Relationship Beginnings, Endings and Differentiation

Relationships Beginnings, Endings and Differentiation, Part One

Image result for shadow pics of couples

February is the month we celebrate love, joy and the passion that stems from an intimate relationship, qualities especially apparent in a new relationship. Most love songs seem to be filled with lyrics about the arc of passion that brings two people together, symbolized by the power of Eros. However, at the other end of the love-song-spectrum are lyrics about the painful ending of a special relationship.  Enter Thanatos, the god of death. Yes, most of us are familiar with the magnetic pull of Eros and the passion we feel when we fall in love, but who is Thanatos? Thanatos is equally as powerful and important but often overlooked. It is the shadow side of Eros. Frequently misunderstood, people rarely want to look at this Greek mythological figure, the god of death. But having worked for years with couples in therapy, I see Thanatos as a misunderstood cry for differentiation.

If you are in a long-term relationship, you know how important it becomes to create space for yourself and each other as the relationship evolves.  Differentiating is the healthy way to be independent within a partnership.  This means setting boundaries, spending time apart to nurture our soul, delving into creative projects or activities that fulfill us, and allowing our partner the same freedoms. When we don’t recognize the need to differentiate or believe there is something “wrong” with the relationship, we are denying the qualities of Thanatos.

While counseling clients I have witnessed numerous times when Thanatos has reared his head. And frequently, couples believe that because they want more space or time apart from their partner, it must mean one or both of them want out. Eros appears to have died and passion has been replaced with our partner’s flaws. Instead of wanting to be with them, we desire more and more time away and alone.

Image result for couples letting go of hands

If left unrecognized, this is often when the relationship becomes confusing, the couple experiences disillusionment, and/or a breakdown or uncoupling begins. It may feel like the relationship is dying, and part of it is. But that does not mean you need to uncouple, rather it signifies that the way things have been going are no longer working. Passion has been replaced with complacency and taking each other for granted. Change is required so the partnership can move to the next level. From this perspective, Thanatos signifies a new beginning.

Dr. Carl G. Jung, the founder of depth psychology, believed that how we behave stems from the result of the different way we use our mental capacities. From this concept, Isabel Briggs Myers created the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. This instrument has been used for many years and helps people clarify his or her basic personality type. The “intuitive-feeling” person relates deeply to the Romeo-Juliet archetype and the idea of falling madly, deeply in love with his or her soulmate. These personality types are particularly sensitive the power of Eros and crazily happy when experiencing the beginning throes of a relationship. However, when Thanatos begins to creep in, this personality type often experiences distress. Where did my beloved go?!  Desiring time apart may feel opposite from earlier days and therefore, the relationship must be doomed.

Image result for images of thanatos

Yet, Eros is impossible to experience without Thanatos.  Thanatos represents a time in the relationship to honor the distancing, confusion and estrangements as a meaningful progression toward expanding the relationship.  It allows Eros to become renewed and remain alive. Therefore, this is a crucial time to individually expand within the relationship, as well as stretch the comfort zone of the relationship itself. This critical juncture can lead to death of the relationship, or, to two people learning to differentiate which can lead to individuation. Strong communication and creative ways to support the changes are required. Patience and trust that growth is occurring is also helpful.

In Part Two, we will look at how Thanatos shows up in dream time. Stay tuned! And to watch a short interview about this topic, check out the interview I recently had with professional coach and story-teller, Zette Harbour. Namaste.

Dreaming of Eros: god of Passion

Dreaming of Eros: god of PASSION, October 2020 ( This article originally appeared at

Amid a serious pandemic and 2020 political election, it is not surprising that many people are dreaming about catching the virus, natural disasters, even Armageddon. But at the other end of the spectrum, I am also witnessing people dreaming about Eros, the god of Inner Love. Eros literally means “desire for that which is missing.” Eros is passion, beauty and often manifests in dreamtime as the lover archetype. And so, it makes perfect sense, that during this time of social distancing, anxiety, and uncertainty, many of us hunger for the beloved, for that which brings fulfillment and authentic connection.

Here is a recent dream a female client had about Eros:

It’s dark outside but the moonlight is casting light onto the road I’m walking on. There is a dark-haired man coming toward me and I find him extremely attractive. As he gets closer, I see he has a sword inside a sheave, hanging from his belt down and it’s dangling down the side of his right leg. Despite the sword, I am unafraid yet curious. He seems familiar but I do not know for sure if I know this man. He’s looking right at me and recognizes me. He seems glad to see me. There is a pavilion close to where we are standing and I notice a white bird perched on the roof of the pavilion, watching me. I notice the moonlight highlights the bird’s wings. I want to embrace the man but am worried he may not want me to. For some reason, I feel the need to apologize for not having seen him for so long, for neglecting him. He looks at me but says nothing. I reach out to touch his arm and as I do, the white bird screeches and takes off into the night sky. My yearning to hug this man is getting stronger but I fear he will reject me. When I wake up, I am missing this man and still longing for him.

