Harmony, disharmony and repair”, the natural trajectory within all couple life! A reassuring proposition for couples and a real ‘dawning upon’ of sorts for me. It was the Terry Real Deal, this Relational Life Therapy, I thought. The webinars and the weekly email feeds that came special offer with buying Us online, made for a very familiar American-sized, larger than life, commercial element. But, no matter, this was ‘good news’ and we therapists always need a stimulating read and a bit of useful soul searching in the down time of our holidays. His reminder of a paradigm shifting from ‘I, me mine’ to the ’we/us’ was heart-lightening, hitting home. We had just gotten married – why not bring Terry along with us on our so-called honeymoon and see where that sharing would go?
Off we went this summer to the Italian and French Alps, the four of us – Nessie, our young border collie, Sophie, “Terry Real” and me. By the time, we got to the foothills, we had listened to the first two webinars and had shared on our ‘adaptive child’ triggers, speaking to that truism about couples work and their outcomes – that each partner has a shared amount of personal work to do in parallel. Mine included ‘feeling bad about myself’ and ‘doing what I had to be appreciated’ before evaluations and ‘scheming to be free inside’ before emotional demands or manipulation. This was part of my adaptive child at work! But hadn’t I evolved? Was I really doing similar things in our disharmony? Was I really going into “you vs. me” as I sought to be heard and appreciated. Did I lose sight of my ‘wise adult’ and track of the ‘we’ in our dynamic themes of couple disconnect. I know I didn’t want to! Terry was taking us back to an honest reflection on what might be at work inside, when we, Sophie and I, left our ‘harmony’.
I got to thinking about how some in their religious traditions do pre-marital courses, about how some of the most important life skills, like how to be a ‘good partner’ in relationships are never really taught in school systems during the requisite sex education classes, how culturally, we seem to have to self-help ourselves through everything, how that process that can feel so alone and how we might abandon the ‘good’ practices because we don’t see the motivation of the “we” collective! It really was a lovely holiday this August. The long hikes in the mountains were bountiful with calm, beauty and a novel sharing for us as couple. It was good bonding.
So this blog is a little “do what I did and see for yourself shout out” to therapists who work with couples. A little preventive work, putting yourself in the shoes of your couples,you might think of it! Do as you might want or suggest to your couples. Expand your relationship mindfulness around some of the elements Terry suggests are useful, like those five strategies the ‘human’ adaptive child quite typically turns to: ‘being right’, ‘controlling your partner’, ‘practicing unbridled self-expression/venting’, ‘retaliating against your partner’ and ‘withdrawing from your partner’ (Real: 2022, p.190). It is likely you’ll see yourself with a little reflective mindfulness of your couple. Some compelling bibliotherapy and a valid depiction of an imperative to repairing our couples – cultivate the “we” in us as individuals.
Real, Terry. (2022) Us: Getting Past You & Me to Build a More Loving Relationship
Goop Press: New York
*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA