Healing a  Relationship

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Couples in Conflict

Couples in conflict
Matriarch/Patriarch induced conflict is most common in couples in which, sad to say, bottom-line issues such as self-esteem, boundaries, power and control are still unresolved in one or both partners. The inner matriarch and inner patriarch know exactly how zero in on those issues in ways ttHowever, understanding the four-way battles between the two Inner Matriarchs and two Inner Patriarchs is a very positive step in helping people deal with theat will cause the very worst and most damaging fights, the kind that often lead to the end of relationships.

As the story unfolds you will begin to see how these four characters are the critical players in one of the most toxic forms of fighting that can occur between people, but in particular a man and woman.

If you already have had lots of experience working with your inner protector characters (inner villagers or inner selves) you might wonder why is it that when these four characters start fighting it has a far more serious effect than usual? After all, the other characters who live and work so hard in our Inner village (inner selves) often find themselves in conflict. Other times it's one of yours fighting with one of mine. Just as often it's some of my opposite characters inside me fighting among themselves.
The difference is that no mater what the conflict is over it is always in some way over the best way to protect the inner child and our underlying vulnerability. When the inner patriarch and matriarch are fighting the focus is on hurting or punishing both inner children and increasing our sense of underlying vulnerability.
You might wonder why something as significant as this isn't easy enough to notice while it is going on so that you could quickly put a stop to it.

One of the answers, as usual is because during the fight, we are not in awareness. While the fighting is in progress we are under the control of these four particular characters, and we are unable to move higher up on to our Awareness Hill and see clearly what is going on.

And now the good news

Until I can get back up on the hill again, I will fail to notice the most important feature of these battles, which is also the key to ending them. This key is the realisation that the most destructive battle is not as we might think, between one person' s patriarch and other person's matriarch. The worst battles are not even happening between any of his and her characters. They are taking place inside each person's own inner village!

So the first good news is that you can stop wasting time and energy trying to get the other person to make the changes in their village that you imagined would help stop the fighting. The second good news is that once you have grasped this, it becomes much, much easier to make changes. Why? Because it is always much, much easier to make changes inside your own inner village. You might also notice that the less you pressure another person to change the easier it is for that other person to make their own changes inside their own inner village, while you are working inside yours.

The next bit of good news is about what happens once you uncover the real battle and identify which of the four "Matriarch/Patriarch" characters inside you are really doing the greatest damage. This makes it possible for you to start doing something really practical about preventing the fighting, the pain, the loss, the devastation and the destruction, often before it happens.

So the aim of what is written here is to identify which of the four characters are the real antagonists, why they are doing the most damage, where and inside whose village you will find them, and what you can do to halt their destructive behaviour.

Probably the best way to start is to look at a case study. It's our old friends Jack and Jill who manage to have most of the fights that we use the case studies, and right now, Jack and Jill are at it again!

For a start it may seem difficult to recognise the specific pattern, that is to see what is really happening, compared with what Jack and Jill by themselves think is happening. If you can see what they can't see you have the key to understanding this kind of fight when you get involved in it.

Once you up on the hill you are out of the fight

Once you can do this you have managed to get up somewhere on an Awareness Hill, even if it's only Jack’s Hill or Jill's Hill for a start. If you can do it for them you'll soon be able to get up on your own hill as well. And the higher you get up Awareness hill you further away you are from these destructive fights.

Case study:

Jack and Jill are at it again.

Jack and Jill have a close and intimate relationship but they are not living together yet. The way things are going this is looking less and less likely in the future.

Jill values neatness and tidiness in her home and her office. When I asked Jack about it he told me that Jill:

" ….worries far too much about tidiness. She could be having fun relaxing, instead of wasting time with all this tidying up and organising."

On the other hand I understand that Jack is a somewhat disorganised person. Jill told me that he is:

"….. horribly untidy. Everywhere that you look at in his home is a mess!"

Last week, Jill went over to Jack's house to stay the night. Both of them were looking forward to a romantic evening. But almost as soon as she arrived there, Jill found herself becoming upset about the state of the house. She tried to bottle up her feelings but finally they spilled over.

