Demystifying the Human Relationship Jigsaw Puzzle
There are two ways things go in my clients’ relationships as they gain greater acceptance of themselves. One is that those close to them want to get even closer. They’ll say, “Wow, it feels even better to be around you. Give me more of that!” This one makes sense to us, right? As someone feels better about being themselves, it only seems logical that other people will feel better, too.
The other option doesn’t seem to make so much sense at first. Sometimes, people close to my clients move further away from them when they achieve greater self-acceptance. Sometimes, friendships, romantic relationships, or even family ties end as a result of this personal transformation. You might think that’s always because my client has finally “stood up for themselves” and sometimes, that’s the case. But, not always. So, there’s something else going on below the surface, which I think of as the human energetic jigsaw puzzle.
You can picture relationships as the joining line between two jigsaw puzzle pieces. If the relationship “works,” you can assume that those two puzzle pieces fit together well. Where one person has a “knob,” the other has an “inlet.” If this is between immediate family members, the youngest member’s entry time into the family shaped them into a piece that fit with the others. If the relationship begins later in life, there’s an invisible, energetic mechanism that tells us, “Hey, that person’s piece will fit perfectly with mine!” And since our piece’s shape is formed early in life, that’s why sometimes people will say, “I married my dad,” or, “I married my mom,” (or even a sibling).
Sometimes, the puzzle piece fitting is based on well-being, and so, it works out well. But in other cases, it’s a recipe for repeating some negative pattern with different people. Take the all too familiar case of someone who has been in abusive relationships. They vow, “Never again.” They find someone new and this one is different from the others. Friends and relatives meet the new person and approve heartily. Then, the day or week or month or year after they move in together or get married, the abuse starts. Just like all the other times. Is it the abused person somehow creating the other person’s abusive behavior? Nope, that potential always existed within the abuser. That hidden energetic mechanism between the two of them “knew it” all along and set things up to fit perfectly.
So, back to people moving further away when someone makes changes that would rationally be seen as good. If the other person was relying on the first person’s knob to fill their inlet, they might say, “Hey! Get back here with your knob! How dare you take it away!” This rarely will be said in a rational way, because that invisible, energetic mechanism is at work. That mechanism works with the part of us that only knows how to feel, not how to think. It is the two-year-old part of us that only knows, “I feel good,” or, “I feel bad.” And in relationships, the feeling good or bad depends on how well our puzzle piece is fitting with the other person. So, as crazy as it may seem, the person moving away might swear that it’s because the first person actually changed for the worse in some way or that the relationship just doesn’t work for them, anymore.
This potential can be scary for someone who is launching into making big personal changes. What I have always seen, though, is that even if a relationship ends, it is ultimately for everyone’s good. It may be the second person’s trigger to do something about their “needy inlet.” Or, they might just find another puzzle piece that fits and play their pattern out again.
What I always remind my clients is that the change that I help them make will always take them to a better place. And often, it spurs those around them to change in good ways, so that their puzzle pieces shift alongside each other. I’ve worked with individuals, couples, and even whole families who have been able to make those positive shifts within their relationships. It can be messy at times, but everyone has always ended up feeling much better as their changing puzzle pieces find new ways to fit together.
Can you recognize parts of your puzzle piece that feel they need someone else’s piece to stay the same? Or do you feel that you’re ready to start shifting your edges, but someone around you isn’t going to react well? What if your good change is ultimately good for everyone around you, too?
Sara Avery helps people get unstuck in their relationships, health, career, and self-expression. Learn how she can help you tackle your biggest challenges.