Courage over comfort. That is the key. The primary vehicle for change in a relationship really is developing a better relationship with our own feelings and unpacking why we feel what we feel when we are having that feeling.
We all have emotional survival strategies that do not work. A common one is ‘going it alone,’ ‘sucking it up,’ or ‘toughing it out.’ We put our heads down, close our eyes and push forward. But we don’t know how to make a relationship better.
Read a story about a couple as they communicate and see how they miscommunicate. This will help you with your own communication in your relationship.
It had started like a regular day weekend day. John and Patti were taking a walk. The sun was shining. Life was good. But then, John sheepishly told Patti that he would not be working on a project they had told Patti he was going to do, and that had been planned for that weekend.
I was recently talking to Cathy, a friend of mine. She and her girlfriend Sammy were having a tough time in their relationship and had just gotten into a fight. She explained what had happened. They were decorating the house for the holidays together, but Sammy got upset and said it was all for her, her tree, her project. She lashed out at Cathy and left. From Cathy’s perspective, Sammy was having a temper tantrum. She didn’t understand why Sammy was getting so upset. Why couldn’t they have a nice evening together? What went wrong?
Over the years of working both as a therapist and a couples’ therapist I have come to believe that something more is needed to help all of us with our relationships. Many of us just don’t have the skills we need. Therapy has limitations due to its cost, and many therapists, though effective with individuals, don’t have the specialized training needed to be effective when working with couples. The time constraints of people’s busy lives, and the stigma that therapy has for some also inhibit people seeking help.
Emotions are intense. They rock us. We have to deal with them. Someone says something the wrong way, or we are in a difficult situation and all of a sudden we might find ourselves in a fury, or in deep grief, or perhaps an awful sense of embarrassment and shame as if we are ‘bad’.
When we are in these feeling places we usually don’t have any perspective or not much.
Working with couples effectively means you understand the three dimensions of our relationships: Attachment, emotions and cycles. Learn about what needs to be focused on to do effective couples work, or to work on your own relationship.
Can you set a boundary (say no) to somebody when you are not angry? Often, we can set a boundary if we are angry, but cannot if we are not angry.
Lets look at couple therapy, which is a pretty complex process. As a client in couples therapy, we must learn enough about ourselves (among other things) so that we can untangle a bunch of behavior that simply does not get us what we want: an accessible and responsive relationship. We supply the courage and tenacity on the road to mastery of this challenge, but we need more than motivation, creativity and desire for this purpose. We also need a map.