"Jack, Darling" she said, trying her hardest to sound pleasant, loving and caring, "if you can't manage to tidy this place up why don't you let me come over and do it for you?"

Notice that Jack's response is not nearly as pleasant. Jack has been triggered and as a result he is not trying to be very loving or caring.

"Because," answers Jack, "you are far too fussy about tidiness. After you'd finished I wouldn't be able to find anything! In fact, you would probably throw away half my really important stuff. I am much better organised than you give me credit for, because when I want something I don't have to go looking for it. It's right here at my fingertips. That's the way I like it, and that's the way it is going to stay!"

The tone of Jack's remarks did not go down too well with Jill who was immediately triggered into a more intense and more personal response, which we will look at below.

After a few more exchanges and with each one getting progressively more and more hurtful, an awful fight developed. Jill stormed out and went home. Jack phoned her at 2:00 am and told her he was ending the relationship. Jill in the heat of her pain and anger told him she thought that was a very good idea. Then they both said some very hurtful things to each other about how it was totally the other person’s fault and hung up.

That was three weeks ago and since then both Jack and Jill had been ignoring each other and at the same time both suffering terrible emotional pain. Finally, it was Jill who suggested they come and see me in case there was something that could be done to rescue the relationship.

Note: The story is a mixture, combining the critical features of many real-life cases that I have worked with. If it rings true for you it is probably because it is very similar to what happens to almost any couple who find themselves in a fight as bad as this.

Jack's and Jill's key issues

From previous stories about Jack and Jill you may remember that Jack has a lot of issues around anyone he thinks is trying to control him. Remember that you and I already know that Jack is certainly somewhat untidy in his house. This is one of his ways of resisting a sense of being controlled by other people. But otherwise, in his job for example, Jack is quite a well-organised person. However, in an attempt to appear more organised, he has a tendency to handle many of the significant issues in his life according to "rules". He then expects others to follow the same rules when it comes to their significant issues.

And Jill has a lot of issues about being abandoned or rejected. So she can tend to be a bit of a controller when she is with other people, although she would describe it as just being "helpfully directive". Underneath you can guess that when Jill is "directing" people she might also be trying to stop them from abandoning or rejecting her.

On the surface

All these life issues add fuel to further energise Jack’s and Jill’s four "Matriarch/Patriarch" villagers. Now they know exactly what points to zero in on to set up the worst possible fights between Jack and Jill. However, the real villains are not the two external characters who at first appeared to be the ones responsible for creating the fight.

First let us take our look at what's happening on the surface then we will dig a little deeper to discover the real role that each character is playing and the energies involved (which became stronger and stronger as the fight develops.)

The higher you go up the hill and look down you more you will be able to see this and discover what is really going on. I hardly need to point out that neither Jack nor Jill were spending much time in awareness during their fight. So they wouldn't notice the four characters who had taken over and were really running the show and they certainly would not notice which two were the real villains working behind the scenes.

Looking under the surface

If you go back and look at Jill's initial comments when she arrived at Jack's you will remember that she was trying to sound sweet and caring But there was an underlying energy in her words that reflected the typical pattern of an "Inner Matriarch".

The archetypal Inner matriarch when it is active in a woman likes to suggest (with just a hint of scorn) that men are typically less capable than women, they need a woman to guide them, to tell them what do. And they often carry with this energy a broad hint that the man should be very grateful for this kind of control and accept it without question.

Keep in mind that Jill’s Inner Matriarch was already present and was reacting to Jack's untidy house before she spoke. When a woman speaks in a matriarchal tone this quickly triggers a chain of events in the man she is speaking to. Notice how this Matriarchal energy is reflected in Jill's opening words:

"Jack, Darling" she said, trying her hardest to sound pleasant and caring, "if you can't manage to tidy this place up why don't you let me come over and do it for you?"

