Living Isolated In Your Relationship

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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Why Love Isn’t Enough

When people get together they feel love; forever,
unwavering, majestic love.  It’s the kind
many of us dream about from our youth; the flowery, perfection we imagined love
to be when we were kids.

We all have some idea of what love should look and feel like.  If we didn’t we wouldn’t be able to couple.  But many of us have a deeply held belief that this is all we need to sustain a relationship.  I call that an unconscious belief, developed from a child’s vision of what love is.

Nothing wrong with believing in love and it would be perfect if our partners had the same vision as ours. Then we could romp together in our fantasy of what life is supposed to be like.  But that’s not usually the case. We select people who come from different ideas and backgrounds. And it’s safe to say our partners have their ideas about what love is supposed to look and feel like too.

So where does that leave most couples?  Wishing their partners could join them in their vision and automatically understand and deliver what they need.  In many relationships people sit in the belief that if their partners truly loved them, they would be able to give them what they needed to feel great. Because there is love in the relationship that should be enough for the relationship to be the best ever… only it isn’t.

I work with a lot of couples who love each other.  But it may have been a long time since they’ve felt the closeness each other they remember.  They know it existed once, but it feels like a long time ago and they don’t know how to get it back.  While no two couples are the same, the issues they struggle with are often similar.

What’s missing from most relationships is the understanding; real understanding of what sits in the way and blocks the love, and an understanding of what is missing in each person’s life from the other. Once each person becomes aware of what stands in the way of his or her tenderness toward the other, then the couple can discover what each person wants from the other. When this is realized each person can learn how to ask the partner for what they would like, instead of hoping the partner would just deliver. 

This builds true understanding and that builds compassion and compassion may just be the adult version of the child’s idea of love.

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What To Do When It Feels Like Things Are Broken

 Sometimes when people call to find out about couples counseling I can hear panic in their voice.  I can sense a feeling of worry and fear.  Something is broken and the person on the phone doesn’t know how to fix it and that’s why they are calling.

This is a terrible place to find yourself, not knowing if you can make it in your relationship, wondering if it’s broken, and daring to hope it can ever be better.  All this is pressing on the individual who is making the call.  It’s a helpless kind of feeling.  As if all the things the person knew doesn’t amount to anything and they have to do something absolutely radically different to survive the current difficulty.

It’s a scary call to even consider.  It’s an even harder call to make.  And yet hundreds of people make these calls to therapists and counselors every day.  They call because they are looking for help.  Often they call because they fear everything they know will go away and they have one last effort to make before that happens.

What ever the reason, it’s always a good sign.  People turn to others when what they know doesn’t work anymore.  It’s O.K. to do this when our car breaks down, or if we need a medical check up and to get our taxes done.  But when it comes to our relationships we are not taught to turn to outsiders to help get the relationships back on track. We are taught to take care of it ourselves.  Maybe we are from the thinking that it’s not that bad, it could always be worse or, it will get better, eventually.

Most people feel their relationship is their business, not the business of an outsider, even a therapist.  I get this.  I understand this.  It’s so hard to uncover all the parts that have been hidden from us, from our partner and lay them out in front of a stranger.  I know.  I also know it works.  The process works.  People get a chance, maybe for the first time in their lives to tell their entire story without someone telling them their vision is off or wrong. 

That’s the beauty of counseling.  It comes without judgment.  Therapists are trained to help you say what will be helpful to you, understand what it is you feel and help you ask for what you need to be happy.

It’s so scary to move into this when you have relied on yourself or your partner for everything else.  It’s so hard to even think that someone who doesn’t know you can actually help you make your life and relationship better. 

And that’s exactly our training.  That’s what therapists and counselors do. We help people feel better.  It’s what I do and I love it.

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