I encountered a specific relationship challenge recently, the concept of “it’s not fair!”
“What you are doing is not working.” I used that phrase the other day in the office and was challenged by my client. His understanding was the phrase meant that he was doing something wrong. The way he saw it was rather, what he was doing “wasn’t fair” to his wife.
The context of the conversation centered around his bringing work home at night. He owns his own business and in the past, he would leave his work phone on and would often answer text messages, and emails or actually answer the phone in the evening. His realization was, that was “not fair” to his wife who was busy making dinner, feeding the kids, and putting them to bed while he was still “at work” even though he was physically present.
His solution was to turn off his work phone when he came home at six o’clock because “it wasn’t fair” to his wife to leave her alone with all the busyness dinner and bedtime entailed with small children. I really like that.
I am not sure yet how to integrate that concept into what I do every day but I like the concept of “it is not fair”. The focus in Imago Relationship Therapy is on the relationship – the Space Between – rather than on the individual. A critical question to ask then might be: “Is it fair to my partner if I do x, y or z?”
I prefer to see myself as a coach because the terms therapy and counseling often carry the negative connotation that there is something wrong with a person. Whereas in coaching, typically there is nothing wrong with my players, but sometimes what they are doing is not working as well as they would like. I think the same thing is true of relationships. And just as I didn’t invent hockey but I can coach it; I didn’t invent Imago Relationship Therapy but I can coach it.
As a coach, I was always a basics kind of guy. In football, if my linemen could black and tackle well, we would win games. Same in hockey – skating, passing, checking, and shooting were key skills – which if mastered, led to winning games. As a relationship coach, the basics are just that, and if couples can master them they have a much better chance to create the relationship of their dreams. What are those basics?
- Safety is critical – a relationship has to be safe because of the reptilian part of our brain which is always on the lookout for danger.
- The Safe Conversation process is the basic skill needed to communicate about issues that will arise in any relationship.
- Zero Negativity in the Space Between. Negativity causes disconnect and what all couples want is a deep connection.
- Amplify the positives. Refill the Space Between with positives on a daily basis.
The addition of “Is it fair to my partner?” could easily become another of the basics that go to make up a great relationship.