On the surface it would seem as though her matriarch was directly responsible for triggering Jack's patriarchal reaction. It's very easy to think this because the man's patriarch appears on the scene so quickly, but there is actually one important step in between, even if it only takes a microsecond to pass.

On the surface we notice that Jack responds with an archetypal Patriarchal reply. Inner patriarchs regard women as typically illogical, unable to see things clearly and in need of a man who can point this out. Inner Patriarchs like to have rules, made by men of course They also like to deliver judgements based on their rules. And they have a sense of unquestioned entitlement in their right tell women about these judgements, and the belief that women should willingly accept this kind of control.

Note: If you can get hold of a copy of Sidra Stone' s wonderful book "The Shadow King" you can find out a great deal more about your own Inner patriarch, how it acts and what it thinks and says.

Anyway in this case here we can see Jack's Inner patriarch helping Jack protect his vulnerability with its typical patriarchal energy.

"Because," answers Jack, "you are far too fussy about tidiness. After you'd finished I wouldn't be able to find anything! In fact, you would probably throw away half my really important stuff. I am much better organised than you give me credit for, because when I want something I don't have to go looking for it. It's right here at my fingertips. That's the way I like it, and that's the way it is going to stay!"

But, that's only the first round in the battle.

On the surface Jill (who feels judged and criticised by Jack's patriarchal tone of voice and attitude towards her) has little choice other than to defend herself. The only way she knows to do this is to move further into her matriarchal energy. Her matriarchal response is to explain to Jack that he only "thinks he's organised" whereas she knows better. Notice that she tries to do this "very carefully" like a mother explaining something to an irresponsible little boy. But matriarchs don't understand or care about the fragile side of male self-esteem.

The second round
On the surface when it is his turn Jack finds himself feeling angry. This is a sign that his Inner patriarch is already taking over and is moving into heavier attack and criticism.

Notice the use of the typical patriarchal word "stupid". And the typical patriarchal energy in the phrase " … it's logical not to let you have any part in tidying my house because of your obvious inability to think logically, analytically and clearly."

So if that's what happens in round two what can we expect to see on the surface in round three? More of the same. These interactions usually continue through three or four cycles with each one getting progressively worse as each patriarch and each matriarch uses stronger and stronger negative strategies to try and force the other person to give in.
Regardless of who gives in first, when it finally happens the person who surrenders first usually experiences feelings of "devastation" and deep emotional wounding.

Identifying the characters who are really doing the damage

Generally both people also experience a sense of greatly heightened vulnerability, because it seems to them as though one of their most aggressive attacking fighters (for example Jill's matriarch) has been completely beaten by their arch enemy, in this case Jack’s aggressive patriarch). It is a simple enough assumption to then decide that Jack’s attacker and therefore Jack must be responsible for all the pain and hurt.
But meanwhile although Jack may appear to be the "winner" he usually doesn't feel much better. To Jack it seems as though he has also suffered severe punishment from Jill’s matriarchal attacks. And to make things more complicated Jack may also be struck with a sense of guilt for the pain that Jill is feeling. But even about this Jack still makes a further assumption that it must be Jill who is responsible for "making" him feel bad.

And those assumptions are the critical mistake that can single handed destroy a relationship!

However, as you look deeper you discover that amazingly neither of these two assumptions about who is to blame is accurate.

What is really going on in the village?

Everything that we have described already and as it appears to be happening "on the surface" would be familiar to you. What I am now about to explain will not be as familiar and takes a little time to understand. However once you can see what is really going on behind the scenes and under the surface you will have the key to ending these awful fights (In psychological jargon they are known as "negative bonding patterns" but "an awful fight" is perhaps a more accurate description.)

On the surface it appeared as though the Jack's Inner patriarch had every right to attack Jill and in particular the voice who spoke to him, that is Jill's Inner Matriarch. And in turn it appeared as though Jill's Inner matriarch had every right to launch a counter attack on Jack and in particular the voice who spoke to her, his Inner patriarch.

Yes it's true that they were doing the talking, but it was not the main activity in the village! Two other far more powerful players were at work and these were the two who were really doing much worse damage.

