“Attractions and Affairs”
The Vulnerable Child in Relationship
Hal and Sidra Stone
The vulnerable child, as we have said before, is one of the most essential ingredients in a truly complete relationship,for the child is the basis of our deepest intimacy. There may be many wonderful points of contact between two people. The couple may be able to function beautifully together physically, emotionally, and professionally, but, without the child, something indefinable is missing, and there is always a yearning for something more. It is this yearning
The vulnerable child, from our perspective, is the gateway to the soul. If one’s child is not available, soul contact is very difficult with another human being.
There are many times in any relationship when the vulnerable child withdraws. This is natural in the ebb and flow of life. When bonding patterns develop, as shown in previous chapters, the child usually runs for cover, and there is a feeling of emptiness and loss. The reconnection to our vulnerable child and its reappearance in the relationship is always a time for rejoicing.
However, it is a most unusual vulnerable child who can tolerate the pain of a partner who has other relationships. The inner child is extremely sensitive. Although we may not know that our partner is having an affair, our vulnerable child senses it at some level and automatically begins a process of withdrawal from the partner. It is this astounding sensitivity that the child brings to the relationship, and it is the same sensitivity that causes it to withdraw. Our rational mind may explain our fears or doubts away, but it cannot convince the child.
It follows that if we want a truly deep commitment and if we want the child to remain a part of our relationship, we will have to find some way to assure its safety. Whether or not this can be done in a non-monogamous relationship is the real question. Our experience so far is that the vulnerable child cannot handle the reality of the other person having other partners, particularly when those relationships become sexual. At this point, the child withdraws at some level.
We must remember that the child is unimpressed with theories. It wants to be loved and it wants to feel safe. From its point of view, we can have any kind of non-monogamous relationship we wish. It, however, will not participate.
Once the child disappears, there are a variety of ways in which we can make things all right. We can shift over to the sexual track and decide that two can play this game; in this way we open ourselves to different sexual experiences. We can identify with our rational mind and develop a philosophy and rationale as to why monogamy destroys relationships and prevents growth. Whatever subpersonalities we shift into, the child will be gone.
Staying with the child means staying with one’s pain. This is the hardest thing in the world to do. But staying with the pain might truly make things right again by keeping the vulnerable child in the relationship and allowing the relationship to continue its teaching. This does not mean, however, that we become victims, suffering mightily at our betrayal by our partner. It simply means that we stay with the process and see where it will lead us.