Two couples are sitting in a coffee shop. The one couple turns to the other and says, "I hear you're working on your relationship. Are you doing the work by yourselves or is someone doing it for you?" We're always told to work on our relationships. What exactly does that mean?
Foe or Ally?
In 2019 my parents were both dying and my husband was depressed! I was like a mad woman!! If my dead-straight hair could have stood up on my head it would have. I was frantic, frustrated, and very very angry mainly with my suffering husband of 30-plus years. A husband who had always only offered me and our children tremendous generosity, kindness, and safety.
As part of my desperate search for help for "him," I dragged him to 3 couples' therapists. Each in their turn would turn to him and ask why he couldn't get himself together. Each session would end with me in tears. They were all taken with us and always told us we were "such a lovely couple and so nice to meet you!"
So why did I remain so angry? Why did my frustration keep growing and why did I constantly feel unheard by these highly recommended therapists? After all, they were "going after" him just as I had hoped they would. Wasn't that support enough??
Our relational recovery begins.
It was around this time in my career as a life coach that I was introduced to the work of Terry Real and Relational Life Therapy (RLT). RLT is a systematic method for bringing couples back into healthy connectedness.
And so began my journey to certification as a Relational coach. At the same time, my husband and I went to workshops together and it became clear that his healing and our relational recovery depended on both of us showing up.
How so? The first principle that became apparent to us was that our relationship is actually like our biosphere. We depend upon it. We're not outside of it, we're in it! It is the context in which we live and it's in our interest to keep it clean and vibrant.
Firstly, and quite simply, we were urged to remember love! Meaning; the reason we want each other to stay happy is…we love each other and live together!
Put in a different way…if we trash our common living space with angry and abusive words, we will both bear the brunt of a polluted house! If I want to yell and scream at my husband, I will feel it in his stony silence and withdrawal. We'll then enter our special "dance." The more I become angry and demanding, the more he'll wall off from me and the more he retreats behind his wall, the more I will angrily pursue him!
We began to understand that we were in a pattern quite unbeknown to us that was eroding and destroying any closeness or intimacy. Our knee-jerk reactions had to be brought to awareness and we had to learn ways of behaving towards each other that reflected more full respect and nonviolent living.
Closeness, Loss, Closeness
We had just learned our first lesson: All relationships constantly flow between HARMONY, RUPTURE, and REPAIR. A great relationship isn't one of constant joy and happiness, a great relationship is one in which we recognize the rupture, our part in it, and how to reconnect deeply once again.
We began feeling and living the magic that is created when you learn to ask for what you want, give your partner what they need, and cherish the deeper closeness that healthy giving and getting bring. We had begun moving from a "you" and "I" separate consciousness to "us". We're in this together!