Sometimes couples come in for counseling because they feel they have grown apart and they just aren’t sharing with each other like they used to. They tell me of how unhappy they feel and how they don’t know if their partnership can be saved. Then they look to me to help them fix the relationship.
Often in the counseling process a couple may become aware of how long they have been living separate lives. They’ve been co-existing together. Sometimes they do this really well, and some couples are really proud that they never fight. Even so, they come in because something is missing between them.
I listen to their stories and history and I begin to wonder when they started to leave each other. When I say leave each other I am not talking about geography. What I am curious about is when did each person stop asking the other for what they wanted or needed to stay connected and happy in the relationship? When did this couple begin the slide into separate lives?
The separation information is important because what ever was happening marks the beginning of when each person began to rely on themselves instead of their partner? Both people start accepting their right to get their own happiness outside the relationship. For one person it could show up as spending more time at work. For another it could mean travel without the mate. Maybe it’s a connection to different groups or classes. What ever takes you away from the other is where we start. I am less interested in what the person was doing; I am more interested in what the person was feeling because people look outside the relationship when someone feels they are not what they need.
It usually boils down to something simple, as simple as a connection with the other. I often hear couples say, “We just don’t communicate anymore.”
Sometimes people have hurt feelings over unresolved pain from the past. If you are in pain in your relationship and you have more or less accepted that you have to live with it without healing, sooner or later you may seek some kind of relief outside the relationship and that could drive you away from your partner.
I like to help couples look at what happened between them, before their lives began to separate. We examine what each felt, and learn why they reacted the way they did. This is usually helpful and allows the couple to begin understanding each other in a new way.
When we discover what has not been resolved or attended too we can revisit old wounds and begin to heal. Once the healing has occurred couples find that turning toward their partner for relief feels better than turning away, and that’s usually what partners are after, a chance for a deeper connection.
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