Providing support to couples in distress has been the greatest honour of my professional career. I’m no stranger to the anguish caused by fractures in our most important relationships. Despite learning all this great stuff about communication techniques and listening, I still manage to make tons of mistakes. Relationship therapy, in my eyes, is about more than just good communication techniques (although good therapy always improves our ability to communicate). Often we stumble into patterns that are intended to protect us, but only further drive us apart. Mutual arising is about helping couples help each other.
Rebuild intimacy instead of resentment
Explore the patterns that are causing an emotional need to lash out
Discuss difficult issues with more respect for each other’s views
Learn to support each other’s growth from childhood to maturity
Although our partner can be the most supportive and wonderful part of our life, they can also be at the center of our disappointment and hurt. It’s not easy to stay calm and really hear what your partner needs when you feel defensive. It’s often surprising to people that they suddenly feel the need to lash out at a partner right at the moment things start to be improving. It’s not easy to feel unheard or unloved. But it really can help to have a neutral third party there to slow things down, to bring to light the hidden messages being exchanged, and to help build trust again. It helps to have someone there that can understand the wants and needs of each person.
While they are often supportive, nurturing, fun, and filled with rewards, they also carry with them the potential to be volatile instead of joyous. The risk of being close and open to someone carries the equal and opposite risk of closing up and being struck down. Each person brings their unique personal history, patterns, and needs to a relationship. Feeling heard and understood carries the risk of being misheard and misunderstood. Given the depth of feelings we can have for our partner and the risk those feelings carry, it’s no wonder that some people shut up or start yelling when things get dicey.
Relationship therapy can help. No one is born perfect at relationships, but you and your partner can learn tools to facilitate more helpful conversations and grow together. You can disarm the anger and reduce the hurt feelings that have built up around you. You can deepen your understanding for each other, rebuild lost intimacy, learn to see with each other’s eyes, and feel with each other’s heart.