My intense curiosity about the inner workings of relationships has inspired me to write short stories that have now been published into a short story collection, The Hungry Heart Stories by Fran Metzman, Wilderness House Press, 2012. These will be my point of reference for this article.
I’ve written numerous articles about relationships and how to make them better. It is my passion to seek the answers to why so many relationships fail. Presently, at least half of all marriages end in divorce, and an even greater percentage of second marriages go down the tubes. I’ve noticed that men have a harder time living alone and may jump into second or third marriages too quickly. Women, in general, tend to have their own peculiarities. A disturbing trend is that often a woman will know there are serious flaws that annoy her but they’ll think they can change that after marrying. That may very well doom success.
When we find dissatisfaction within a relationship, if we don’t think it through, behavior might go off-kilter. In my stories many characters act out when yearning to fill emotional voids. We need to dissect our internal chemistry that draws us to a wrong person – or repetitively to the wrong person in order to get it right.
Would you entrust your life to a doctor when you have a serious illness because your instinct tells you he’s good? Wouldn’t you research the doctor’s credentials – what is his background, where did he go to school and more? Why not be as thorough with romance? I know it sounds the opposite of romantic, but it is imperative to involve our brains along with hearts.
Relationships of all kinds are basic to human endeavors – good, bad or indifferent. There is a yearning, whether we are aware of it or not, to fill the emotional chasms that are lacking from our past. Not confronting these issues can drive people into inappropriate behavior. Confronting past issues contribute toward making for good present relationships.
From early on we exhibit insecurities and try to overcome them. We may put on a happy face, display false bravado, but inside feel deep emotional pain. That’s when we are vulnerable and can make bad decisions.
As an example, some of the short stories that address this in The Hungry Heart Stories, are:
1) The Invisible Wife, a tale about a woman who lived in the attic of her ex-husband’s home to spy on him and his new wife.
2) Getting Closer, depicts a mother/daughter in deep conflict where food intersects their lives.
3) In the story, My Inheritance, again a mother/daughter clash has the protagonist desperately wanting to resolve issues from the past as she cares for her dying mother.
4) The protagonist must choose between a previous lover who appears after a long absence and the man who replaced him in the story, Christmas in August.
5) Food dominated the life of a couple in the, The Right Seasoning, and now the husband must wrestle with grief in order to survive after his beloved wife dies.
6) A once poverty stricken woman hits her stride in her 30’s but realizes the sacrifices she made to get ahead in the story, The Reunion.
7) The Girls from Mapleton, raises the question of how a never discussed, shared childhood trauma impacts three women when they reach adulthood.
And through translating real life into fiction, I am seeking the answers to secrets of relationships. Sometimes, seeking the golden grail of relationships requires a journey into hell. If we’ve backfilled the trauma of our lives rather than dealt with them it could lead to irrational behavior.
The chemistry that stems from early childhood along with many social demands (particularly to be married) can lead us astray. What is vital is to learn how to get back on track.
And because our romantic chemistry may lead us blindly into bad relationships, I think we need to understand it as thoroughly as possible. Yes, it means digging into the past and our unconscious but it is a necessary tough task. And that brings us to why I write edgy stories about human behavior in relationships. I struggle to uncover the elements that drive us all.
Jennifer I can understand that you were broken-hearted by this man. That kind of pain can kill any romantic feelings forever. Yet, there are other prior romances that reconnect years later and work. In many of those cases, there wasn’t the pain associated with the person. So, they have a better chance of a future because the fantasy of what might have been becomes a reality.
I was wildly in love at 21 but after a year we broke up. Forty-three years later he tried to make another connect but I simply couldn’t resurrect any feelings for him. Not that I tried, really.
I’m currently writing a memoir about just this topic: How an unresolved childhood yearning led to 2 bad marriages, then a lifetime of singlehood. Fran, I hope you come to see what this is all about!
Maryliz, I’m trying like mad to understand the inner workings of relationships. It is very complex so I’m trying to take it piece by piece. Thanks for responding and hopefully I can be helpful. I think this intense curiosity about human behavior drove me to write. fran
Happy to answer any more questions. The mystery of relationships has to be brought out in the open otherwise it dominates our lives and many times to our detriment.
Thanks for responding. I might add that it is important to understand the workings of relationships for authors even those who write fiction. Developing insights makes us better writers and more authentic.
Vanessa, I haven’t heard that theory about recall deceiving us, BUT I must say it is intriguing. Maybe it’s the mind making a person think they have fallen in love again only because they want to. There are strange emotions at work when we “fall in love” with someone who we, when we really look at the relationship, see it is clearly destined to fail. That is the result of not digging deeply into our unconscious to find out why we are involved in disastrous relationships and even repeat the process. I do know that second marriages fail far more than first ones. This is a reason to look deeply.
Insightful and thought provoking.
One of the most interesting things I heard about relationships was from a university professor I worked with a while ago – he said that it’s almost impossible for the brain to differentiate between recalling a feeling, and feeling it again. Therefore, when people think that they have fallen for an ex again, often they are actually just recalling how they used to feel, but they can’t tell the difference. This means of course that there is no substance to their feelings and that is why it so often fails longer term when couples have a second go at a relationship. I don’t know if this was just his theory, or if it has been proven in some way, but I think it makes some sense, and it’s certainly something to think about. I don’t know if you’ve come across this idea before.
Interesting insights…definitely food for thought. Thanks!