Let's go back and have another look at the start of the fight. Is there something we missed?

"Jack, Darling," said Jill, trying her hardest to sound pleasant and caring, "if you can't manage to tidy this place up why don't you let me come over and do it for you?" Obviously, there's more than a hint of her matriarch in her choice of words, but it's certainly wasn’t a really a heavy attack on Jack.

Yet the intensity in Jack's response tells us that he felt as if "something" (which he thought was coming from inside Jill) was attacking and criticising him in a very negative way. The painful reality is that this "something" left Jack feeling very hurt and vulnerable. And that was the something that caused him to attack Jill.

But what was that "something" and where did it come from? Surprise, it wasn't something inside Jill at all. It was actually Jack's own Inner matriarch who was attacking him and criticising him. The reason he felt so hurt and vulnerable was because she was aiming directly for Jack’s most vulnerable spot - his wounded inner child - Little Jack!

What is really going on

So, now for the first time we have a clue about what is really going on. This is a typical case and it's close to what happens for almost every couple who get into a really nasty fight. Your Inner matriarch, and mine "feed" on relatively mild critical or judgemental messages from someone else's Inner Matriarch. As they feed they get bigger and stronger. And then they attack from the inside. In this case, the pain, the vulnerability, the shame and the hurt feels so bad to Jack because:

As it feeds, his Inner matriarch gets stronger and as it grows its amplifies the pain of Jill's original criticism five to ten times. This means it’s attack has a much greater negative effect on Jack than Jill ever intended.
The character that is really attacking Jack is his own Inner matriarch who has been with him since childhood and she knows how best to trigger his deepest pain and vulnerability. She has been beating him up about his untidiness all his life. She is delighted to have found a supporter in Jill's Inner matriarch who can feed her with renewed energy so she can intensify her attacks and beat little Jack up more cruelly than before.

Now, Jack feels powerless and emasculated about his untidiness. He feels like a judged and criticised little boy. He would love to be tidy but his own inner matriarch keeps telling him that he is a very untidy person and that he will always be this way.
Jack's Inner Child, "little Jack" is reminded of the times when he was a small boy and the way he was shamed and punished severely by his mother for his untidiness. He is reminded of the times when his own mother, and his grandmother as well, told him that he would "always be untidy".
No wonder that Jack reacts like a small boy to Jill's comments. Unknowingly Jill's choice of words echoed far too closely what his Inner matriarch has been telling him all his life..

But that is only the beginning of what is really going on.

Something has to happen to protect Jack (and his Inner Child "Little Jack") from these negative feelings. And who better than his Inner patriarch?

Because you are watching all this from outside, you can more easily appreciate why Jack's patriarch now flies to the rescue. However, it delivers a response that is out of proportion to Jill's initial comment. Neither Jack, nor his patriarch, have any idea at this stage that it is his own Inner matriarch who is attacking him and causing him to feel like a vulnerable child. Believing that the real attack is coming from Jill, they focus on the apparent external source, which in this case appears to be Jill and her matriarch.

"Because," Jack’s Inner patriarch replies, "you are far too fussy about tidiness. After you'd finished I wouldn't be able to find anything! In fact, you would probably throw away half my really important stuff. I am much better organised than you give me credit for, because when I want something I don't have to go looking for it. It's right here at my fingertips. That's the way I like it, and that's the way it is going to stay!"

That is certainly a patriarchal statement, but notice how its energy level is far stronger than Jill’s initial comment. Jack's patriarch isn’t responding to Jill's original statement. Jack's patriarch is reacting to that amplified attack from his own Inner Matriarch.

How is this going to affect Jill? We can’t see what is really going on inside Jill but it would be something like this.

Jill’s Inner patriarch receives the critical judgemental message from Jack’s Patriarch, feeds on it, amplifies it and then proceeds to attack Jill from the inside! (Just as Jack's Inner matriarch did to him.)

