02 Jan

The couples I often see in my practise are deeply divided by years of conflict, disagreement, going though tough times without much support, reinforced in the position of hurt experienced through frequent disagreements and not feeling understood. The hurt is often deeply entrenched  through earlier life experiences of growing up in adverse life circumstances often feeling invisible, unseen and unloved...

Daily struggles can further reinforce a sense of discord creating deep wounds from fights for survival in the jungle of daily responsibilities. Many unspoken words, unresolved conflicts, hidden emotions corroding the quality of the relationship can result in a significant disconnect. The home environment turns into transactional exchange or a battle ground rather than "a happy bubble" cultivating what is really the most important for us as humans: a sense of connection and belonging.

In fact, as noted by acclaimed specialist in couple therapy, Stan Tatkin, this longing for the other person and for the safe zone is what the essence is why we pair up as humans. The sense of protection and shelter from the world is the very reason why we seek that closeness. Often this very function of our existence is just to be there for one another through thick and thin, creating an invisible shield providing unity and closeness in the relationship despite pressing external stressors and differences of opinions.  

How can we re-invent the home environment creating a safe space where we feel relaxed and accepted for who we are, feeling wanted, protected and cared for;  how do we create "a couple bubble?"

The feeling of closeness can be subjective.  At times facing difficulties and challenges together is what brings us together.

It is important to cultivate feelings of closeness despite the "weather" outside and the temperature existing within the relationship. It is important to create a barometer "check in" system measuring where we are at, re-focusing on the bigger picture, the importance of the joint values we have, what brought us together in the first place, and, why we value the relationship as the main priority.

Having the bigger picture orientation helps to centre on mutuality rather than polarisation, helps us through disagreements and enables more skilful navigation of differences of opinions. Only when feeling safe we can embark on further exploration of challenges we face in the moment of conflict. The safety is an integral necessity, ingredient that cannot be missed. 

Questions to consider in this space include:

What strategies we normally have helping us achieve "a safe place" in our relationship? This could include spending time together focusing on favourite activities, re-connecting with joint rituals and, prioritising time together.

How can we re-connect with those strategies here and now, viewing them as a priority?

Where am I at in my barometer of closeness? Were is my partner at?

What gets in a way of us seeing the bigger picture of the importance of the relationship as a priority? 

S. Tatkin, 2011, Wired for Love. How Understanding Your Partner's Brain and Attachment Style Can Help You Defuse Conflict and Build a Secure Relationship, Oakland: Rainforst Books

* The email will not be published on the website.