Dear Therapists, have you found yourself in loops like these?
How do I work with couples when I am experiencing disharmony at home? I feel like a fraud! I need to figure out how to be in a perfect relationship before I can counsel people in relationships.
I’d venture a bet that you’ve experienced a version of this inner dialogue at some point. And while I am not going to take you on a trip down that shame inspired rabbit hole, I will pause here for a moment and simply state that to wonder these points is an awesome sign of your empathy and self awareness. Which is likely one of the reasons you’re such a connected therapist.
Here’s the thing, my marriage (and yes, yours too) need not be perfect. No relationships are.
What’s more important than perfection is that the individuals and couples we work with understand the cycle of connection, disconnection and repair.
Healthy relationships are ones in which each partner understands where they are in those cycles and does the work of staying mindful of their needs and process.
Healthy relationships are those in which each partner is able to hold oneself and their partner in warm regard in the face of imperfections.
We need not be perfect. You're still a good relational human, and a good therapist. It’s not all or nothing here. In fact, it would be grandiose of us to think we actually could be!
The simple truth: we’re all wounded humans.
Therapists are no exception. When we come face to face with our old relational wounds (and it ’s inevitable that at some point in any long term intimate relationship we will) we’re bound to feel a need to protect or to connect, or some version of both. When we are out of relational balance we’ll either feel shame or grandiosity.
If you want to invite more healing and repair and connection into your life and relationship, start by pausing and noticing your pattern of disconnect. And then do something different. Take a new stance that brings you back into repair and connection and out of the old stuck-ness.
My partner and I have disconnected moments.
You do too, right? Some of these disconnects are bigger than others. We’re mindful to practice cycling back into repair and connection. We’re imperfect and that’s totally OK.
It's the practice of this cycle that I also guide couples into. I'm intimate with the practice of it. I bet you are too.