I often work with couples that know exactly what is wrong in their relationship. This is a good thing. But sometime this knowledge brings challenges to most people when things are not going right. You see, most couples are doing their very best to find a better place with each other.
I believe that people who love each other try everything they know to make the relationship work. The partners will go from one thing to another in the hopes that the relationship will improve.
Sadly, in many cases it does not. Here is one reason why. As humans, we are keen on noticing when we don’t like something. We are experts at identifying what is not working for us. And we are equally as efficient at calling our partner out when we are uncomfortable.
When sorrow hits us it often feels like a ton of bricks raining down upon us. The bricks wipe out everything we thought we knew and not only that, but the ground also shifts, and we can’t find where to put our feet. Our earth, that solid foundation we have stood on forever has vanished in an instant.
When grief rips us apart we have nowhere to turn. There is no safe passage back to where we once lived. There is nothing before us, behind us, to the side of us, underneath us, there is nothing left. We are alone with our deep pain and nothing, absolutely nothing we can think of can change that. We are living with a hell inside us that will not budge.
I was working with a couple recently. The boyfriend was unhappy. The girlfriend was unhappy. They both reported high tension in the home. But when we looked at what was happening, even though both were not talking and silent with each other, their behaviors spoke volumes.
They were wondering if they should stay together. Both were trying to feel better. But then something happened. The boyfriend began to isolate. He would come home from work sit on the couch, and drink beer while watching sports. Nothing wrong with this, but when he was focusing on the television, he wouldn’t talk to the girlfriend—not a word.
I was visiting a friend recently and she just got a puppy. The dog is about four months old and is full of puppy energy. My friend was apologetic because the puppy was not well behaved. I thought to myself, “Of course this puppy is not well behaved. She’s still a little baby!”
Her frustration was evident. Even though she is a very good trainer, the dog was still not following her directions. I observed this situation and I understood that this animal would grow into the well-trained dog that she wants, but it will take time.
And maybe that’s what we all suffer from when we wait for things to change in our relationships. As I work with couples they tell me about the difficulties that they encounter and by the time they come in for counseling they are often times at the end of their ropes and they don’t have any more room to wait.
I was listening to a friend talk about her childhood. She grew up in a city, surrounded by streets and buildings. She talked about how in the middle of a certain street there was a break in the concrete and a tree grew up through the ground.
This tree was so unique that if you drove that street, you would have to drive around the tree. That tree lived and thrived, even though everything was aimed against it. And that tree was full and amazing and it had to squeeze itself through cracks in the street.
I recently had an experience while walking my little dog. She is a small, white, fluffy thing that I inherited. Before she came to me she had a history of being a rescue, which really means we don’t know what she experienced in her life prior to living with me.
So, in the past five years, I have taken note of her skittish behavior. She has been frightened by bigger dogs. I have always protected her by crossing the street or standing off to the side to let them pass. I used to just tell myself and others she just doesn’t like big dogs, and that’s that.
But lately I have seen her more vocal. Not at other animals, but in the house. Sometimes she will bark or whine or sing. She just has a lot to say now, much more so than before…
I needed directions to a new place and I turned to my husband to help me navigate. I often ask for his assistance as it gives me comfort to be helped. You see, my inner guidance is often backwards, and looking at maps is difficult for my head unless it’s explained to me. It is easy for my husband. He understands maps and grids and they are easy for him to use.
Not for me. I get stressed when I am unsure how to get to some place I have not been to before. He understands how I am wired and he is usually so good at printing out a map and showing me how to go. I have to literally see a map, write down directions and then I can feel at ease.
All we really want from the one we love is to know that we matter, and we are special to our partner. It is a very specific feeling that we must receive from the person we love. Because we love them so much, we must feel they love us just as much. And we feel it so fiercely when we don’t get it.
And when that happens we end up feeling as if our mates just don’t care enough. I saw this recently in a client. She was hoping to see her beloved for a special day but the partner had other things to do. On any other day, this might have been OK, but not on this day.
One of the most common difficulties I witness when I meet a couple is that one of the partners can’t show his emotions. And maybe that’s because in our culture men are encouraged to “tough it out” so many are not used to even knowing they are feeling something in the first place.
This works of course, especially when there is business or other financial or important dealings. Not feeling or knowing what you feel has its place. But when it comes to relationships this system can be a problem.
I know this couple. They are friends of mine. I have known them for many years. A while back the husband came down with a severe condition. It required a lot of rest and a procedure.
He is healthy now. He is fine. And he felt something about his wife that helped him be happy again too.