A friend of mine was recently facilitating a group of people from the Voluntary and Community Sector. In seeking to assess where they were at in their work, he talked about how organisations often go through different ‘seasons’ in their lives: Spring, with its fresh shoots and burgeoning new life, Summer, in its abundance, Autumn with its fruitfulness and drawing back, or Winter a time for retrenchment, but also of subterranean activity. He began by asking them where they felt we are as a nation, before beginning to get them to think about where their organisations were at, and where they themselves were professionally. Interestingly but perhaps not surprisingly, the overwhelming majority felt that we are currently in the season of ‘Winter’ as a nation.
For clients who are not used to analysing their relationships it seemed to me that a similar exercise might provide a useful way in to considering them. At Coupleworks we see individuals and couples in enormous conflict and distress in their relationships. So often too many people come blaming almost exclusively their partners for their problems, arguing it’s they who need to change, rather than beginning by stepping back to take a look at themselves in the midst of their distress.
Helping couples to look at the dynamics in their relationship and what each partner as an individual contributes to the pattern that is currently being lived out between them is a complex task. Often it is hard for people to begin to think about – they become very fixated about the particular problem of an affair, sex, money or how their partner has let them down, doesn’t do enough with the children or whatever. Very often the break through in the log jam begins to occur when each one starts to realise how they are contributing to what is happening in their relationship, rather than focusing solely on their partner’s shortcomings. Then by working with that realisation we can help to explore a new or shifted dynamic between the couple.
But getting to that starting point is a challenge in itself – as it was for my friend facilitating the group that day. Putting some context to people’s lives by beginning to identify ‘seasons’ can open up a conversation when things have become very stuck.
So why not try for yourself, or with your partner, some of the following questions.
Which season are we in as a nation?
Which season are we in as a family?
Where am I in myself?
Where do I think my partner is at?
Which season might my partner think I am in?
Where are we as a couple?
Where were we 5 years ago?
Where would we like to be in 5 years time?
I hope that using this might open up a deeper dialogue for you and your partner.