The vulnerability, the shame and the hurt feels so bad to Jill, because:

Her Inner patriarch amplifies Jack’s original criticism five to ten times so that it has a far Her own Inner Patriarch who has been with her since childhood and who knows how best to hurt her is the one who is actually punishing her, beating her up about her over-controlling nature and her lack of logic. He is delighted to have found a supporter in Jack’s Inner Patriarch.
Jill feels ashamed, abandoned and unloved and starts to blame herself because she is "too controlling" and "not logical enough". She would love to be more relaxed, forget about being logical and let Jack just be who he is in his own home. But as long as her Patriarch keeps telling her that she will always be an illogical "silly" yet overly controlling woman she cannot relax.
Jill’s Inner Child, "little Jill" is reminded of the times when she was a child and the way she was shamed and punished severely by her Father for being a "little bossy boots" when really she was just trying to help to fix things in her badly disorganised family. She is reminded of the times when her father told her that she would "always be a controlling woman and that because of that no man would want her ". (He used to emphasise to her how silly she would be to let that happen.)
Jill’s reaction is the energetic opposite but otherwise similar in nature to Jack’s. For a start her Inner Matriarch stays hidden and she first moves into the "ashamed child" position while she cops the full attack from her own Inner patriarch. And remember it's her patriarch who is responsible for 80% to 90% of the pain she is feeling . Remember that Jill said she was sorry. That was her Inner child reeling from the attack from the inner patriarch. But this lasted for only a moment.

Something has to happen to protect Jill (and her Inner Child "Little Jill") from these negative feelings. And who better to return to the battlefield than her Inner Matriarch?

Because you are watching all this from outside, you can appreciate why Jill's matriarch flies to the rescue. However, it delivers a response that is out of proportion to Jack's initial comment.

Just like Jack, neither Jill, nor her matriarch, have any idea that it is her own Inner patriarch who is attacking her and causing her to feel like a guilty child. Believing that the real attack is coming from Jack, she focuses on the more easily observed external source, which in this case appears to be Jack and Jack's patriarch.

Jill's matriarch, if you remember tried to explain to Jack, very carefully that perhaps he wasn’t quite as organised as he thought. Notice there is quite a bit of subtle matriarchal energy creeping in. Then Jill warms to her theme as her Inner Matriarch takes over. It did this, of course to release Jill from the vulnerability she felt, when her Inner Patriarch reminded her of her real father’s criticism and her childhood pain. and when she fell into her ashamed child position moments earlier

And to reduce the pain that Jill’s inner child, Little Jill, is feeling, Jill’s matriarch now goes on the warpath. Having explained to Jack, very carefully that he “only thought he was organised", she then points out, as matriarchs like to do, that most of Jack’s friends didn't respect him because of the state of his home.
By this time, Jill’s matriarch is really warming up and feeling stronger. To emphasise this it decides to make add a few more points. It suggests that Jacks untidiness was the reason so few guests turned up last time Jack organised a party at his place. And it couldn't resist pointing out that many more friends had turned up at Jill’s place last time she had a party. Matriarchs have a not very subtle way of making their point and inducting feelings of shame or guilt at the same time.

And keep reminding yourself of what Jack’s matriarch is going to do to him with this new information!

From here on the cycle is repeated but each time the negativity and judgement are being amplified on each side. Backwards and forwards the battle rages.

Jack’s inner Matriarch feeds and grows with each new round of criticism from Jill’s Matriarch.

Jill’s inner Matriarch feeds and gets stronger with each new round of criticism from Jack’s Patriarch.

Each time Jack is reminded of his childhood, he first feels ashamed, but by now things are moving very quickly. With each new round it takes less time before his Patriarch comes in to defend wounded and ashamed Little Jack.

At this stage Jack starts feeling real patriarchal anger. His patriarch delights in pointing out just how "stupid" Jill’s argument was about the party guests, explaining in detail that his party was only for associates from work whilst hers was for personal friends. At this point Jack’s Patriarch’s attack becomes more personal. It points out that Jill has now displayed her inability to take part in a sensible discussion, her lack of logic and the ability to solve problems.

