"Love is the mystery between two people, not the identity" - John Fowles
Couples therapy is about two people who are out of sync with each other; don't hear
each other; and hurt each other.
The aim of couples therapy is to create a safe space where the couple is able to
discuss and look at their relationship, and negotiate a way forward.
The goal of a relationship conversation is to
(1) understand the fundamental issues you are dealing with and help you find a way
to address them
(2) identify and change redundant, hurtful and dysfunctional patterns, in order to
(3) map out a future and plan where you learn to be more accepting, tolerant and
kind to each other to ultimately have the fulfilling relationship you wish to have.
As a couple you need to discover what this means for you – there is no generic “one size
fits all” recipe.
What is a meaningful relationship?
In my understanding, a meaningful relationship is not necessarily a long lasting one. The fact that a relationship does not last for many years does not necessarily make it not-meaningful. For me, a meaningful relationship is where both parties feel loved and respected, where they feel that they are growing and developing and where they are able to connect. Such a couple may well realise after a while that they want different things from their relationship or that their feelings may not be sufficiently strong and the relationship could come to an end. To me, the opposite of a meaningful relationship is a dysfunctional and destructive one.
When do couples come for couples therapy?
At any stage of a relationship - sometimes just to talk something through or resolve a crisis. Mostly it is when you have to negotiate how to transition to a new phase.
After the euphoria of the honeymoon stage, the relationship either ends, or goes through a period of disillusionment and disappointment. This is inevitable, because nothing can continue growing indefinitely or remain at one hundred percent forever. It is a law of nature that all growth is followed by a period of conservation or even stagnation before more growth is possible. The disillusionment and disappointment that follows the initial blissful stage generally makes us want to leave the relationship. However, if we don’t choose to exit, we have to re-commit and re-choose our relationship. Sometimes this happens over a period of time and often it happens quite unconsciously. For a relationship to last and to be meaningful, it must happen. This is not an easy process and most couples need assistance.
Another transition is the shift from couple to parents. This changes the whole dynamic on which the relationship was founded. Mothers feel overwhelmed and fathers feel relegated to second place. Both are exhausted, because careers can’t be put on the back burner, with little time for romance and care. After the children the ‘parents’ have to become a couple again.
UNDERSTANDING YOUR RELATIONSHIP USING THE ENNEAGRAM
Understanding ourselves and others is a lifelong endeavour. Understanding our partners and ourselves-in-relationship is a considerable part of forming a meaningful relationship. Making sense of why we do what we do, and why our partners behave and react the way they do, is how we come to understand the dynamics and intricacies of our relationship, and ultimately how we find a way to build a significant relationship where we are accepting of each other.
The Enneagram is one of the ways in which personality can be understood in a multi-dimensional way. This typology identifies 9 main personality types and 27 subtypes. The Enneagram is primarily used to enhance self-awareness, in order to facilitate personal growth, but it is also used in business contexts to gain insight into workplace interpersonal-dynamic. Lately it has also been used in understanding close relationships.
David Daniels has developed a matrix of the 45 possible combinations of Enneagram types in relationships (you can find it on the Internet). If this interests you, and if you wish to do your Enneagram assessments as a way of gaining more insight into your relationship, I can assist you. I am an accredited iEQ9 practitioner and can help you interpret your type and how it manifests in your relationship.
THE TO DO LIST FOR COUPLES
Make a list of your unconscious expectations and discuss them with your partner. Ask your partner about his or hers. Negotiate a path that will accommodate most or both of your expectations.
Understand your deal breakers, find out what your partner’s are and make sure you are on the same page.
Be aware of how you punctuate what happens in the relationship. Create meaning by focusing on the good and don’t get stuck on one issue.
As often as possible, take what your partner says at face value. Don’t try to make sense of everything he or she says by labelling it.
Be very aware of your own licensing behaviour – and challenge it every time.
Let go of things that happened ages ago – move on and don’t allow them to define your relationship.
Treat your partner the way you want to be treated.
Speak respectfully of your relationship because perceptions become reality.
Always be mindful that you are in a relationship and that your behaviour has an impact on another person.
Be aware of your own lenses and how they taint what you see, hear and think of your partner and relationship.
Try and try again – anything worthwhile takes a lot of effort to achieve.
Be kind and forgiving – it will come back to you tenfold in the end.