My son and his friends played a pool game this summer called “Monkey In The Middle”
One person stood between the other two, and tried to intercept the ball that was being tossed back and forth.
If the monkey caught the ball, it really disrupted the flow between the two throwers.
And for some reason this game popped into my brain several times this week during client sessions.
You see, many of us have a monkey in the middle that disrupt the flow of our relationships too, and we don’t even know it.
The most common way I see this happening is when a parent is too involved in a partnership or marriage. Often, one person has not completely emotionally, finacially or developmentally separated from their mom and/or dad. The result is a reliance on the parent for support in these areas instead of their mate.
For example, I have a client who used to involve her father in most decisions in her marriage, from what car to buy, to where to live and work. Instead of going to her husband to discuss these matters, she felt safer consulting her dad. There was an unspoken, unconscious agreement between them that she would always hold his opinion as priority. To do otherwise meant risking his anger and loss of love.
The mother of another client has tried to buy her love her entire life. So when she got married, it was no different. If she and her husband could not agree on a budget, or how to spend their money, she would go straight to momma and ask for the cash. Her mother would gladly give it to her, or offer to pay for things she really wanted. This kept my client and her husband from having hard, but necessary, conversations about how to work as a team in the area of finances.
Fortunately, both of those stories have a happy ending. As they worked through their childhood with me, they each decided it was more important to be free than enmeshed in a toxic tie. Now, they are able to collaborate with their beloveds instead of work at cross purposes. They are partnering with the appropriate person at this point, and as a result, their relationships are much smoother and more joyful.
Hopefully, you can see the damage of not addressing the monkey in the middle. Can you imagine how left out, unimportant, discounted and trivialized their spouses must have felt? There was no room in the marriages for their partners. It was filled up with the ( unconscious) need to keep mom and dad from leaving. Over time, the only option for their spouses was to give up and withdraw, perpetuating the belief for my clients that their parents were the only ones there for them anyway.
I do not believe keeping their spouses out of the loop was at all intentional. What I do know is that neither of them was given the opportunity in childhood to develop a sense of themselves as a sovereign being, with access to and trust in, their own opinions, thoughts, beliefs, ideas and inner wisdom. Even though they were chronologically adults, their development got stuck at a much younger emotional stage.
In large part, that is what the work I lead people through does- it helps them to grow up emotionally and function in the world as adults. Most of us have these ( more) immature states running the show and sabotaging the very thing we want- closeness and intimacy.
It’s always a useful inquiry to ask if you have a monkey in the middle sabotaging your connections with those close to you. If the answer is yes, I’d be honored to help!