One of my favourite pastimes as a child was playing on the playground equipment in the local park. Walking home from school each day, I anticipated the joy and freedom of those moments; the swing that swept you up to meet the vast and ever-changing sea that is the sky, the metal slide that threatened to melt my thighs on those 30 plus degree days, the impossibly high monkey bars that dared me to cross without falling off (I remember the day that I conquered the quest!) and the fun of the seesaw that could only be experienced with a companion. To truly enjoy the seesaw, it is necessary that your friend is a similar weight to yourself in order to get the balance right. This, of course, was not always possible and there were times when my younger sister would be stuck up high, her legs treading the air in her effort to ground herself while I sat helplessly glued to the ground, unable to propel myself up. My older brother, of course, had the opposite effect as his body weight flung me up to the stars while he sat flightless. What a delight it was when I shared the seesaw with a friend of equal weight so that the seesaw moved up and down with ease.
I am often reminded of this seesaw image when working with couples. Couples invariably experience each other as opposites; initially these opposite characteristics are appealing to you but over time, every couple relationship experiences tension over these same opposites. Frustration, irritation, disappointment, unhappiness, resentment and anger then distances the couple so that you focus on your own unmet needs, ignoring your partner’s needs and leading to an imbalance in your relationship.
Here are some ways that couple relationships get stuck:
- She is angry to the point of suffocating herself and everyone else by her anger; he is passive to the point of shut down, neither responsive nor engaged with his partner's need.
- He is a risk-taker, frequently putting himself in situations that may have potential to harm, encouraging his children to take risks that may be judged by some as necessary; she is fearful and cautious by nature, aware of potential danger and highly anxious about her partner's risk-taking behaviour and its impact on her children.
- She is unfailingly positive; he is unfailingly negative.
- He is a high energy, social, work-orientated person whose drive to achieve success is translated into long work hours; she is a low energy, private person who prefers the peace and space that their home provides but longs for her partner's attention.
Can you identify with any of these scenarios? Can you add your own?
Getting the balance right is tricky business requiring good communication and negotiation skills. In my own couple relationship of 25 years, getting the balance right has taken years of hard work, having to learn the practice of self-reflection, communicating in ways that keep the conversation open to explore the alternatives and listening carefully to each other. There were significant periods in my couple relationship where our metaphorical seesaw got stuck; I would sit up in the air, listening to the fear that whispered in my ear and kept me stationary whilst my partner became grounded in his ever-increasing anger and frustration. However with determination to grow and a focus on our personal development, our couple relationship now enjoys a balance that is being continually revisited and fine-tuned.
A balanced couple relationship is one where two people have equal ‘weight' or ‘power' in the relationship. Their metaphorical seesaw is in perpetual motion, moving up and down, rarely stuck because the couple communicate and negotiate well. This couple is ‘turn taking’; each person prioritises their partners need over their own because they know that their partner is acting in the same spirit. This only comes with time and practice. The first step is to listen carefully to your partner; not from a position of power and self-interest but from a position of love, respect and humility. Without these attributes, your seesaw will remain stuck.
Is your couple seesaw stuck? Are you ready to learn the skills of mindful listening and respectful communication? Can you view your partner from a position of love, respect and humility as opposed to your self-interest? Then you are ready for couple counselling. You can call Colleen on 0434 337 245 for a FREE 10 minute consultation on the specific needs of your couple relationship. If you are ready to make an appointment, you can do so by clicking on the orange icon on this page BOOK NOW and follow the prompts.