Reconsidering wound mates

In Anatomy of the Spirit: The Seven Stages of Power and Healing, Carolyn Myss talks about the relatively new method for bonding in relationships based on “woundology.” In this process of forming relationships, one person will reveal some deep inner wound that they have, the other person will search their life experience to find a similar wound that they can share, and the two then become “wound mates” based on the sharing of similar wounds.

This is a relatively new phenomenon that has sprung up as therapy and the subsequent emotional sharing that goes with support groups has become more common. It’s easy to see why this is a powerful way of bonding. When we meet someone who shares a similar wound, we know that they will understand us and be able to support us in ways that people who don’t have similar wound patterns may not be able to. Our wounds tend to become a deep part of our identity, so finding someone who has so much in common with the way the define ourselves is a strong draw.

However, as I’ve been pondering this idea over the last few months, I find myself increasingly questioning the wisdom of this form of relationship building. For all the support that the wound mate can bring us, the fact that our strongest relationships are now built around these wounds makes the wounds an even stronger part of our self-identity making the complete healing of those wounds less likely to happen. After all, if we gain our primary support and validation from relationships that are built on the foundation of those wounds, why would we ever want them to go away? Healing then brings with it the specter of abandonment, which is one of our deepest fears.

I remember a friend I once had in another city many years ago. We had been friends for over a decade, and our friendship was based on a combination of similar woundings and similar life circumstances. Toward the end of our friendship, we had each undergone changes in our life circumstances that had made us less similar so we began spending less time together. At the same time, we had each begun healing some of our wounds. I remember the last time we got together before I moved away. We discovered that we no longer had anything to talk about. The areas where she had healed and I had not, she no longer found any interest in talking about. The areas where I had healed and she had not, she was no longer comfortable discussing with me because she knew that I was now in a different place. It was an awkward and uncomfortable dinner that essentially ended what had once been a close friendship.

It’s not the only time this has happened to me, although I am just realizing now that this has been a common pattern in my friendships over the years—and just not understanding what is driving this pattern. I have seen in myself the hesitation to move on from a wound and allow it to fully heal when I know that doing so could cost me a valued relationship. Change (even good change) is difficult enough without adding a sense of abandonment to the mix. In my experience, though, it’s very common for the wound mate whose wound has not healed to reject the one who is healing (or staring to heal) because the one who is healing no longer validates the wounded staying in her wounded state. This is true even when the one who is beginning to heal is still willing to fully support and listen to the other, as was the situation I encountered with the friend I spoke of above.

This method for developing friendships, therefore, has the seeds of continued suffering built-in from the very start despite the perceived benefit of greater support at the outset from the “wound mate.” Is that support worth it if at the end of the day it causes us to hold back from pursuing true healing? As a recovering co-dependent, I’ve been trying this same approach for years and getting the same lousy results time and again. There must be a better way.

If I am to begin trying to build healthier relationships that truly support and encourage healing, what should I be basing my friendships on instead? I’m not sure I have the answer to that yet, but I think I may be finally asking the right questions. Especially as I look to the future at the kind of life partner I’d like to find, I know I need a paradigm that takes me beyond shared woundedness on which to build a healthy, lasting relationship.

A Note on Comments: A chrysalis is by nature a very fragile place, and it takes a good deal of vulnerability to share this personal journey of transformation so openly. Therefore, I need this to be a safe place for exploration and sharing for me and for my readers. Comments sharing your own journey, even if your experience is different from mine, are always welcome and encouraged. Expressions of support or encouragement are also welcome. Comments that criticize, disparage, correct, or in any way attempt to undermine the validity of another person’s experience or personal insight—or the expression of that experience or insight—are NOT welcome here and will be deleted.

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