In Jungian Analysis, there are two unconscious constructs known as the anima and the animus.
The anima is the unconscious feminine that is in every man and the animus the unconscious masculine that is in every woman. We learn of these constructs or archetypes as we interact with the opposite sex during our lives and in our various stages of development.
This means that my concept of the anima is different to that of other men because my experiences with women are my own. Sure, there will be some overlap in certain traits but one has to face their own anima or animus. It isn’t a one size fits all type of thing.
Some have a largely positive animus or anima. Some do not.
There are a couple methods one can use to uncover this archetype. Marriage is the most common and possibly daunting option but there’s also dream work and therapy. I took up the option of reflection.
I made a list of traits that I cannot help but take note of in various girls and women that I’ve met throughout my life. Relatives, friends, romantic partners, coworkers, colleagues and even strangers were roped into this.
I won’t give the entire list but some items on the list were that they depended on me, they were surreptitious and that they seemed to see me as simultaneously forgettable but irreplaceable.
Then the image of a woman came into my mind. She had every trait I had written down and even gave me some more. She was a hilariously combative woman but there was a level of distrust. I could also see that a romantic relationship with her would expose every issue I had with myself.
So I pretty much interrogated her for about an hour.
The topic of relationships came up. I’m comfortably single at the moment but I still wanted some details about why past flings or love interests didn’t become something more.
She said, “Yeah, I love you but I wouldn’t choose you. But let’s face it. You wouldn’t choose me.”
I thought about it and I had to admit that she was right. I couldn’t accept someone who was so secretive, acted like I didn’t exist half the time and I couldn’t trust. Most women I liked had some of these traits if not all of them. If there wasn’t any romance between us I would still take note of it.
Then she pointed out my male friends who had traits that put a strain on the friendship but I was able to accept them. After realizing that level of hypocrisy, I then saw that I too am not the easiest person to get along with in certain contexts.
But more importantly, I had to admit that being in a relationship is not about trying to find the person who will not hurt you and will love you the most. It’s about accepting that whoever you get with, they will hurt you.
The question is, can you accept how they will hurt you? Not if they will hurt you, but how they will.
What pain are you willing to tolerate? Maybe some can stomach their partner being unfaithful or being unable to express how they feel or that they are bad with money or that they have a dependency on their family or that they are workaholics.
We often hear people tell us what not to tolerate in a relationship. Don’t take back a cheater; don’t tolerate anyone who raises their voice at you; don’t get into a relationship with someone who doesn’t like you as much as you like them.
Technically, that was all good advice. But it doesn’t change the fact that there is something that you won’t like that you are going to have to accept because someone will have to do the same exact thing for you if they are aiming to be with you.
This will actually help you with red flags because now that you are consciously acknowledging that someone will hurt you, when you meet someone you will be perfectly aware of what pain you’ll be getting yourself into.
You won’t be blinded by what you stand to gain which tends to happen when you are solely focused on what is pleasurable about the relationship. You will now be able to gauge whether or not to entertain this person and for how long.
When the time comes to integrate your anima/animus by learning to embrace or to even see yourself in the traits that you do not like about the archetypal feminine/masculine, it is imperative that you are honest with yourself.
It was a bit difficult to accept that something so obvious had eluded me. But because I wanted the answer and I wanted to be better, it was ultimately a no-brainer.
There’s no doubt that my already decent relationships with women (and men oddly enough) will improve because I literally feel different.
For the sake of clarity, I am not condoning abuse. What I am suggesting is that if two people want a long-lasting relationship, they need to know what pain they are able to tolerate because it is bound to happen.
We marvel when two people who have so much in common find one another and fall in love. Perhaps what is even more incredible is that each person’s demons can hurt the other without causing an inexorable rift between the lovers.
That seems like the greatest miracle of all, especially to someone like me who thought the whole point was to minimize pain at all costs.
It may be a situation where the two naturally can tolerate each other’s issues. Or maybe they will have to make a decision to stay together. But at least it isn’t a blind decision. Now you know exactly what you’re getting yourself into.
It’s easy to see the great traits in your partner because that is the bias people always approach relationships with. But now that I see the virtue in seeing how they can hurt me, when I date again, there is nothing to fear.
Because I want to know what I should be fearing.
“The truth is, everyone is going to hurt you. You just got to find the ones worth suffering for.” — Bob Marley