Monday, March 30, 2009

Why Try Counseling?

Why should we try counseling? That is a great question. One that bears examination as many partners turn to counseling in an attempt to strengthen and rebuild their relationship.

When partners begin a relationship they are generally thrilled with each other. They may spot areas early on that may be irritating or annoying, but are willing to overlook them because the strong positive feelings they share greatly outweigh any negative. Over time as partners become more comfortable with one another they begin to let down their defenses. They feel more accepted and begin to share their inner selves, allowing themselves to be more vulnerable. This increases their level of intimacy.

At this point the relationship is a living entity. It is being nurtured and fed by both partners on a daily basis. Many deposits are being made on each side and few withdrawals. The health meter of the relationship is high and the fuel tank is filled each day.

The intimacy of the relationship may begin to trigger old issues from the past for one or both of the partners. Intimacy can be threatening when partners feel old wounds from their past and don't understand what is happening to them. Suddenly they are upset or angry and don't understand why. In the blink of an eye an argument may erupt. Partners blame one another often unable to see their own part in the disputes.

Because of the high level of intimacy between the partners, even small disagreements can wound deeply. Walls begin to emerge. Each hurtful glance or sarcastic remark puts another brick in the wall. At first the overall health of the relationship compensates for the difficulties. The high level of past deposits allows for much forgiveness. But now the relationship is no longer being fed. Many withdrawals have been made. The account balances have dipped dangerously low. Partners have begun to tend to their wounds and place bricks in the wall. They have little energy left to feed the relationship. They have forgotten that the relationship is a living entity requiring care and nurturing to survive. As they continue to ignore their daily deposits the relationship bank account becomes overdrawn and the health meter dips down towards dysfunction. As this point the relationship is slowly dying.

Many times partners simply do not understand that feeling unease at new levels of intimacy is a normal part of the growth process. Allowing ourselves to be vulnerable can be terrifying, especially if we have lived with masks most of our lives. We have entered into a relationship with someone who has earned our trust and we expose the soft underbelly of ourselves. This complete openness may be frightening. If our self esteem is low, we may be unable to cope with the strong feelings that such vulnerability generates.

Getting help can reverse this process. Increasing the self esteem of each of the partners can rebuild the process that the parties used in the beginning to feed their relationship. Learning the tools of self care and applying them in our daily lives increases our self esteem. We can learn communication skills to effectively listen when our partner speaks and feel heard when we share. Compromise done in healthy ways creates loving bonds between partners who feel cared for and valued within their relationship.

It is imperative that we understand that our relationship is a living entity that requires daily care and feeding. When we practice the tools of communication, self care and compromise we insure that we will have the energy needed to make daily deposits into our relationship to ensure it's long life. Our relationship is our safety net. We rely on it to provide a safe haven for our partner, ourselves and our family. It deserves our attention and our care. As we use our tools, practice self care, communicate effectively and learn to compromise we increase our self esteem, rebuild the health of our relationship and give ourselves the gift of hope.

No comments:

Post a Comment