The mystery of relationship is an ever unfolding experience of joy, misery, and everything in between. Of course, couples who come for counselling are almost invariably on the misery and suffering end of the continuum. I like Alain de Botton’s short and humour filled video that really touches on the reality that very many live in their relationships on a daily basis. I like to let couples know that their experience is not isolated. Most all of us are attracted viscerally, and then spend immense energy trying to find a way in and/or out. Part of the problem is that most are doing both more or less simultaneously. Invariably the attraction is based on unconscious elements in the inner world of both. The more ‘right’ a person appears initially, the more likely he or she will become the ‘wrong’ person as time goes by.
The work in therapy is to uncover the unconscious forces at work both within each person and between the two. Couples are both hard and easy to work with for the therapist. They are hard because the patterns are so deeply entrenched and play continually, persistently, and very frequently. They are easy to work with because there are usually two or three patterns that continuously repeat; hence quite easy to identify.
Most of us were brought up within a culture that tells us unequivocally that there is a right person for us. There is. However the ability to recognize that person is severely occluded by our inner blinders that have been in place for a very long time and that came into place from such an early time, insidiously, and totally reinforced by culture, family background, school, peers, media, religious teachings, and culture, that there is almost no chance to escape the inevitable trap. However, the trap also signals the way out into a strong, well-bonded, and rich relationship.
How can this happen? Intervention is essential. The patterns themselves are the doorway to the underlying roots of the repetitive behaviours and patterns of thinking, feeling, and behaving. These patterns are well rooted in personal history and the intermeshing of these histories in couple relationships. These dynamics play out in relationships whether opposite sex, same sex, and all other options. Beyond the work of uncovering the roots is feeling the associated pain, becoming aware of the associated developmental issues, and eventually the work of developing new relational skills associated with the increasingly liberated life energy. A couple will learn to increasingly live into a collaborative, affiliative, supportive, caring, compassionate, and increasingly alive relationship.