The truth is that for centuries, with but a few rare exceptions, we’ve been engaging in relationships without learning the essential skills that would build an authentic, intimate connection with an equal partner.
Below are some of the bargains that have kept us from developing those skills.
The Come Here/Go Away Bargain: IF I can get you to stay and be my yo-yo, THEN I can have relationship without having to take the risk to be intimate.
The Commitment Phobia Bargain: IF I can avoid commitment, THEN I don’t ever have to be intimate with anyone, which means I won’t have to take the risk that they will reject me as they get to know me.
The Enmeshment Bargain: IF I don’t do what they want, THEN they will reject me. IF I don’t agree with them or IF I have a different personality from theirs THEN I am somehow betraying them. Therefore, IF I conform, THEN I don’t ever have to take the risk to be free to be me.
The Detachment Bargain: IF I can keep you at a safe distance, THEN I don’t ever have to worry that you’ll get close enough to hurt me.
The Possessive Bargain: IF you belong solely to me, THEN I don’t have to worry about whether or not I belong solely to me.
The Triangulation Bargain: IF we can keep a third party between us, such as money, children, time, in-laws, gossip, THEN we don’t really have to be intimate.
The Cheating Bargain: IF I can keep one foot in one relationship and one foot in another, THEN I can experiment with one without losing the other, AND I don’t have to be intimate with either.
The Bridge-Builder Bargain: IF I can build bridges over all the gaps in our relationship, THEN neither you nor I will ever really know there are gaps in our relationship; AND I won’t ever really have to wonder whether or not you would have built your half of the bridge if I hadn’t done it for you.
The Abuse Bargain: IF I have absolute power over you, THEN I’m assured you belong to me, and only if you belong to me can I assure myself that I’m okay.
The Sex Bargain: IF we are good in bed, THEN that’s as far as we need to go to make this relationship intimate. Or, IF I can have sex with lots of people, THEN I don’t have to do the work and take the risks of intimacy, AND I can convince myself that I’m not really lonely. Or, IF I can perform well in bed, THEN I am an okay person.
The Trust = Love Bargain: IF I decide to trust you simply because I love you, THEN I don’t have to take the risk to find out if you are able to earn my trust.
The Security Bargain: IF I can just get married and settle down, THEN I am financially and emotionally secure, and that’s really all that matters.
We can clearly see that many of these secondary gains have to do with an avoidance of intimacy.
Intimacy is one of the hardest things we do in any relationship, because intimacy is all about deep and meaningful self-revelation. We are so used to lying, covering up, hiding and pretending that when we get into a relationship, we very often feel that we got there because we lied, covered up, hid and pretended really well.
Somewhere deep down inside there’s a mantra saying, “If they really knew me, they wouldn’t stay.”
Why is that mantra there? It’s not because of low self-esteem, though we can certainly have low self-esteem in this dynamic as well. Rather, it is because our very first bargain was based on this premise.
The reason we first split-off into conscious and unconscious realms is because we wanted to hide our authenticity from parents we knew would reject it if it was exposed to them.
And we’ve been hiding it ever since. The fear of our parents’ abandonment was so huge, that we literally split ourselves in half to compensate for it. Some of our parents would definitely have done it differently if they’d only known that all they needed was a mirror for us to look into, unfiltered by their agendas. Some of them would not have done it differently, even if they’d known. But, now, we’ve grown to fear intimacy greatly.
The other thing that we can clearly see in the secondary gains is that we also have a fear of owning and taking responsibility for ourselves.
Not only do we not wish to be known by others, but we also fear that if we know ourselves we will somehow be betraying the ethic in which we were raised. That ethic mostly gave us a double message. Verbally many of us got, “Just be yourself.” But behaviorally, what we got was, “Don’t you dare be yourself. Be who we need you to be!”
So, the self we allow ourselves to be is the one that was most agreeable to our parents, stuck in their own bargains.
Actually, that “self” was a role we played. And even if that role was extremely difficult and quite distorted—it was better than taking the risk of losing whatever little piece of security that role gave us.
The self that our partners want and need to know, however, is the authentic Self.
In a healthy committed primary relationship we are going to need to build intimacy. Intimacy requires authenticity. Two people who are not authentic are not likely to establish intimacy, because intimacy means self-revelation—and how will we reveal a self we don’t even know? But of course, intimacy can help us to become aware of our authenticity, for the more we reveal of ourselves to a significant other, the more we come to know both our internal conflicts, which can lead us to our deeper resonating potency.
Of course, there is still the silent work one does alone, which adds yet more to intimacy, but real relationship is made of real relating.
Instead, most of the time, two roles are attracted to each other because they prop each other up—a dynamic we will learn much more about in the following chapter—a dynamic made up entirely of relationship bargains.
Relationship bargains, like all other bargains, are agreed upon under the table.
We don’t agree on these things out in the open, for if we did the secondary gains we could achieve with these bargains would be diminished.
For example, if I’m using the Sex Bargain so that what I want to do is just have sex but not really get intimate, then I’m not likely to say that out loud, because to do so is a form of intimacy.
But if I do mention that I’m just in it for sex, then I’m not likely to say, “Listen I only want sex here, because intimacy scares the Be-Jesus out of me, because I was afraid my parents would abandon me if I were true to myself.” Or, “Listen, I’m really lonely, but I don’t want anyone to know me, so my solution to that problem is to just have sex with lots of people.”
These confessions of the inner world’s conflicts would undermine the potential secondary gain of not having to be known, would they not? No, these are deals made with a silent, unspoken handshake. These are deals that we don’t want to know we are making.
