Article: Relationship problems: I married a monster

Published in Open Exchange Magazine, San Francisco

How to know if “monsters” are playing havoc in your relationships?

Are you fighting with your partner or are the two of you pulling in different directions? Is there a lot of emotion and drama that never seems to get resolved, or is jealousy/stress getting in the way of the love that is between you? Or are you drifting away from each other because you don’t want to face what is difficult.

Then you can be sure a “monster” is responsible for the mayhem.

A monster is anything that causes pain, difficulty and conflict in your relationships.

And this is not just limited to romantic partnerships, it could be work relationships or relationships with friends and family. In fact your monsters will show up in all these scenarios, they just will be so much more intense in the romantic setting.

The reason that I name them as monsters is that it is so much easier to relate to a monster – a physical manifestation of the issue rather than the difficulty or problem which is causing so much distress to both parties.

Usually when a couple are realizing they need to look at an issue in their relationship, they are already feeling very uncomfortable, exposed and embarrassed that they even have a problem. Because of the way our society is we often feel that our relationships are private and to go and seek outside help is betraying the relationship. And the most debilitating of all is that we should be able to fix it ourselves.

Relationship problems? How to resolve the problems in your relationships without “talking about the problem”

Have you been trying to fix the issues in your relationship through reading self-help books?

Although things might get better for a while and you both feel inspired by the book, gradually things begin to slip back to the old place because a book cannot take you on the journey that you need to go on together. Then there’s the whole business of trying to get your partner to go along for a counseling session, particularly when they think that they are the problem.

Your partner will be even more resistant if they play out the “monster” in your relationship, and by that I mean the person who plays out the darker energy – the difficult one, the nasty one, the bad one, the angry one, the jealous one, the depressed one etc. Then they will really dig their heels in and refuse to go, and then the monster will become “the reason you’re not going to counseling”. And so it goes on.

Are you married to a monster?

Or do you suspect that you are the monster in your relationship, or that’s how your partner sees you?

Do you continually attract monsters? These are the dazzling, fascinating, interesting and usually wounded people who after a while become a nightmare and leave you with a broken heart and an awful lot of pain and trauma to resolve.

And yet you don’t find the good-hearted, genuinely loving people in any way attractive. You don’t want to continue playing out this painful cycle that leaves so much pain in its wake, so what is the solution that will bring more happiness and fulfillment into your life?

In fact Marrying the Monster is a very common archetypal pattern.

It has been played out in stories, myths and fairytales for thousands of years and is still being told over and over again in contemporary movies, plays and books. It is Bluebeard the dazzling, charismatic and wealthy man who makes his beautiful new wife promise not to look in one room in his castle, and when she does she find the skulls and butchered bodies of all his previous wives.

Or Medea who gets Jason to marry her and then sabotages his every step, leaving a trail of carnage and poisonous deeds behind them. Then when he finally gets away from her, she kills herself and their children in a final act of revenge.

Films like “Living with the Enemy” where the woman is fleeing a crazed husband who is all out to kill her rather than see her in the arms of another man, is unfortunately played out again and again in human lives calling on the need for safe houses for battered women all over the world. The icy woman who devours her mate like the praying mantis is the female version of this pattern which is explored very powerfully in films like “Fatal Attraction”.

You may have noticed it is a common for a sweet, “nice” woman to choose a difficult but powerful man as a mate, or for a “cold-hearted bitch” to capture the heart of a “lovely man”.

It is also equally mystifying why such a pairing will stay together through thick and thin, even though there are huge differences and dissonances between them.

Re-balancing the shadow

This dynamic has been explained in numerous relationship books as the re-balancing of the “shadow” in which one partner will express more of the darker side (the nasty one) and the other the lighter side (the nice one). The relationship survives because they need each other to balance their dark and light sides out, and so be without each other is more stressful than staying together. This is all good and well and for some people works pretty well but usually at a cost.

For most couples however it is much healthier when the nice one starts expressing and integrating more of their shadow (monster) and nasty one starts owning and expressing more of their light side (the angel).

relationship problems
Integrating your shadow

Then each partner is balanced within themselves and they don’t need to look to the other for that balance, breaking the cycle of co-dependence. When two people bring their whole selves into a relationship then there is a chance for real partnership, and the battleground recedes to open up a “panorama of possibility”.

That’s the theory – and not that easy to achieve.

But actually much easier and lot more fun to explore through the creative process.

Freeing yourself of the monster

In my work with couples, the problem in your relationship is expressed as a “monster”. You will be invited to enter into the realm of myth and fairy-tales as a way of exploring and understanding the dynamics of your relationship, which also have been played out thousands of times throughout history.

As the process unfolds this will enable you both to step away from the “problem” and you will find too that when you start to do this, the shame and the embarrassment dissolves.

This is because you are no longer focusing on the problems in the relationship, but on the “monster” which now begins to have a defined existence in you and your partner’s mind and to take on a life of its own.

For one couple I was working with their monster was a dragon which both represented the way in which they could burn each other up, but also the magical power that they both gained from being together. The monster gave them a very concrete and uplifting identity as a couple.

In fact when you engage in this process you don’t even need to talk about the problems in the relationship and who’s done wrong to who, which only re-traumatizes two already traumatized people because it is very apparent what is going on through the monster.

But through the metaphor of the monster too, you will begin to get a whole different perspective on the issues in the relationship and will notice shifts beginning to happen.

It’s a bit like going on vacation just as a crisis was breaking, and coming back to discover that the situation resolved itself easily and magically without any input from you.

Working in this way is a bit like going away on vacation, and also brings in a very important element in a successful partnership – fun and play – valuable tools to sustain you through the ups and downs of your relationship.

I have been run by countless monsters in my life and I know how uncomfortable it is to engage in this process.

I almost married a “monster”

A few years ago I almost married a “monster”. Far less dramatic than the “Sleeping with the Enemy” film but the biggest “wake-up call” of my life. I had to face that I was consciously and walking into a situation that could have caused me immense damage in spite of all my intelligence, wisdom and awareness! A humbling experiences indeed.

However through facing this “monster” I have found deep resources and gifts within myself and the greatest prize of all. This was the healing of separation that I was unaware I had felt for the whole of my life, which had driven me into countless unsatisfactory relationships.

As a result that has completely dissolved and I am experiencing a peace within myself and in relationship that is intensely nurturing and fulfilling. And I have shed several snake skins of karma and negative programming since then.

relationship problems
Moving into partnership

So whilst your monsters can and will create havoc in your relationships and in your life, whilst they remain unchecked, when you find a way of moving into partnership with them, they also hold in their hearts your greatest light.

Because your monsters are the most powerful part of you and when you learn how to access their power and magic, they will light your way and carry you forward to the greatest expression of that light. Then you will truly light up the world and all that you come into contact with.

Claire Schrader
(Open Exchange Magazine – 2009)open-exchange-logo


From: Claire Schrader


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Hi there

In response to the Covid 19 pandemic, dependent on whether government guidelines allow us to meet in person, regular courses will run either as a Live course starting Mid-May/Early June (times and duration may change) or will be deferred till September.

I plan to start offering a selection of Livestream courses from mid May onwards so that people in all geographical locations can attend

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Best, Claire