On Sept. 10 I had my left hip replaced at Humber River Hospital in Toronto, using the direct anterior approach. I was operated on at 8:00 AM, woke up in recovery at 9:20 and was released at 12:00. I was back home in Windsor at 400 PM that same day. My mother 20 years ago, my sister 10 years ago and buddies of mine even two or three years ago, using a different methodology, were in the hospital for a longer period and had a much longer recovery time. My point – medical science has improved even in the last 5 years and so has relationship coaching.
Relationship Coaching Has Improved As Well
My contention is that relationship coaching has also improved in the last 5 or 10 years. We know much better today than we did before how to make relationships work. I have been doing relationship coaching for the past 30 years. Back then the big insight for me was Imago Relationship Therapy’s understanding that we unconsciously are attracted to someone who tends to have both the positive but also the negative traits of our family of origin, and that remains true.
Over time, I personally began focusing more on the importance of safety. Science tells us we all have a brain stem which is similar to the brain stem of all mammals, birds, fish and reptiles. Our reptilian brain, or brain stem, has a 500 million year track record. Its main function is to keep us alive by asking the question “is it safe or is it dangerous?’ If dangerous, it will defend itself with the fight, flight or freeze responses, and again this remains true. The big shift for me in the last few years, comes from quantum theory.
The Basis of All Reality
Quantum physics forms the basis of all reality – the galaxies, the universe, our planet and ultimately our relationships. Quantum theory, put simply, is the physics that explains how everything works. Einstein, Niels Bohr and Max Planck are considered the founders of quantum theory back in the early 20th century. A more recent proponent is Carlo Rovelli, a New York Times bestselling author. The jacket of his new book Helgoland states:
“As scientists and philosophers continue to fiercely debate the meaning of quantum theory, Rovelli argues that its most unsettling contradictions can be explained by seeing the world as fundamentally made of relations rather than substances. We and everything around us exist only in our interactions with one another. This bold idea suggests new directions for thinking about the structure of reality and even the nature of consciousness”.
How This Affects Your Relationship
If “we and everything around us exist only in our interactions with one another”, think how this affects your relationship. Your relationship is an infinitesimal piece of the bigger universe. If everything is simply energy and it is all connected, then that is the basic reality of your relationship. Try thinking of your relationship as not just the two of you, but the two of you and the Space Between you. The Space Between is a real energy field not just a metaphor. You can tell can’t you when there is tension in that Space Between. There is no middle ground; the Space Between is tension free or it is not. Negativity in the Space Between causes disconnect while the whole goal of your being is to be connected.
Your Relationship The Space Between
An image that might help is to think of the Space Between as a still pond of water. If I throw a rock into that pond, it causes ripples in all directions, you can’t block them; they affect everything in their path. One rock doesn’t have that much effect, but if I throw 50 rocks into the pond, everything gets agitated. Negativity in the Space Between is like that. One bit might not do too much damage but 50 bits causes disconnect while our basic reality is to be connected.
Logically it is impossible to have a great relationship if there is negativity. Negativity causes anxiety, if you feel anxious you don’t feel safe, and if you don’t feel safe it is hard to be intimate.
The more I think about the Space Between, the more I liken it to the direct anterior approach to hip surgery. Focusing on keeping the Space Between free of any negativity – no blame, shame or criticism – is a more effective and efficient way to fix a relationship. The flip side of the coin is to refill the Space Between with positives and to say them out loud. “Thanks a lot; You look great; I really appreciated when you did …” I encourage couples to say those things out loud because from their old brain point of view, their partner then is not seen as the enemy but as an ally; they are on the same team.
The caveat of course in all of this, is that it is the person on the receiving end who determines whether something is negative or not. I could think I was just joking but if it hurts my partner, I am the one who needs to change.
In the Romantic Love stage of a relationship the Space Between is generally pretty positive – it is new, fun, exciting, romantic. What can happen, and it is often small things – a snide remark, a criticism, a shutting down, a walking away – the Space Between becomes more negative and if it becomes too negative or toxic, people start to avoid. Who wants to go into a toxic space?
Pain is the body’s way to tell us to pay attention. Something is not working the way it should. When there is pain in a relationship, that too is telling us to pay attention. Something is not working the way it should.
My hip was bothering me for a couple of years before I took action. The surgery hasn’t been an instant fix, but over time I know it will get better. My ultimate goal is to play hockey again; that won’t happen right away but down the line, yes. The same with a relationship. If there is pain, something is not working as well as it should. The quickest fix, I now believe, is to go cold turkey on any negativity in the Space Between. It won’t be an instant fix but if you stop putting negativity in the Space Between and refill that Space with appreciations, in time your relationship will improve. Our fundamental reality is to be in connection and our intimate relationship is one of the key places for that to take place.
The moral of the story! Just as the direct anterior approach to hip surgery is an improvement over the previous methods, focusing on making sure the Space Between is free of any negativity is a quicker way to improve your relationship. Relationship coaching offered by John Sullivan Counselling.