Permission by Craig Magnum

If we delve into this dream, we notice the dream occurs at nighttime, revealing the dreamer’s lack of awareness about her need for passion in waking life. Moonlight is streaming down, symbolizing “Luna,” the embodiment of the divine feminine. Eros appearing as an attractive man, is the dreamer’s Animus (male aspect) while the sword depicts the aliveness, strength and sensual delight Eros brings to our life. There is a sense of familiarity about him and the dreamer feels guilty for having neglected him for so many years, signifying her ignoring her own needs and desires. The bird’s wings, highlighted by moonlight, are a universal symbol of Eros. It waits and watches to see if she will open her heart to this man, flying away once she finally reaches out to him. The dreamer desires to rekindle the connection, not sexually, but heart-to-heart. In her waking life, we discussed the emptiness she was feeling from isolating during the pandemic and being overly focused on the political arena. There was no joy, no passion, she felt barren. Thus, Eros began flooding her dreams. She said she always awoke wanting more.

When Eros appears all our senses are aroused. We are filled with the same aliveness that we feel in the beginning of an intimate relationship; colors appear brighter, aromas smell intoxicating, and every-day oozes with the nectar of life. In dreamtime, Eros gives us vital life force energy. In our relationships, Eros provides the embers which feed our connection; without it, we feel barren, disconnected, and wondering, “Where did the passion go?” I’ve counseled numerous couples who still love one another but are deeply missing the beginning arc of passion that brought them together. Sometimes this leads to projecting our inner Eros onto a human being which leads to problems. “If we mistake a human lover for our Inner Lover,” writes Stephen Aizenstat, “we can experience even the slightest of criticisms as rejection by Eros.”

If Eros shows up in your nighttime dreams, or even waking dreams or fantasies, ask yourself: What brings me passion? Eros appears to remind us of the desire we long for in our lives. Whether we feel passionate about a project, a new role, or an exciting relationship, Eros’s presence beckons us to live life as fully as we possibly can—even amidst a pandemic. In ancient Greek times, the Greeks did not focus on writing obituaries when someone died. They only asked the question: Did he or she have passion?

Do you like this post? Feel free to share! If you wish to watch the recent video about this blog, please check it out HERE. Or sign up for my YouTube channel and enjoy all the other videos about nighttime dreams. To read more about the powerful wisdom contained in your nighttime dreams, check out my Blog.


Erotic Dreams: What’s Sex Got to Do with It?

Your Secret Power - Sexual Transmutation | The Ultimate Energy

Part Two: Sex and the Creative Principle

Since we are covering the second part of erotic dreams, it’s important to keep in mind that our sexuality is a significant part of our humanness. No matter how old we are, we naturally have sexual desires. If you are a woman who’s going through, or has been through, menopause, you may not believe that statement. And perhaps, your sexual desire has waned. Likewise, if you are a man who has experienced some sexual issues while aging, say, like prostate problems, or even prostate cancer, you may be feeling less stimulated than you once did. But our sexual energy never entirely goes away. Even my father, who underwent surgery for prostate cancer in his 70’s, remained sexually active into his late 80’s, right up until he died.

Secondly, as I mentioned in part one of “erotic dreams,” it is extremely important that we do not literalize our sex dreams. Dreams arise from the unconscious and are “symbolic stories”. Each narrative is communicating something meaningful in a non-linear fashion. It is up to the dreamer to learn the language of his/her dreams and make sense of their hidden message. For example, let’s look at a dream a client once shared about having sex with an ex:

I’m having sex with an ex; someone I haven’t seen in many years. We’re in the house I used to live in from the ages of sixteen to eighteen. He is lying on top of me and before he enters me, I feel excited and nervous. Once we’re having intercourse, I feel extreme pleasure, but then I begin to push him off me because I realize I’m married and shouldn’t be having sex with someone else. I awake feeling aroused, guilty and confused.

Let’s first view this dream through lens of the dreamer’s emotions. Her feelings about the dream are especially important. She shares feelings of arousal, pleasure, anxiety, and guilt. The environment is equally as important. The dream occurs in a house she used to live when she was a teenager. So, what does this time represent to her? For this dreamer, it was an age in which she felt highly creative. She would channel her emotional energy into drawings and poems. Her artwork and poetry allowed her to process the challenges she was going through at school, with her boyfriend and her family.  

Next, what does her ex-boyfriend symbolize? This man is someone she used to be in relationship with, but no longer sees or communicates with in any way.  Since she is not having contact with him, what qualities come to mind when she thinks of him? How would she describe him? She answered that he was very affectionate, creative and a good lover, but “checked out” emotionally. She had a hard time expressing herself to this man and they rarely resolved conflicts when they arose, so she eventually ended the relationship.

Finally, when we discussed her current waking life situation, the dreamer admitted she had been working long hours every day and was being very productive yet felt unfulfilled.    

So, what does sex have to do with her dream and how does it pertain to her current waking life?  Sexual symbols and feelings of arousal often portray our Inner Creative. In fact, sexual energy in dreams symbolize the creative principle because our sexuality and creativity are intertwined. Often when we are feeling sexually awakened, our creative “juices” are also alive. (Note: Interestingly, “flying dreams” often reveal strong libidinal energy.) However, if we took a literal approach to this dream, we may be tempted to think the dreamer was not fulfilled sexually by her husband and was thinking about having sex with another man, hence her feelings of guilt.  

The dreamer reflected about how she had been wanting to take some oil painting classes but did not think she had enough spare time. After processing this dream together, she realized her creative aspect was calling out for attention and she could not deny it any longer. This dream occurred over a year ago. Today, the dreamer sets aside time every Sunday afternoon to paint in a small studio she set up for her “inner creative.” She not only paints, she now sketches and takes photos on a regular basis. Needless to say, she is fulfilling her soul in ways as never before.  

If you wish to watch the video that accompanies this blog, please click this link:


Laura V. Grace, PhD