And the biggest deal about these deals is that they keep us further out of touch with our personal power and a very natural and deeply-rooted internal home, within which we can find true peace and joy.
Without a strong connection and easy access to this place, we are bargaining with the energy of life itself and in so doing misusing the power of the true law of attraction.
As we said in the previous chapter, we don’t attract from the outer world to the inner. Nothing out there can make us happy and fulfilled—not even our partners. We go within to this deep inner home and find there our own peace and joy and then we give that peace and joy to our outer worlds. But these relationship bargains are based on the assumption that our partners either make or break us, and so we have to wheel and deal to work with it.
For example, if I am using the Trust = Love Bargain, trusting you simply because I love you, not because my intuition and that deep home within agree with what I see in you; then I am avoiding contact with that deep home and my own intuition in order to hold on to you.
Trust comes from within to without, the same way the law of attraction works. My intuition in accompaniment with my emotional responses to your behavior and words, as well as my physical responses to your presence will all tell me whether or not I can trust you.
If I am solely looking outside of myself, asking that you inform me as to whether or not I can trust you, then I am asking that you convince me that you are right for me.
If your intuition picks up on my unspoken request, then you are going to do everything you think that I need you to do, in order to stay involved with me. One day, perhaps after I have awakened to the seriousness of my wounds, the mask and costume will fall off.
When it does, I’m likely to say, “I don’t even know who you are.” And I’ll be right. But the reason I don’t know you is because we made a deal under the table. We both agreed that you would put on a mask and costume that looked, walked, talked, acted, spoke and in every way pretended to be all that I wanted you to be, so that I could trust you.
And that deal looked like a far better deal to me than the one in which I would take responsibility for myself by looking within to find out what is true for me there, and perhaps as a result, removing myself from this relationship before it hurt.
If I want to attract a healthy relationship then, my first step in that process is going to be a steady and wide-eyed gaze within, so that I can first see who I am, who I really am at the home base of me.
And I’ll need to learn how to live from that place, so that I can give what I find there back to my world in the form of a relationship. The same is true of any other of our bargains, be they parenting bargains, career bargains, or the basic life bargains we mentioned earlier. And in order to do the work of going within, we are going to need to know what to look for in there. But we are often blocking awareness of what is going on in there with some bargains with mood.
When we are in a mood our thoughts, our behavior and our emotions are dominated by the mood. A mood can last anywhere from a few hours to several months.
Because of the life bargains we make, we often suffer numerous setbacks and defeats until we finally settle into a place in which we try to cope by bargaining through mood. Or, we may have learned early to fold these mood bargains into our identities, because they worked so well to get us the secondary gains we were after.
Here are some of the mood bargains.
The Pollyanna Bargain: IF I don’t look, THEN I won’t see. IF I don’t see, THEN I’ll feel no pain.
The Emotional Fatigue Bargain: IF I take on the emotions and problems of others, THEN I won’t have to take responsibility for my own. I’m just too tired for that, and besides I don’t have time for me; there’s just so much of you.
The Chip-on-the-Shoulder Bargain: IF I can keep my guard up, ready always to duke it out with the unfairness of life, THEN I won’t ever be hurt by life again.
The Anxiety Bargain: IF I worry, THEN I’ll at least be doing something about things over which I have no control. THEN I can tell myself that I have some measure of control.
The Depression Bargain: IF I repress my emotional responses to life’s challenges, THEN I won’t have to feel them. This may take enormous emotional energy so that eventually I must make another bargain: IF I can give up my sense of self-worth, my interests and my happiness, THEN I won’t have to take the risk to ask life for anything, and THEN I’ll have outwitted further disappointment.
These bargains pretty much speak for themselves, but the main thing we need to remember about these moods is that they are meant to help us bargain with life on planet earth where people can suffer, and seemingly random problems and crises can occur.
This means that these bargains in some way enable us to deal, however ineffectively, with that reality.
For example, it is extremely difficult for persons who are very anxious to acknowledge the reality that there is much about life that cannot be controlled. That idea creates even more anxiety than does worrying. So, they worry as a way of telling themselves that they actually do have control. They are using energy and this makes them feel as if they are doing something. But the something they are doing is a bit like a rat running a maze over and over and never finding the cheese.
This article is an excerpt from Andrea Mathew’s book: The Law of Attraction: The Soul’s Answer To Why It Isn’t Working And How It Can (ISBN: 9781846944956) and has been published with the author’s permission.
About the author
Andrea Mathews is a psychotherapist with a thriving private practice, offering Transpersonal and Cognitive Therapy to her clients for the past seventeen of her overall thirty years’ experience as a therapist, manager and a supervisor of therapists, in the Substance Abuse and Mental Health field. She is the author of three books, Restoring My Soul: A Workbook for Finding and Living the Authentic Self (2007), and The Law of Attraction: The Soul’s Answer To Why It Isn’t Working And How It Can (2011), and Inhabiting Heaven Now: The Answer To Every Moral Dilemma Ever Posed (2013), as well as several articles in national and international magazines, and several poems in literary presses.
For the past five years she has been the host of the Authentic Living Show on VoiceAmerica.com, with over 150,000 listeners, having interviewed some of the world’s most profound and prolific spiritual teachers, authors and entertainers. An inspirational speaker to both corporations and large and small groups, Andrea’s theme is always authenticity.
For fun, Andrea is also an artist and a musician. Learn more about her and her work at www.andreamathews.com.