Intimate relationships. They are simultaneously capable of bringing intense joy to our lives and causing immense pain. As a therapist, I believe in the benefits of exploring more deeply our relationship patterns and what informs them.
Doing the work…
Working through unproductive interactional patterns, issues of trust, and navigating the overall complex emotional landscape of relationships is not easy.
If we haven’t really been shown how to engage in conflict–in a productive way–and trust that we’ll be heard and supported, how can we expect to be able to do that well in our adult relationships? If we haven’t been made to feel that what we share matters, how can we learn to depend on others for emotional support?
Our ability to trust others is influenced by many factors including our attachment style, our experiences in our family-of-origin, and our past relationships.
How do you emotionally show up or not show up for others?
What tends to cause you anxiety/worry in your relationships?
Do you struggle to be honest with someone even though you may disappoint them?
How do you experience jealousy or anger?
What is it like to let someone in on something that causes you to feel shame?
Understanding interactional patterns…
In a significant relationship, it can be scary to feel that no matter what you seem to try, you just don’t feel truly heard or seen.
When we are in this place of not feeling understood, we might resort to patterns of withdrawal or avoidance, or we might feel intensely anxious and try to get our needs met by making large demands or criticizing the other person.
In exploring these patterns, here are a few personal questions to consider:
How was conflict handled while growing up?
Example might be: people didn’t really talk about problems (there was a lot of distance) or perhaps there were frequent fights/yelling. Perhaps it was required that you put on a happy face even if underneath you were deeply unhappy?
What were some of the unspoken rules present in your family-of-origin?
An example might be: you don’t tell person ‘b’ something directly–instead you talk to person ‘a’ and person ‘a’ will communicate to person ‘b’ for you. Or, perhaps there were specific rules about how each member functioned that were informed by gender, culture, race, or ethnicity?
What were some of the major themes in your family-of-origin?
Notice if there are a few areas you’d like to improve…
Trusting self and others…
When we let someone in and begin to build trust, we allow ourselves to be seen–intimately–and to be known. It’s not always easy. Sometimes, due to being hurt in the past, it’s difficult to truly trust someone again. Perhaps there was dishonesty or mistreatment of some sort along the way, and so it’s hard to be vulnerable.
As humans, we are all capable of hurting others and being hurt. In exploring some of our personal themes and narratives, we can begin to identify the areas in need of healing and attention so that we can show up more fully in our relationships.
This beautiful talk explores how enhancing our ability to be vulnerable helps us to have better relationships and be more present with difficult emotions.