Many couples argue and fight over things like work or money or household duties etc. and when they really look deeper what they are upset about and acting up about is their real feelings of dis-empowerment, lack of affection and lack of respect.
If what is happening right now here in the therapy space is what typically happens at home then we have an inroad into moving forward toward re-connection and once there is re-connection established we are more able to work at the emotional level where bonding, love and life can happen.
So what do we do about that and how do we work in Couple s Therapy?
So one way that we attend to the present moment within Couple s work is to explore what is happening inside either one and or both of the Couple. Also to attend to what is going on between partners. I like to bring the bodies into the therapy as much as is possible in order to contact the body to body experiencing between them and to repair the mis-match. The body language / holding/ posture / energy can tells us often much more that words can.
So as an example with one Couple I used to see I asked them to remember in an embodied way their last fight and to notice what happens in their bodies. I then asked them to show with their bodies movement and / or a gesture.
One of the partners withdrew back as if to move away from the distress and the other made a kind of attack movement with two paws ready to claw!
So what this told me was that the dance they were doing was one of pouncing and running away, so like a chase, like wild animals where the fight and flight responses of their nervous systems were responding and just surviving! Just surviving and fighting for their lives as oppose to thriving and loving for their lives!
So what is the idea in Couple work?
The idea is to explore new actions once we can identify the ones that are causing the ‘Relationship’ distress, to explore new actions that can support greater connection, greater coupling and I like to say explore new actions that support flow. Once there is a flow of life and love in the ‘Relationship’ rather than congestion and scarcity then the couple are on the road from repair to remembering love.
Some goals I have for my couples are to help them to:
1. Sense and listen to their deeper emotions
2. Make sense of their emotional experience
3. Keep emotionally intelligent to trust their experience and follow the inner sense of what they need
4. Send clear and honest signals to others about these needs
5. Respond to the needs of others
6. See with the heart
7. Acknowledge the other
8. Give the best of themselves.
“Pivotal, small changes in a living system, such as a person or a relationship, can engender radical qualitative shifts, as when ice suddenly hits 32 degrees Fahrenheit and become water”
Sue Johnson Ed. D., professor of clinical psychology and director of Ottawa Couple and Family Institute.