, Newburyport, MA

February 22, 2013

Manganiello: Great relationships don't just happen

Health and Well-Being
Dr. Jim Manganiello

---- — People who work on themselves tend to enjoy better marriages and other long-term committed relationships than people who don’t.


Two reasons: 1.) because they are more aware of their conditioned patterns and programs, and 2.) because they are more connected to who they deeply are.

In a nutshell: Working on yourself grants self-knowledge, and self-knowledge is the foundation of a good relationship and a good life.

People who are in a relationship, but who do not have knowledge of their unconscious patterns and programs, burden their partners with projections and an unconscious movie ­­­— especially from their unfinished business with their family of origin.

Projection happens when one partner “insists they see” their own unconscious tendencies in the other.

Those in a relationship who are not aware of who they deeply are, beyond their surface identity, cannot “give themselves” to their partner. If you’re stuck at the surface, in your conditioned self-image, you’ll be uncertain about who you are. It will be as if you don’t really own yourself, and if you don’t own yourself, then you can’t really give yourself to your partner in intimacy.

People who have worked on themselves have more of what it takes to make strong relationships. They realize that great relationships are made — they don’t just happen. One reason they know this is that they’ve taken the time and acquired the know-how to make a strong relationship with themselves.

If you know your unconscious, automatic programs and patterns and if you are connected to who you deeply are, you can enjoy the tie, bond and commitment you have with a spouse or partner, as the sweet spot of your life’s adventure.

But, if you’re insecure and uncertain about yourself, you’ll feel too leery and ill-at-ease to get close and intimate with another person and so, like your relationship with yourself, your relationships with others will live at the surface. And, relationships at the surface don’t get enough of a blood supply to thrive and prosper.

When you have worked to gather self-knowledge, you’ll be better able to see and appreciate your spouse or partner for who they actually are, rather than confusing them with what you don’t know about yourself. One reason that one out of two marriages can fail is the shifting sands of pain and boredom that can arise between two people living together 24/7 without the benefit of an awareness-based connection.

When you fall into emotional confusion and become identified with its storyline, you tend to see your companion or spouse in terms of that storyline. As a result, you’ll project that onto your partner ­— without even realizing that you’re doing it. You’ll feel convinced that your experience testifies to who they are rather than to the forces at play in your own mind.

Couples are at the mercy of what their partners don’t know about themselves. Couples very often star in one another’s unconscious movies; my experience working with many hundreds of couples is that this is the rule, not the exception. No wonder so many marriages often end and end badly. And it’s no wonder that so many relationships that don’t end wind up resembling parking lots for people who have nowhere else to go.

If our unconscious family of origin movie is unfinished, it will no doubt show up in our marriage. We need to finish it on our own, as does our partner.

If your relationships are going to run deep, bring you happiness and be an adventure, you need to have a strong connection to who you are. This needs to be a connection that gives you the self-assurance, security and awareness to give and receive love and friendship over the long haul. If you lack these things, then your relationships will be strained and filled with tension, problems and disappointment.

We all hunger deep down for a successful loving connection to others, and many people suffer terribly because their core relationship does not work well. And they suffer further because they really don’t know why their relationships don’t work.

The billionaire J.Paul Getty captured this sentiment well when he said: “I hate to be a failure. I hate and regret the failure of my marriages. I would gladly give all my millions for just one lasting marital success.”

Mr. Getty could have spent a lot less than all his millions to do the work he needed to do to gather the self-knowledge needed make a successful marriage.

In my next column, we’ll consider some of the things that we need to see and understand to make sure that our core relationship goes well. There is an art and a science you can use to make a successful marriage or other long-term relationship. They should be, and could be, widely known, but, unfortunately, they are not.


Dr. Jim Manganiello is a clinical psychologist and diplomate-level medical psychotherapist based in Groveland and West Boxford. He is also an author and teacher focusing on stress, personal growth, meditation and “inner fitness.” His book “Unshakable Certainty” is available on Amazon. Email him at or visit