“Connected, side by side, you and I, as we are “we” yet, you and me, existing simultaneously independently” – TF
Couples usually enter into the therapeutic process hoping to:
- Communicate more effectively (in other words, argue less, talk openly, stop blaming, learn to reach a resolution)
- Get their partner to understand their perspective, or at least show up differently (around various issues from finances, to family planning, to parenting, shared time, etc.)
- Increase intimacy (which means different things to different people, i.e. sex, hand holding, deep conversations, enjoyable one on one time, activities, etc)
When two people enter into couples therapy, there is often an expectation around what that will look like and a hope that the process will improve (sometimes “save”) the relationship. Couples therapy can be extremely helpful, it is crucial that couples understand that the power already exists between the two of them and that therapy is a support to their process. A process which requires growth.
What about growth? How do couples grow together? How do they evolve, transform, and adjust when life changes? Do they morph into one another and become one? and if so, does that mean that they sacrifice themselves or completely lose their autonomy?
In this age of transformation, the journey to true self, meditative practices, understanding and recognizing purpose, many are turning inward and evolving. While that is positive because it brings with it a deepened level of self-awareness, it is having an impact on relationships. What that impact is looks different depending on the couple. How this is impacting couples is showing up, “In the Room.”
In the Room:
Trust – In order for a couple to grow, openness and vulnerability must exist within their relationship. The trust that your partner does not want to hurt you, the trust that you and your partner are equally invested, the trust that you will be okay regardless of what lurks around the corner. Practicing trust is just that, a practice. Trust of self is primary, trust of self is necessary. If a person is struggling to trust themselves, they may be struggling to connect with themselves, and if they are unable to connect with themselves, it will be challenging, if not impossible for them to be able to connect with their partner.
In order to grow together, it is imperative that the individuals within the couple are able to communicate around their personal journey’s, goals, and around their connection with self. If one partner partakes on a journey to discover their true self without engaging their counterpart in the process, a feeling of disconnection can arise. It is inevitable that people change over time, and when doing any transformative work, the process of change is accelerated. For the individual, this can be extremely positive as they feel more connected to self, and life, they may be responding to things differently,becoming reflective, decreasing reactivity, recognizing and eliminating co-dependent behaviors, practicing appreciation, which are all very meaningful and powerful changes. However, the impact on the couple relationship can be vastly different.
For the couple when one is on this journey to discover and understand true self, and the other is not, they can experience their partner as selfish, they can become insecure, they no longer know their “role” in the relationship, they are struggling to recognize their partner, often making comments such as, “you’ve changed” and “I don’t know you anymore.”While one partner is recognizing their triggers and unhealthy thought patterns, the other partner may still be seeking to engage in the old dynamic and are no longer getting what they needed (or thought they needed) from the relationship, especially if it was a co-dependent relationship.
Steps to Connect with Yourself and Grow with your Partner:
- Have a conversation with your partner around their relationship with themselves. What are you currently doing in life that brings you happiness? when do you feel most yourself? What do you feel connected to? What are you each doing around self-care? How are you taking ownership around what is presently happening in your life? What are some things you would like to change? What do you feel your strengths are? Where are the opportunities for growth?
- Share your discoveries with one another, each of you practicing awareness around your thoughts and actions and then sharing them with one another. What have you learned about yourself this week? What positive changes have you made? When did you recognize you were triggered? and what did you do?
- Share your observations of your partner, with your partner. Let your partner know how you are experiencing them in a positive and strength focused way. Perhaps they reacted to something differently, they joined a new class, they did something around self-care, they did something you appreciated. Share what you notice, appreciate, recognize, in a validating way. Being able to link what you observed to what they have previously shared was a possible area/opportunity for growth.
- Recap around how the changes you are each making are impacting your couple relationship. This can look like a decrease in frequency around conflict, increased intimacy, an increase in satisfaction in the couple relationship, more shared time, feeling understood, less tension, and can be as simple as just enjoying one another’s company more.
Loving yourself, identifying your true self, and living authentically does not have to drive a wedge between you and your partner. When supported by your partner, and when given air and space to grow, you are able to grow simultaneously and create a connectedness centered around self-love and trust, which extends outward and shows up in a positive way in your relationship with others, primarily your relationship with your partner. It is possible to create the relationship you desire at any time, as long as both partners are committed to growing, taking accountability, validating their partners experiences, and practicing trust. Trust in self, trust in your partner, and trust in the process.
May you continue to connect with yourself, grow with your partner, connect with your partner, and create the relationship you desire!