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The psychology of relationships: life scripts

Applying life scripts

Having read the introduction on life scripts, and if you wanted to, having completed the exercise on scripts, you should have a sense of what your script looks like. The following section will give you some pointers about how the concept of script might be relevant to your relationship and sex life.


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intimate couple considering the messages they believe about sex and relationshipsStart with yourself: what does your script say about relationships, closeness, and sex? Does your script allow for them?

Or maybe it allows for them, but only at a price?

You may have decided as a child that you can be close to people, but that they'll only want you around if you're good (that's definitively going to kill your sex life!).

Think about all the messages you have in your head about sex and relationships. You can also look back on your life and see whether there are any common patterns in your relationships.

You may be doing the same thing over and over again - a good indication that there is some scripty stuff in what is happening.

Remember that a script is something you originally designed as a response to life. But now you can try out different responses. However, you need to be aware of your patterns.

There is the added-on complication that we tend to make life fit our script. So you might say, yes I have a pattern, but life is such and such a way and my pattern is the best way to deal with things.

It's as if you say, "well I am not doing this, it just keeps happening to me!"

To say that "things just keep happening" doesn't account for your responsibility in what is going on, nor does it account for the blinkers your script will impose on you. You might be disregarding a lot of other options in your life simply because they don't fit into your frame of reference. Once you change that frame of reference, you can change your life.

Here is an example: say we have a guy called Ted. Ted is really nice, he puts a lot of effort into his relationships with women. He treats them well, looks after them and is committed to them.

However, his girl friends have this tendency to run off with other men. One could say, well bad luck!

Or you could ask yourself, is there anything in what Ted is doing that is the result of following a life pattern for him?

He may be picking women who aren't willing to commit themselves to him (maybe because his mum never did either) or who treat him badly, because of their own history (and there may have been a similar set-up between his own parents).

He may also never speak up for himself and so just fade into the background until his girlfriend finds someone more exciting.

Remember, life isn't just happening to us, it is our responsibility and a lot of it we make happen ourselves. We can make choices that change what is going on around us.


Script in relationships


Of course your partner will have a script too, which will impact on your relationship as much as your own. See whether your partner is interesting in finding out more about it. Maybe you can change things together.

There is an added complication, which is that very often people who are attracted to each other have complementary scripts. By that I mean that we tend to pick people who reinforce our frame of reference.

It's as if some life scripts fit together like pre-fabricated furniture. All the bolts and screws are in the right place so that the whole thing becomes very stable, a self-reinforcing, closed system.

A very obvious example for this could be our previous case illustration called Jane.

She's got this "work hard, be a good girl" script in which she never really gets much affection. She picks a guy as her partner who is career orientated and has problems being close.

Both of their life scripts fit together as they both avoid closeness and tend not to have free time on their hands (because it might give them time to feel how lonely they really are).

In this case there is no-one there who can challenge Jane's frame of reference, and they can both get on with life without ever being asked to be close.

If one of them would like to change, he or she would have to change his or her own script, and for the relationship to survive the other partner would probably also have to change to some degree as well.

self realised man who has overcome his psychological scriptScript can be a difficult thing to change in your relationship. The best way to do it is to keep on talking about it with your partner.

Also, if you want to change, do it no matter what your partner is doing. In the end you can only change yourself, not the other person.

However, if you keep pushing for what you want and you are willing to hang in there, your partner might just surprise you and come along too.

 Don't forget, some people change readily, others need to take time to digest stuff. If things get too difficult between the two of you, consider getting some outside help, like couples therapy.

A sure way of knowing when you are moving out of your script is the accompanying feelings you will experience.

You might feel uncomfortable or scared or exposed when you do something new.

However, in doing something new you allow yourself to be more open to the world, which is a good thing.

It is as if you are putting parts of your old armor down. In your head you might know you don't need this armor any more, but you may still feel very naked having put a piece of it down.

In the long run, though, you will get used to the new feeling and life will be easier without all the extra baggage you have to carry round.

Also, be proud of whenever you step out of script and give yourself a little pat on the back. Each step out of script is a little victory and will make subsequent steps easier.

Other related topics are: games, discounting, strokes, and transference.

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