Signs of discontent
In my blog http://www.signaturetherapy.co.uk/im-in-a-relationship-get-me-out-of-here/ I described some ways of being in a relationship that Psychologists label as symbiotic, co-dependent, undifferentiated, fused or enmeshed.
Dances of hope, despair and stagnation
All four patterns work with each partner being, usually out of their awareness, in roles that when combined make the system work as one unit. This unit, once formed stays static and cannot grow; hence the labels symbiotic, co-dependent or enmeshed.
Ironically, such a unit provides predictability and so certainty, which is very important to the stability of the relationship. It is like the uncomfortable but comfortable feeling of knowing how your partner will react, meaning it can unwittingly provide a sense of security.
The dread and unpleasantness of falling out always comes before the hoped for reconciliation. This returning sense of security and normality reassures the certainty of their attachment.
Most couples can easily predict how their partner will react when a sore spot is touched on. Of course, this is exactly what this predictable system is for; namely to avoid showing the intensely painful vulnerability around our particular sore spots.
It is the very predictability of these patterns that stagnate the relationship and will eventually kill any positive love or nurturing that gave birth to it initially.
When a couple comes into therapy they are in crisis as they have been perfecting these negative cycles for years in their relationship and before that they played out the same negative cycles just with different people and settings, and before that they were taught and witnessed these patterns in their families of origin..…. a lifetime of well practised and entrenched behaviours.
These patterns are formed together, co-created as if the couple were moving together seamlessly in a fast paced intricate Tango that is focused and distressing.
Dark dances that corrode your Love
Do you recognise the corrosive experience of dark love dancing?
I mean nothing to him; I’m completely invisible. I cannot get his attention away from his music, his books, his T.V, his computer, his hobby.
I always feel I’m a disappointment to her; that I’m a failure and that if I don’t fix things that she’ll leave me. When I do try and listen and offer solutions she just looks confused and frustrated and accuses me of not listening to her!
I feel so lonely with him; slowly dying in this relationship. He doesn’t show any interest in me. He dismisses me as trivial and gives more importance to what interests him. I feel lost and nothing to him. He just doesn’t care about me.
I can’t do right for doing wrong. She is critical of everything I do. I feel judged by her. I’m simply not good enough. I’m a somebody at work but with her I’m a nothing; a miserable failure.
I get so frustrated and yes I lose it with him. I poke and push just to get him to pay attention to me….any attention seems better than being ignored.
I try and detach through being busy especially when I feel her prickly tension. I often don’t know how I feel other than just numb. This is often the safest way to play it with her even though she get’s more frustrated. Stay under the radar and do nothing to rock the boat, until the danger has passed.
If I didn’t initiate some conversations about us; and ‘being close’ he would never talk to me about us! Sometimes it’s like we are lodgers and just maintain civilised contact.
I’m at the bottom of the list for her. I’m just there to provide money and a lifestyle. I feel angry and unappreciated. I work very hard to provide everything but she’s always too tired for sex.
He only pays me attention when he wants sex. I feel used, angry and unloved and not remotely interested in sex on his terms.
She is so needy. Why can’t she control her emotions and be self-reliant. It’s pathetic and childish to need me to listen to your endless venting and whining…I don’t need you to do this for me. Why can’t you just box off your feelings, move on and be happy.
Ignore your dance at your relationship’s peril
John Gottmann described the effects of these dance patterns as “The Four Horseman of the Apocalypse” The dance uses criticism, contempt, defensiveness and the final lethal weapon stonewalling to kill your love.
Couple work aims to bring awareness to the couple of their dance that is slowly killing their love. Couple therapy slows everything down so that all the intricate steps can be explored. Conflicting fears and expectations can surface and be understood.
It’s a place to express for the couple what it’s like swinging between their optimism that they can have “a happy ever after”, and their fears that their hopes will never be met.
It is through these conversations that new opportunities for growth can be developed.
Uniquely, couple therapy explores in real time; here and now, what is happening in the room, at that moment between the couple and the therapist. It is noticed when the couple deflects from what is happening now between them and understands what is the purpose of doing that. Hope is about mastering the present moment and so providing a new experience which in itself is real hope. It is this that interrupts the dance and so forms the foundations of building a new way of being and updating old ways.
The power of couple therapy is the opening up, exploring and fully understanding their destructive dance. It is with understanding each other that real hope can be felt and the relationship starts to heal and grow.
If you want to explore couple therapy with me then call me on 07880668651 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.