My challenge to couples is to work on understanding these urges to protect themselves and how these urges can impede our ability to actually hear what our partner is saying. Your partner might be telling you that they’re scared or that they’re confused or that they’re lonely. They may not tell you that directly; it might be packaged in a way that feels emotional or intense, but the message is there nonetheless. However they tell you, though, our conversations will be more effective when we learn to moderate that inclination to step back and defend.
What if framing the high divorce rates as a problem with individual people is, in fact, part of the problem itself? What is the divorce rate has far less to do with anything going on inside of us as individuals than we’ve been told? What would that mean? First, it would probably mean that people could be freed from the sense of guilt and failure that often co-occurs with the decision to divorce. It means that there would be less blame to be used as ammunition. It would also mean that we would need to come up with a new, more complex explanation as to what’s happening. We might even have to admit that marriage as we have designed it, is nearly impossible.
It's important to start our relationships on a foundation of understanding. Understanding flows from a place of interest and curiosity. If you've ever said about your partner that you know everything there is to know about them, then it's time to take a step back. People are fluid and dynamic and ever-changing. When we say things like this, it often means we've got blinders on and are at risk of missing something important. Premarital counseling helps you become curious about each other and to avoid these sorts of dangers in your relationship.
There are few points in a relationship so painful as when it comes to light that a partner has not been faithful. Reaching outside the relationship for physical or emotional connection can take many forms but all of them can feel overwhelming and devastating. In order to heal from these experiences, it often requires deep levels of understanding from both partners and help from a trusted & highly-trained professional.
And when that happens – when you’ve communicated and shared and loved and grown – the needs that they have can seem less like nagging and more like those needs are your very own. You can celebrate when they are happy, and not be jealous. You can hold them when they are sad and not feel the need to fix it or a sense of blame. You don’t just understand them intellectually, you can begin to see the world through their eyes and experience the world through their senses.
If you’re going to be a human being, then relationships are going to be a part of your life. We are social creatures and when we find ourselves in a safe and loving relationship with another human, we have an opportunity to thrive. Close relationships – whether they’re romantic or not – come with many benefits. When we fall in love, though, we might not be remembering that relationships are also hard work!
Understanding and empathy are the keys to healing and growth. If you’ve been told for your entire life that you’re not good enough, having a relationship with someone who provides you with support can be a healing and restorative experience. If that person gets frustrated with your low self-esteem or your hesitancy to connect with others, it’s an indication that empathy isn’t really present.
When you find someone that shares your values, challenges you to grow, validates your emotions, and stands beside you no matter what, you know you’ve found a real partner. These relationships give support and love and the energy to continue. There is great power in knowing that there is someone standing beside you. This is one of the great benefits that people talk about when they experience therapy for the first time. It is an incredible moment when you feel like someone gets you.
If you venture out into the world at all during this time of year, you will probably be overwhelmed by hearts and chocolates and silhouettes of Cupid. Don’t get me wrong; it is great to have a time on the calendar when we focus on love and romance. It can benefit every relationship to have seasons like these that encourage partners to express their love. Do it. Love it. Enjoy it.