working it out is the real relationship

The Real Relationship: Working it Out

The real relationship happened last night. I had been struggling, feeling stuck, pushing myself in ways that were leaving me frustrated, angry, and sad. My husband was mad at me for this. He pulled away and let me struggle. Finally, I said, “Why aren’t you helping me? Why have you left me alone in this?”

“I cannot help you with the project you are working on,” he said. “I don’t mean that,” I said. “Why aren’t you helping me emotionally — don’t you see I am stuck? I am confused. I don’t know how to get out of this state of being.” We talked. We argued. We hashed it out. He said, “You remind me of my mother when she was stuck, and it hurts too much. I feel helpless and upset, and I don’t know how to help you. So, I get angry and pull away.”

Why couldn’t you have just said that? I think to myself. But I know the answer. He doesn’t know how. He doesn’t even know what he is feeling until we talk it out.

I get caught in my struggle — fighting myself, fighting my life, instead of knowing how to be, how to let go, how to flow. He sees me, and he gets caught in his battle of what to do with someone who is momentarily lost. “I need support,” I insist. “I need someone to help me break through my panic, my frustration, confusion — my craziness. I need you to help me.” “Okay,” he says. “Okay. I didn’t know.”

We have connected again. We feel close again. I don’t feel abandoned, and my husband doesn’t feel helpless. But there is no way to learn to reach towards each other, without the ‘fall’ from grace into the hell of conflict and hurt feelings, followed by the hashing it out and then the move back into connection. That is the only way. Learning to reconnect is iterative. We do it over and over again. This process is part of building a connected relationship.

The real relationship isn’t necessarily happening when we are on cruise control, but when the events of our lives force us to tackle something. It happens when we struggle; when we are forced to look at ourselves and the emotional issues that we need to address to bridge the gap between us.

This process is how we learn about ourselves and each other and how to be there for each other. This is how we repair old wounds, heal, and grow.

One more knot has been smoothed in each of us, and between us. This is how it is. This is how we learn to love. Working it out is the real relationship.

For some relationship inspirational quotes – https://www.instagram.com/weconcile/

If you want to learn more about courage – https://blog.weconcile.com/2019/07/12/what-stops-you-from-your-courage/

It became my life’s mission – to help others escape what I had escaped; the pain of the past, the pain of wounded relationships and broken dreams.

I Didn’t Use To Be Good At Relationships

I remember as a kid being upset and walking away from our home. Thoughts swirled around in my head. Never get married, never have kids. Never get married, never have kids.  Over and over like a mantra.  I don’t remember the incident, but ours was a violent household where fighting was frequent, and empathy rare. I was a sad and depressed child.

When I eventually grew up, I began to realize I didn’t know how to have a functioning relationship. A pattern developed. Fall in love. Have a great six months. Problems emerged. Struggle for a while. A new love interest arose. Break up the old relationship and start over.  Falling in love was easy but working through the difficulties that emerged in all those relationships were not. 

I did get married in my mid 30’s, after a series of relationships. It was a difficult marriage. Fortunately, we never had children. After years of both individual and couples therapy, it ended in a divorce.

In the meantime, I became a psychotherapist. I had to unravel so much of my trauma, meaning making and psyche. I came to understand emotionally the imprints left on me by my parents. No longer was I in an unconscious relationship with them, compensating for their deficits. No longer was the imprint of being a caretaker to an angry father deforming my ability to speak up for myself. I reformed and reclaimed myself. The wrinkles of my life smoothed out.  I studied psychology and relationships and participated in training after training. I lived and breathed self-understanding and therapeutic process. I found I loved sitting with a person or a couple and seeing the patterns of their lives. I loved seeing the images of how they interacted. I loved helping them untangle the knots of their lives.

For me, there has been a long journey between those two places – beginning with despair and hopelessness, evolving to appreciation, wonder, and joy.

I’m in a fantastic marriage now. One I could never have envisioned in my youth. I found ‘the one,’ my soulmate. A concept I never believed in, and certainly never thought would happen in my life. Today, I am married to a man I adore. Sure, we get into arguments sometimes. But 10 minutes later, we’ve figured out what triggered us and moved back into our safe connection. Gone are days of long-lasting hurt and a confused distance between us.

Part of that journey is my creating WeConcile® – an online, DIY, experiential learning program for couples. I started writing WeConcile in 2009. And while I was writing it, my now husband and I lived it. It seeped into our flesh, migrated into the very cells of our bones. The spaces within both our psyches that had been filled with trauma, doubt, and misunderstandings, slowly became infused with understanding, healing, and trust. We became different people. We became humans capable of listening to each other. We changed our behaviors. We reacted less.

I didn’t know that as over the years I created this program, I would also be living it. I only knew it became my life’s mission – to help others escape what I had escaped; the pain of the past, the pain of wounded relationships and broken dreams.

We all have our unique abilities and talents. Mine has been living at the interface of unwinding trauma and healing, of crossing the bridge of unrelating to relating, of being a writer and a healer, a student and a teacher. If you had asked me as a kid, what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would never have said, help people understand themselves, help people relate in healthy happy ways. In my youth I would have said, I want to save the planet, help the animals (and I still do). But life had other ideas for me on how I would contribute to this world. I have been guided. The fertile roots of my life have reached downward and anchored me in this particular journey of teaching others how they can better relate, how they can make their relationships beautiful.

Check out my more detailed article on my relational journey here:

https://thriveglobal.com/stories/when-the-journey-is-abundance/

How Unspoken (And Unanswered) Needs Sabotage A Relationship.

June: I don’t like our gardener. I don’t like how he trimmed the roses. I don’t think he did a good job on the grass. I don’t like…

What is going on here? – Disguised and unspoken feelings. (I feel uncomfortable; I want you to hear my discomfort. I want to know that you will be on my side.)

Bob: Oh. Well, they are all like that. I’ve worked with a lot of them.

What is going on here? – Logical explanation. (I want you to see that it is okay. I don’t want you to be unfair to the gardener. Why aren’t you happy? Everything is okay.)

June: You never listen to me – storms off.

Bob: What happened? What is wrong with her?

Bob didn’t listen to his partner’s unspoken and underlying feelings and needs. He gave a logical explanation instead.

June felt unheard and reacted.

Bob felt ambushed by the emotional reaction of his partner. He hates this feeling of being powerless. He doesn’t know what to do.

How can this couple repair this recurring scenario?

Move in closer to reach for underlying feelings.

Ask yourself, what is June trying to say (but not able to say directly?) What feelings is June experiencing?

Bob’s task is to learn to listen, explore and reflect rather than explain. – I’m sorry you don’t like the gardener. How did that make you feel when the gardener did that? What do you think we should do about it? (Empathy and reflection of what was said, curiosity of deeper feeling, teaming up to solve problem if needed and to show that on partner’s side.)

Bob’s possible resistance – I don’t want to ‘take care’ of my partner that way. I want him/her to be able to tell me what he or she is feeling directly. I shouldn’t have to.

Answer: We all have to ‘take care’ of our partners at times. Especially while they are reaching for support and don’t know how to do it yet.

If you want THIS relationship to work, you have to learn to communicate in a way that your partner can hear you. You aren’t going to get different results from the same actions.

Pull out for birds eye view to see the cycle.

June reaches for support indirectly.

Bob explains to ‘make it all okay’ and to be fair to everyone.

June feels unheard and reacts, in this case perhaps gets angry and attacks

Bob feels ambushed and confused.

June storms off very upset and feeling abandoned.

Bob apologizes but is confused and doesn’t know what to do to fix this.

June ‘beats Bob up emotionally’ because she still feels that it is Bob’s fault.

June eventually and briefly realizes that it wasn’t all Bob’s fault but isn’t able to ‘hold’ onto this awareness.

June and Bob are caught in this dynamic and need to unpack it to ‘see’ what they are caught in and step outside of it TOGETHER. (Not just feel what they are caught in)

How can they talk about the pattern they see happening?

Bob’s new conversation

It seems that when you reach for support and I don’t realize it, I try to make everything okay by explaining. You feel unsupported and abandoned and get angry and lash out at me. I feel punished by your anger. It hurts a lot. I will try to slow down and be more curious about your needs. I need you to try to tell me what is going on.

June’s new conversation

Yes, I guess I am reaching for support and I don’t even realize it until you talk in a way that feels so unsupportive to me. I will try to let you know that I am feeling let down and needing something from you instead of flying off the handle. I need you to try to pay attention to what I am really saying. I’m not so good at realizing what I am asking for until I am disappointed and we are in a fight.

Bob and Jane are working on building an more solid place to stand, where they are there for each other emotionally and also talking about the cycle or pattern they get caught in.