Reflections on Creativity

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Are You Afraid of Your Own Shadow?

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Where Is Your Passion?

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Can you Forgive Yourself? Can You Forgive Others?

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How Is Your Relationship?

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The Past Does Matter When It Raises Havoc In The Present When we fall in love, we never think this source of joy will ever come to an end. Why is it then so rare for a couple to grow old together in continuing love, a love that lasts a lifetime ? It seems the [...]

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The Age of Anxiety

June 12, 2015

W H. Auden tagged this time in history as ‘The Age of Anxiety’ and I understood what that meant when I lived and worked in L.A. from the mid-seventies to the late eighties. What I saw then still is true today. A lot of people racing around in frantic activity, going from meeting to meeting, [...]

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