My Therapist Says All Relationships Are Impossible
This summer I reached an impasse with a close friend, who is white, over the Black Lives Matter movement. In the decade we’ve known each other, I had always felt comfortable talking to him about my own experience of otherness as an Indian American. But when I pointed to his whiteness as a privilege he ought to examine, he grew defensive, blew up, and ghosted.
I’m not someone who falls out with friends easily or often. The few times it has happened, my instinct is to ask, “How did I get myself into this?” or “Why didn’t I see this coming?”
When any situation in my life goes awry, I tend to perseverate, fixating on how I might have caused it to fly off the rails. “Am I a bad judge of character?” I think. My therapist is used to me trying to locate responsibility within myself (and of course, sometimes we find it there!). But when it comes to the shock of a breakup, whether with a friend or a romantic partner, it’s the fantasy that we can ever fully know someone, or achieve a kind of perfect unity that’s to blame.
My therapist put it bluntly: “All relationships are impossible.”
All relationships come with the inherent futility of achieving total communion, and understanding as much is key to sustaining them.
His statement was one of those breakthrough moments when my jaw dropped and I felt an immediate sense of relief. The existentialism of it thrilled me, and its practical application made perfect sense. In every relationship, there will always come a conflict (likely many over time) that indicates an unbridgeable distance between two people. Labels like “best friend,” “partner,” and, of course, “parent” represent fantasies of unity and wholeness that are always, ultimately unattainable.