Archive for disappointments

Are things what they seem?

In his latest blockbuster, ‘La Belle Sauvage’, Philip Pullman graphically describes a group of people who have lost touch with the realities that surround them. They live in a make believe garden of abundance and pleasure, whilst the ‘fog’ that envelops them hides the truths of their world. As one character comments ‘That fog’s hiding everything they ought to remember, if it ever cleared away, they’d have to take stock of theirselves, and they wouldn’t be able to stay in the garden no more’ (p491).

This led me to think about my experience at Coupleworks where few people come into therapy with the deliberate intention of trying to hide some part of their current or past experiences, but for many the therapeutic process does uncover some part of their story that ‘they ought to remember’. Part of the therapist’s task is to help them face up to this process of remembering, whether individually or as a couple.

In couple therapy few things are more important than looking at the patterns internalised in early childhood and to help people see how these continue to affect them in adult life. For each individual it is helpful to think and understand about his or her early childhood patterns and ‘scripts’ – how their family dealt with emotions – how they got to feel valued and loved.

What is particularly important to ‘remember’ is what they then might expect from their partner. For example, a person who has experienced a very disciplined and rigid parenting style, might then perceive any request from a loving partner as controlling, and therefore respond with stubbornness or antagonism. It is important that they can learn to recognise what is being ‘projected onto’ and therefore expected from their partner. They need to learn to trust that this new relationship can be one in which their wishes and desires will be thought about.

In relationships where there have been years of acrimony and mistrust, it can be hard to ‘remember’ the good parts and why the couple got together in the first place and how they had fun and connected. The build up of hurts and disappointments that go unrecognised cloud the relationship and someone who has been knocked down time and again can get to the point where they simply do not want to take the risk of it happening yet another time. Holding those fears, moving away from a culture of blame, and working through the hurts and having them understood and valued, can help lead the couple to ‘take stock of theirselves’ and to begin the journey into a new phase in their relationship.

Sarah Fletcher

Couples on holiday.

Before taking time to think about what you hope for on a holiday, try to align your expectations to how you are as a couple at home.  Most couples are having to compromise, acknowledge and deal with difference, communicate feelings without paying a price and think about what early experiences are triggering between the couple and becoming familiar arguments without resolution.  A holiday will be the same two people with the same personalities having more couple time than at home.

Beyond the first couple of days in a holiday location when everything is different the same issues when buttons are pressed, resurface.  Make allowances for the 24/7 exposure to each other. Even if you both work at home…there will be boundaries about space, intrusion and needs.

Descending into disagreements can happen quickly in an unfamiliar place.  It is interesting to note that the ‘dream holiday’ is often seen as experiencing exciting and romantic new ways together.  Yet one of the common anxieties on holiday is about something wrong with accommodation or food or unaccustomed noise.  So while longing for change from everyday life at home, the unfamiliarity can become a trigger for a row.

Both people are different, have different ideas, needs and anxieties, usually rooted somewhere before they met.  This will always be the case and it will be inflammatory to try and change each other.  The romantic and intimate thing would be to celebrate the difference.

A few common things to discuss before setting off may be useful.  This illustrates how people approach situations in their own unique way.

On time for travel with extra time for calm.

or

Running to departure as the doors are closing.

 

Queuing at check out with luggage to cover every need and eventuality.

or

Preferring to travel with a small carry on pack and boarding pass.

 

Chilling on a beach, dipping in and out of the water with a good book.

or

Needing to do ‘stuff’, see buildings and see everything educational in the area.

 

Planning meals in restaurants and wiling away the day in between.

or

Wanting simple salads in the evening and enjoying a picnic lunch.

Flights, trains and encountering traffic during car journeys are all beyond your control.  This common fear needs to be handled by sharing the unknown as a couple and not as an individual.  Both sides can then feel taken care of and less agitated.

A survey in 2016 said that 60% of couples questioned admit to fighting on holiday and shattering the dream.  The advice given was to try and mirror your contact at home.  Don’t feel the need to be glued together.  Do some separate daytime pursuits, discussed the day before and meet later to eat together and discuss your day

The holiday arena is only a minefield of disappointments if there is no discussion beforehand about different expectations.

These are only a few suggestions to help towards harmony and growth of intimacy for the ongoing couple.

Adding the energy of small children,  teenage and parental usage of mobile devices to the mix would be enough copy for another blog.  In the Christmas holidays, where previous blogs have covered the skill needed to make a family Christmas go somewhere near to everyone in the groups’ expectations, there are more suggestions for helping the dream to happen.

Clare Ireland