"So, of course, it’s only logical," explains his Patriarch, "not to let you, Jill, have any part in tidying Jack’s house because of your obvious inability to think logically, analytically and clearly," (reminding her once again that she had just proved her lack of logic with her comments about the guests and the parties).

At this point, Jill has no idea of what is really going on inside her but her emotions are flipping back and forth. Little Jill her inner child is feeling ashamed and is being attacked by her Critical Inner Patriarch. Such a mixture of fury, resentment, pain and shame all at the same time is a highly inflammable mixture. And the whole time she still thinks it is Jack who is doing this to her.

Jack's words remind her again of what her father used to say to her when she was a little girl about her inability to think clearly. Jill knew even then that it wasn't true, just as she knows in her mind that Jack's patriarch’s words are not true either. In this state she can’t deal with so many mixed up feelings at the time, but she still has one more matriarchal barb left.

“You always have to be right don’t you!” her matriarch yells at Jack as she storms out of Jack's house and goes home, leaving all of their inner protector characters in his and her inner villages feeling very sad, vulnerable, ineffective or abandoned. Except of course for the two inner patriarchs (his and hers) and the two inner matriarchs (his and hers) who are delighted with this turn of events.

Jack found himself feeling a great deal worse over the next couple of hours. The more that he thought about it the worse these feelings became. He too was now boiling over with his own inflammable mixture of conflicting feelings. Some of the time he felt overwhelmingly devastated and a deep emotional pain inside him as though a dagger had been plunged into his heart. At other times he just felt so righteously judgemental and justifiably angry.

Guess which character in Jack’s village is really happy with the way things have turned out? A voice inside him is getting louder and louder telling him to ring Jill right now and inform her that, because of her extremely unpleasant attitude towards him, their relationship is finished. It was of course Jack' s Inner patriarch giving him the kind of destructive advice it specialises in giving.

Meanwhile, Jill couldn't sleep, she still felt very angry about what Jack said to her. But her strongest feeling was a sense of pain and powerlessness. She felt so vulnerable and a bit ‘stupid’ about not being able to get the man she loved to understand her point of view. Not being able to do this was what really hurt Jill the most,.
So, can you guess which character in Jill’s village is also happy with the way things are turning out? After a while she heard a voice inside her telling her it wasn’t her fault. It was Jack’s insensitive, unfeeling nature (and his untidiness) and she could never expect these things to improve. The only way to protect herself from a future filled with similar repeats of the hurt and pain was to end her relationship with Jack now. This was, of course the voice of her own inner matriarch, giving the kind of advice that Inner matriarchs specialise in giving.

It was just at this time, around 2:00 am that Jack phoned and in an angry (patriarchal) voice told Jill that he had decided to end the relationship. And since that matched up with what Jill's matriarchal voice was telling her at that moment, it seized the opportunity to agree with him. While she was at it her matriarch let fly with another round of negative judgement about Jack, his behaviour, his untidy house, his immaturity and more of the same especially his need to ‘always be right’.

And Jack’s patriarch, who had nothing to lose, fired back, with more negative judgement and criticism about Jill. Not only had she shown herself to be unable to think clearly. Jack's patriarch decided that there had never been a better time to add some more killer points of a very personal nature to prove her "inability to stick to the rules". She was overweight, she was uncooperative as a lover. It even brought her morals into question! (Jill had confessed that once, long before she knew Jack, she had an affair with a married man.)

It's hard to say which of the two slammed their phone down first, attempting to be the one who hung up on the other, but it was probably a dead heat. That was three weeks ago and since then both Jack and Jill had been ignoring each other and at the same time both suffering terrible emotional pain.

See the Inner Patriarch and the Inner Matriarch pages for more information on the characteristics of these two destructive characters and to learn how to identify them at work inside you.

Site map

This is such a significant  problem in many relationships that I have now devoted an entire website  to  the Inner matriarch and inner Patriarch problem

Rather than repeat these pages on this site can I ask you to go to my main website


I think you will be amazed at what you will discover