Can Love Last……
As a couple psychotherapist this is a question I have asked of myself and heard asked from couples I have worked with over the years. Exploring this has opened up felt experiences of security, safety and certainty from being loved and desired as well as the risks and vulnerabilities to rejection, humiliation and loss.
As a couple therapist I’d like to share a story or narrative about the course of love I often hear couples speak of in my therapy room. It goes something like this……
Once Upon a Time…..
“Our love was a perfect one for each other, a romantic, intimate love. I felt a longing for you when you were not there that stoked my desire to be with you. Being with you fed my desire and I felt safe and secure needing you and you needing me. This was surely real love, not made up or imagined, but true and special. Special …..because just as this love, my love, is for you, and only you, so is my need only for you and your love. So secure did I feel in this place with you, so dependent on you had I become, that I did not consider that I was giving you, the object of my desire, enormous power, the power to humiliate and reject me, the power to scorn and mock my love. And it seemed to me that the greater my love for you the greater my vulnerability. My fears of old about myself surfaced and I try hard to be better, more desirable, more needed by you. I became a hostage to your desire, love and feelings towards me. I am vigilant to you returning my love, to wanting you to want to be with me, to love me and desire me. However much I want this I can’t make it happen. I feel constantly unsettled, hopeless and overwhelmed by powerlessness. In my frustration I try to make you see that I’m right and a darker, more ugly side of me emerges as I try to make you hear me. There is too much at stake not to try and convince you to agree with me. I need you and depend on you and at the same time you are not who I thought you were, yet I’m desperate for your love.
Is this dependency for you healthy for me or is it crazy to depend on you as much as this for so much of what I need….this is so risky and dangerous, so painful and scary. The safety and security of our love, that I felt as real and strong, now seems like a castle built on sand with no safety, soon to be washed away. I’m disillusioned, afraid and uncared for with no happy ever after in my future and yet I still want to know…..if this love can’t last, then what love can…? Is there a way to talk about difficult experiences with the other, to feel safe to share our flaws and be understood and loved despite our imperfections.”
Building a Firm Foundation
The course of love as described can get so stuck, defensive and even contemptuous that couples either end their relationship acrimoniously or contemplate talking to a therapist. This is a difficult choice for the couple as so much is at stake and couples often feel ill equipped to manage this experience as they never thought they would have needed, expected or ever wanted to be exploring their most private and intimate of spaces with a complete stranger.
These concerns occupy the conversation in the early stages of the couple work until each person feels a sense of trust and safety with their therapist.
Subsequent sessions explore and understand the rejections, hurts, worthlessness and resentments of each person in their experience of their partner.
Couple work is a place to express for each of the couple their need for a ‘happy ever after’ and their fears that their hopes will be rejected and humiliated.
It is through these conversations that new opportunities for growth can be developed.
Uniquely, couple therapy explores in real time what is happening in the room, at that moment between the couple and the therapist. These moments of rejection are often not expressed in ways that are welcomed or engaged with.
My role is to notice these moments and how the couple are de-stabilised and dis-connected. By noticing and exploring these behaviours, beliefs and opinions, a softer expression of pain can take the risk of being seen, heard and understood.
Each person’s defensive protective system is thoroughly understood and safety is created to allow vulnerabilities to have a voice.
This process of recovery heals deeply held wounds and provides a new experience for the couple which in itself gives hope and forms firm foundations by updating old ways and developing new ways of giving and receiving love.
If you want to explore couple therapy with me then call me on 07880668651 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org