We all know the complex challenges that come with being in a fulfilling relationship. And yet, there is something that I want to discuss that is often overlooked and a bit more positive in our relationships!
All too often couples begin therapy with ‘their hair on fire’! Meaning that their relationship is in serious trouble, they are scared, angry, hurt, and often feel hopeless. This is where the challenging work of therapy begins. Emotions are expressed and need to be unraveled in order to get to a place of understanding and healing.
And then there comes a time in therapy, after hard work together, when a couple will come to their session smiling (even laughing), happy and feeling great.
“How are you doing?” I ask.
“Great!” They reply with excitement and most likely relief.
And then I ask them – “Why?” with an inquisitive expression on my face.
I wish you could see the looks on their faces when I ask why. I am met with confusion, which I understand. I’m sure that they expected me to simply celebrate the great place they are in with one another and I do; however it is exactly this moment that needs to be explored.
When everything is going well in our relationships most of us believe that we should “just leave well enough alone, it’s going great!” Or we simply feel relief in knowing that happiness and having connection are back in our lives!
The overall thinking is: “let’s just thank our lucky stars that we are doing well!! Who cares why? Seriously, you want us to open Pandora’s box which might very well lead us down the path of an argument and perhaps disconnection. NO way! That feels too risky and frightening!!”
“If you don’t examine why things are going well you will never learn the roadmap that leads you back to connection”
I’m not simply referring to ‘recognizing the positives’ in your partner – although recognizing the positive that your partner brings to your relationship is an excellent idea.
I am referring to this: When things are going well in your relationship do you ever ask yourself why? And why you are getting along?
When answering these questions try to go deeper into exploring why you are connected. Ask yourself, and each other, if anything has been different. Please give this some thought, try not to rush your answer because people often believe that nothing is different until they reflect upon the question.
For example, have you been thinking about your partner or your relationship in a different way? Have you been consciously making changes that might impact your partner? Perhaps they are subtle changes? Have you noticed that your partner has made changes that may have impacted you?
One couple expressed that they went out to dinner together for the first time in a long time and they enjoyed each other’s company. Of course, I asked yet again –“what was it about each other’s company that you enjoyed? Was there something different?”
“Well, she has a witty sense of humor that I enjoy!” “And he is able to keep up with me with his wittiness!” He then added, “We’ve been so disconnected that I forgot about her witty humor.”
Another couple expressed that “I was telling him about my day recently and rather than telling me how to fix it – he listened!” Clearly, she appreciated the different exchange between the two of them. “See, I’m learning!” He responded with humor. “Yes you are,” she said providing him with the deserved credit.
And sometimes it is subtle. One couple expressed, “Both of us are just calmer. It could be that we’ve shared our hurt with one another and gained some understanding”.
Finally, one couple expressed that they felt a sense of comfort in knowing that they had a safe place to discuss issues that arose during the week. They saved the issues to discuss during our therapy sessions rather than risking an argument at home. This provided them with a safety net, as well as hope and connection in knowing that they were working together on their relationship.
I realize that my examples pertain to therapy; however you can examine all of this without being in therapy. You can explore the question of why you are getting along with one another.
Answering these questions is invaluable for a few reasons. One, you can recognize and give each other credit for changes, or for valuing existing contributions, that have led to the feeling of connection. Also, you learn what works in your relationship! And finally, you feel hopeful that you can reconnect when things are not going very well. Remember: you are creating that roadmap back to connection!
Even if you have not gone through challenging times it is equally important to answer these questions. All relationships will eventually go through hard times. When we go through hard times, we feel all of the emotions that I mentioned above: fear, hurt, pain, and sadness, just to name a few. When feeling these emotions, it is challenging to think calmly, rationally, and clearly. And yet, during hard times we need to access our calmer emotions in order to answer the question ‘what has worked in your relationship?’ When in turmoil, the only thing we can see is our pain.
Keep in mind that when we are in pain – we want our pain to end. Which is sometimes why our reaction is to want to end our relationship. And yet it is not always what we really want deep down in our hearts. What we really want is for our pain to stop and to find a way back to one another. This is why we need to know the roadmap in advance.
I am not suggesting that this is easy work; I never suggest that relationship work is easy! Hopefully, with thoughtful reflection you can begin to build your personal, relational roadmap back to connection with one another, just to have it in place for when you need it. Trust me, you will need it and you will be glad you did the work beforehand!
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If you want to learn more about relationships – I wrote this for you “Ten Essential Things I’ve Learned About Marriage & Relationships” I’ve included the lesson that saved my marriage. I care about the work that I put out to you, and I hope you find it helpful. Let me know!
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One more thing… I really would love for you to share your thoughts with me. It’s not easy to do, I understand because it took me a long time to work up the courage to begin blogging! But I want to get to know you. When you feel ready, please feel free to share your thoughts with me in the comment section. And, if you would like me to blog about a specific topic – let me know!
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Details of any stories told in my blogs have been changed to protect the identity of people that I work with in therapy.
Photo Credit: Damien_p58@flicker.comShare