We are all busy with our love relationships: past, present and even future ones. They take so much of our time because they can bring us into a Heaven made of fulfillment, love and appreciation. Or, just as easily, into a real Hell, full of judgments, misunderstandings and fears!
We often watch love stories or dramas in movies, read magazines and specialized books about relationships and talk about our own relationship with friends. But, do we actually communicate within the couple?
The first thing to keep in mind is that a relationship is not just made of two people, but actually three: “I”, “You” and … “The couple”! In fact, the latter is not just a sum of “I” and “you”, but more their multiplication! It is a third entity with a real personality, memories, feelings, favorite activities etc.
An example: if you don’t like Bob Marley but your partner yes, then the Couple does not like Bob Marley. If you like Lou Reed and your partner too, then Lou Reed is one of the favorite artists of the Couple!
Basically, what we have in common in a relationship creates a shared “We” that, as time goes by, grows in a more structured identity. But how solid is this identity?
“We have a problem” or “You are the problem”?
A couple is solid if it is close to a balance 50%-50%: two partners able to relate with each other on the same level and respecting their own borders.
I am Ok x You are Ok = We are Ok
This balance is really tested when we need to deal with problems. If we are aware that we have both a part of responsibility in creating them, then we consider the problems as “ours” and we get close to an equal balance 50%-50%. But if we consider our partner to be the problem or vice versa, it means that we are losing the sense of being together. That usually happens when individual unsolved conflicts, coming from the past, infiltrate the relationship and create a Hell!
How Hell starts
As small children we depend for 100% on our parents. This means that we are not autonomous in satisfying our physical and emotional needs. If the latter are not fully satisfied, then we might seek compensation in our adult relationships. If we do this too much it can become painful because our couple- relationships are no longer a 0-100% dependency relationship but a 50-50% equal, adult relationship. This kind of relationship can support us to deal with our past but never replace a child-parent relationship. If this “infiltration” takes place too much, it might become difficult to communicate, because we become too “blind”: we don’t see the present situation anymore and start to accuse our partner to be the cause of our infelicity.
Separation=Loss of communication
As a therapist I have witnessed couples with small problems separate due to poor communication, and couples with big problems stay together thanks to good communication. We can say that it is not the type or size of the problem that causes a separation, but rather the communication between the two. Sometimes a couple doesn’t communicate or communicates only with the intention to hurt each other.
How to have Heaven back
Communicate means sharing how we feel in an honest and direct way. We stay with our feelings, good or bad, without craving for our partner to fulfill what we miss or vice versa.
If you are in a relationship that makes you suffer, here are some tips for having a better communication: Share openly, Mark boundaries and Give guidelines.
Try to look inside yourself and check what really matters to you about your relationship. After that, share it openly with your partner and… take a deep breath!
It can be scary at the beginning because sharing implies to be vulnerable, but after a while it will be easier and you will start to feel less insecure and more open. At the same time your partner will feel to have enough space to express him/herself freely. And, if you both do so, then a first glimpse of communication can appear!
Mark your boundaries
“I don’t like it when you talk to me like that because …”
“I would like that you respect me more because …”
“I’m sorry if I hurt you. I acted this way because …”
Marking your boundaries simply means to be clear and direct in saying what you like and what you don’t like. In expressing yourself, always try adding the reason of your statements, especially from an emotional point of view. Basically, share how a situation makes you feel. The rational reasons are useful but are cold, while the emotional ones invite the other person to understand you empathically. Paradoxically, if you stay in your own 50% and mark your boundaries, they make you more grounded and understandable emotionally and therefore closer to your partner.
“I would like that you talk with me in this way…”, “I would like you to do this for me…”
“What do I do that hurts you? … Can you tell me what I can stop doing in order not to hurt you again?”
Always propose alternatives or give guidelines to your partner to let him/her understand how you want to be treated, without imposing anything.
Focus more on expressing your needs rather than craving for your partner to satisfy them. In fact, you will never be able to satisfy all of your needs, but you can always express yourself completely!
At the same time, ask your partner when you make mistakes and how not to make them anymore. It is important to be open to your partner in order to make him/her feel that you want to change.
“Give what you need”
Hell and Heaven
It can be very distressing to notice that we are slowly losing connection with our partner. But you can definitely do something about it.
We don’t meet or decide to stay together only by chance: many conscious and unconscious elements are connecting us. By checking what kind of personal baggage we each bring into our relationship and helping each other to deal with it, we free ourselves from pieces of pain and we become more open towards our partner.
“Pain that is unmet becomes suffering.
Pain that is met is not pain”
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