Some couples approach therapy hoping that the therapist will fix their "problematic" partner. Once the partner gets it and changes, all the relationship problems will be solved. Yeah right! Here's the deal! You can't change your partner and your partner can't change you. You can, however, influence each other. Becoming a kinder and more loving partner is the most powerful way to change your relationship.
On my journey to becoming a certified Relational Life Coach, it became clear to me that many of the couples I work with are unfamiliar and pleasantly surprised with the quick and transformative results Relational Life Therapy(RLT) brings to all relationships. While the therapy or coaching itself may only last a few months, the practices and skills can take up to two years to really become ingrained. RLT is all about teaching couples to live relational lives. This requires relational practices and mindfulness.
What to Expect from Your RLT Therapy
Here are some guidelines that you might find helpful. Relational Life Therapists do not remain neutral. They take sides. Not all problems in a relationship are 50/50, especially when there's a power imbalance. As a relational life coach, I'm always trying to empower the partner who feels they have less of a voice in the relationship while at the same time trying to reconnect the partner who is behaving the least relational.
Love Demands Democracy
While traditional therapy focuses on shame, RLT is concerned with both shame and grandiosity. The emphasis is on helping clients to come down from grandiosity and feelings of entitlement. Working with both shame and grandiosity is important. Shame means being inferior, one-down; grandiosity means being one-up: superior, contemptuous. Helping clients come down from grandiosity or up from toxic shame is a critical part of RLT. True intimacy happens when partners see each other as "same as"—neither being one-up nor one-down because being intimate means we see and meet each other at eye-to-eye level.
Relational Living Skills
Deep character and trauma work are done in the presence of the partner. This is different from traditional therapy, with its emphasis on individual work. The work is about the client changing their relationship with themselves as well as with their partner. As an RLT, coach I am a fellow traveler. My expertise and wisdom come from my own relational recovery. Traditional therapy believes that nurturing and empathy are core. RLT understands that they're necessary but not sufficient. I "carefront" and impart relational skills that can be implemented immediately.
Coach and Teacher
The model is educational in that it teaches what relational living looks and feels like. Knowledge about yourself, your partner, and the patterns of interaction between you are transformed through the therapy process. New insights allow you to notice patterns that are keeping you and your partner apart and disconnected. Relational mindfulness is your ability to pause, take a breath, and think of a different way to respond to your partner when you're triggered. These different ways of responding to the usual conflicts and arguments have the power to bring you back into repair and closeness.
The Miracle Question
Coaching always begins with a question that inspires hope. "If this were to go well and you felt our time together had been worthwhile, what would have happened? Answering this question will help you get clarity on what you would like and what is possible while hearing from your partner what he/she would like too.
Remember you are attempting to repair and connect with someone you care about. Become open to trying out novel ways of thinking or doing things, listening, and being curious instead of butting in. Start speaking up lovingly instead of becoming resentfully compliant or withdrawing.
Remind yourself of the relationship you wish to create, and the partner you aspire to become. In the beginning, new ways of responding might feel stilted, unnatural, and even scary. Let go of your usual knee-jerk reactions. These have not been working out so well for you anyway.
Harmony, Rupture, Repair
All significant growth comes from disagreements, dissatisfaction with the current status, or a striving to make things better. Paradoxically, accepting that conflict produces growth and learning to manage inevitable disagreements is the key to more harmonious and loving relationships.
Your vision as a couple will emerge when you reflect and inquire. It requires both of you to speak from your hearts about what really matters to each of you.
Here is one of the most constructive skills you will learn when you invest your time with an RLT coach.
Time-Outs are used to abruptly stop an unconstructive interaction between you and your partner. They are all about you and have NOTHING to do with your partner. Calling for a time-out means that you don't want to continue with the interaction because you feel you may say or do something unkind or hurtful.
Remove yourself responsibly from the heated communication by giving an explanation and promising to return when you have calmed down. Timeouts are unilateral. They are your last-ditch effort to avoid immature words or actions. Their purpose is not to punish your partner but rather to calm things down. It is critical that you check in with your partner from time to time in order to take the emotional temperature between you.
Come back when you are truly ready to make peace.
If you find that a certain topic – kids, sex, money – ALWAYS trigger a nasty transaction, take that as a signal that you need some outside support and couple's work in order to have that conversation constructively.
Cherish and Appreciate
Cherish your relationship by deliberately cultivating your ability to take pleasure and celebrate what you have. Express appreciation for your partner's progress with specific positive feedback. This will get you more of the behavior that you'd like.
Make a commitment to continued growth, sharing, inspiration, vulnerability, and honesty. Nurture yourself through active self-care. Acknowledge the abundance of your gifts, successes, and contribution to the world. And lastly, be kind to each other.