No matter what type of relationship you have, you and your partner will have differences. Differences are to be expected. They only become a problem when you are unable to come to terms with your differences and you get stuck in unhealthy ways of relating to one another.
Like two neighboring trees blowing in the wind, relationships have a rhythm that is unique to each.
When two people meet and notice a “spark” that attracts them to one another, their relationship is often exciting and romantic. People talk about “falling in love”, as if one has stumbled over a rock in the road and hit one’s head. Sex and intimacy can be great and endorphins are flowing. They can make us numb to the meaning of almost anything else in life besides our partner.
After a while together, we start to notice the differences in perspective between us, the topics we can’t agree on, and the quirks we hadn’t noticed earlier. The intimacy can start to wane, as real-life demands such as work, raising children, and maintaining a home take over.
There is only so much energy to go around and something has to give. There is considerable stress to make ends meet in today’s world and it doesn’t take long to reach the level at which tolerating the situation is not good enough.
There are many decisions to be considered at this point in the relationship. One is to stay together and try to improve things. Another is to separate and possibly divorce. Yet another is to take a break in the relationship, perhaps by living apart for a while while still maintaining some contact. Still another is couple counselling. Couple counselling can go on while you're trying to make decisions about how best to live in relationship.
Making Complex Change
Your relationship is more than just you and your spouse. It is a complex combination of needs, thoughts, feelings, values, and behavior that extend far beyond you. It includes those who raised you, other family members, and your associations and activities with friends and colleagues.
Your relationship includes the regrets, losses, and grieving that have impacted you and your spouse. As well, it includes the hopes, dreams, and plans you have for your relationship. Not only that, it includes what you do in the present moment, either apart or together.
Like a pair of trees growing side by side in the forest, you each need your own light, water, air, and earth on which you can flourish. For more information about flourishing, I recommend Dr. Martin Seligman's book Flourish.
Often in couples who come for counselling, there is one partner who is feeling smothered by the other. It is important to realize that when your roots and branches do not smother or compete with one another, you can begin to feel more comfortable to pursue interests of your own and do more for yourself.
Other partners have plenty of time on their own, but don’t have enough quality time with family.
For the smothered partner, nurturing yourself helps you become more confident, which enhances your relationship. The tense silences or arguments begin to subside and you feel more sustained and understood. In this way, by being yourself, you recover the person your partner was attracted to.
For those who are already confident in themselves, and are content with their time on their own, it is important to devote some of that energy to the couple relationship.
If you engage fully in the marriage therapy process, old resentments can recede and you can gain more respect for the value of your partner’s time and the value of your quality time together.
Drawing on the theory explained above, some partners spend too much time away from their spouse, and others spend too much time together. Resentment, anger, and loneliness are signals of this imbalance in the relationship.
To uncover the imbalances in your relationship, along with your level of commitment to it, I offer sessions for you both together as well as sessions for each partner individually. In this way, we explore the investment of energy in each other and in ourselves.
Using this information, and through the practice of communication skills, we explore some new ways to balance this energy. Based on this exploration, many couples find themselves being newly sustained by an increased confidence and interest in themselves, their spouses, and in sustaining the relationship.