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Partnership and Growth Potential

Why Issues Develop In Your Relationship

A couple of months ago I wrote that, if you are in a relationship, you are part of a unique societal system. However, that system is broken. If 40% of present day marriages end in divorce, something is drastically wrong with our society. As a sports coach, one of my roles was to scout the opposition to better understand what they were bringing to the game. In this case, it is not the opposition so much, as scouting the system you are already a part of, and then helping you become more aware of what you may be up against.

Harville Hendrix’s intuitive leap in our understanding of relationships connects the Imago (the unconscious image of our childhood caretakers) with mate selection. I used the analogy of the bar code and the imprint of the stripe pattern on a baby zebra to help explain that concept. Unconsciously, in your head and in your heart, you have an image of the person who will take care of you.

Childhood Triggers

That you are partnered with someone who has some of both the positive but also negative traits of your childhood caregivers, can be discouraging. But there is more bad news. You are often partnered with someone who is strong in an area where you are weak. There seems to be something about nature that wants wholeness. For example, if I get cut, it begins to heal; I don’t have to do anything to bring that about. In the relationship arena, if the most damage for me growing up was in the area of feelings, and if nature, or God, or the universe is trying to heal that, whom do you think I would be attracted to? Someone whose feeling side is more developed or less developed? More developed! That is certainly what happened in my case and it is what I see in the office most often.

So think about it – if you are in a relationship right now, it is a given that you are with someone who will activate some old issues from childhood and that they will often be stronger in an area where you are weak.

Understanding Our Emotional Responses

Now, there is a concept in psychology called reframing. Reframing is a way of examining our own emotional responses to negative or unpleasant events, ideas, and feelings, and attempting to find more positive alternatives.

In your partner, you may recognize a combination of negative traits from your own family history, as well as the strengths in which you are lacking. Rather than seeing this combination as a negative, can we reframe it and see it in a very positive light. To grow means to change – without change there is no growth. If you and your partner were exactly the same, where would the growth occur? By becoming conscious, becoming aware, you understand that your partner really has the blueprint for your growth. The reframe is that you are with the person who will help you grow the most – to your full potential, your full humanness.

It does seem obvious then, doesn’t it, that there will be issues that need to be discussed? As a coach, the skill I teach couples is the intentional dialogue process – to intentionally mirror, validate and empathize with your partner before responding. This is a learned skill, and like any skill it takes practice.  It takes issues out of the power struggle – the I’m right, you are wrong mode – and allows two people to simply talk with each other, but in a safe way. Remember your mind’s instinct; it is always on the alert for danger and you need to respect that. However, if you can stay in this intentional process, you will be able to discuss any issue that comes up, but safely.


I invite you to schedule a FREE Skype consultation with me to see if Relationship Coaching is right for you!
You can contact me by phone at 519-966-1408 or email john@johnsullivancounselling.com

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