I was confronted with the prospect that the couple coming in would usually start the session with “Our week has been really good,” (looking at each other to get their stories straight).”We’re doing really well….except for…. ohhh yeah …..she just tore into me last night…..” and we were off to the races!
Invariably, therapy conversations get sidetracked; weighed down with inconsequential details of a story that even two weeks from now won’t matter much. And yet, they were holding their relationship hostage, both miserable, committed to sticking to the details of their stories and being right. Digging in. As if at the end of the day, being right would get them somewhere.
It finally hit me why…. these two were locked in their incessant volleying over relatively ordinary details of life.
Each of them was not only struggling to be heard and feel validated and important to the other, but they were also asserting their independence-their ability to choose their life paths without being questioned.
Just then, what came to me was a diagram, so I jumped up and started to draw it on the whiteboard in my office. It started with what I assumed was the goal of their therapy.
I didn’t stop or address them in any way to their amazement and once done turned around to see puzzled looks on their faces.
The diagram read: “Your ENTIRE FOCUS, every time you engage with your partner must be using the energies of Love and Care that you want as the goal with each other in the relationship.
You need to dig down deep and remember when you last felt that.
- Close your eyes right now and go back to the last time you felt loved, connected and supported by your partner. Feel the warmth now in your chest and how it seems to expand as you feel it more and more. Feel it until you see the energy actually expand all the way over to your partner.
- They were both pressing their eyes shut, very focused trying not to blink.
As they each separately acknowledged they were feeling it again, I reminded them, THAT’s your goal! Just feel it. (Line 4 on the diagram). Keep your eye on the prize! That’s it! THAT’s the energy you need to access every time you engage with your partner. I don’t care if it’s talking about who takes the garbage out or if it’s about where you want to go on your next vacation together. Remind yourself,
(line 5), Your partner is THE most precious part of your life.
Line 6 said: ACT LIKE IT!
When they interact with their partner, they must realize that this is the MOST precious person in their world and be reminded that the goal of the relationship is to have more, not less intimacy.
At the end of my rant, they sat in front of me with their mouths hanging open staring at the board. Then slowly, each one of them looked at each other, smiled and nodded in agreement. They were surprised by my tactics and realized that the challenge for them individually was to focus on what mattered most and why they were sitting in my office. To get back into the space of love and the recognition that if they wanted a better and more loving relationship, they needed to stay on that path and not get distracted from what matters most.