The need to know runs deep and strong. For the most part, we believe that if we know what is happening we can do something about it. When we know we feel a sense of control. And, having a sense of control is vital to our well-being. But, most of us also understand (at a deep and often avoided level) that we don't really have control over much of anything in our lives. Just watch the news on any given evening. You will hear about events...usually tragic events...that have turned lives upside down in an instant.
We are given daily doses of "truth" that, once digested, give us the impression of knowing. This knowing comforts us and allows us to feel like we can take charge of our lives. All of this is very important and very useful. Without it we wouldn't even know how to boil an egg. Information is good! Information that is true is even better!
We act as if there is no end to knowing...that we could actually get to a place where we know all that can be known. This is particularly true in long-term relationships. Their length itself seduces us into thinking we know all there is to know about our partners. Once we've arrived at this place of knowing we've concluded our quest and the relationship has essentially lost its appeal.
The problem resides in an over-emphasis on knowing. This is accompanied by the discomfort most of us feel with the notion of mystery. We could say that the popularity of mystery novels demonstrates a real interest and attraction to mystery. But, that's not really the case. The popularity of mystery novels resides in the fact that the novel points out a mystery but concludes with the mystery being solved. A mystery novel that leaves things mysterious wouldn't have a lot of appeal.
The dark truth is that for a long-term relationship to maintain its vitality, a portion of it has to remain mysterious. In order for a couple to feel actively drawn to each other there needs to be an experience of interest and curiosity both of which are fueled by the presence of mystery.
Identifying your Dark Truth can go a long way toward managing conflict and, perhaps, even making the conflict productive. If you recognize that you are tempted to believe you know, you can be on the lookout for instances where your knowing limits curiosity and therefore relationship growth.
Jake Thiessen, PhD
I've been working with couples for a very long time. And, I love it! This blog is my attempt to communicate some of the things I've learned over the past 40 years.