It’s the night before our weekly couple’s therapy session and I’m laying in bed thinking of which energy I’m going to be bringing into the session at 12pm PST the next day. I landed on, I’m going to let G do the most talking because it’s not like what I have to say matters. Completely satisfied with this narrative, I promptly roll over, put on my sleep meditation music and go to bed. The next morning, I wake up not thinking about it anymore. I was certain that not talking for the 50 minutes was totally doable and the absolute right move.
For any of you who are in couple’s therapy or ever been in one, you know that it’s vastly different from individual therapy. In individual therapy, my needs are front and center, my therapist attentively listens to me, affirms me, teaches me how to work on changing the things that I want to change that can be changed; all from a place of deep acceptance and love.
In couple’s therapy, all the above applies except…it’s not only about the singular you anymore, but about the plural YOU. It’s about the relationship dynamics. Working with a professional to affirm the relationship and change things that can be changed. In my particular case, a lot of the cue I get has to do with patience and accepting my partner for who they are. While in the eyes of my individual therapist, I can do no wrong (not really, but you know what I mean), in couple’s therapy, with my partner right there, the stories I recount has another set of eyes and mouth bearing witness to my unconscious embellishments. And it doesn’t always feel good. Because in the moments where she corrects me or reminds me exactly how things went down, I realize that yes; I have blind spots; I remember things in ways that minimizes the harm I may have caused and really, sometimes; I flat out lie to myself.
Then there’s the therapist who is there to facilitate the creation of a relationship that serves both parties. It’s not about only my tears anymore. Sure, she cares about my tears and she also cares about G’s tears. I’m forced to face the fact that I have a lot of expectations of my partner to relate with me the way I relate to my family structure. I’ve done a lot of work to unlearn behaviors that do not serve me anymore. But in couple’s therapy, I am forced to face the absolute truth that to love someone is to accept them AS IS. And that perhaps what we term love while trying to get the person to be a different person is perhaps not love at all. At least not love that allows for a peaceful cohabitation.
And so, for the last three sessions, she has met any concerns that I’ve brought up regarding G with, “well, what if she’s not ready,” “she has to do it at her own pace,” “many people process internally for a long time before its externally manifest,” “Yeah, it’ll be nice if she can do XYZ but she can’t and so now what,” “you can’t demand honesty from anyone,” “you can’t know what anyone is thinking, assuming you do is erroneous,” “knowing all this about her, what are you going to do Christabel?” and “the answer is not in getting her to change.”
I could go on forever, but I won’t. As you can see, that’s why the decision I had made the night before seemed like a viable one. In fact, I said, “honestly, today, G can talk, because I’m still working on my assignment of loving without expectations, accepting her as is, and cultivating patience” LOL. Yup, I sure said that because I was over it! LOL. But I did not stay quiet the whole 50 minutes.
Therapist took it in stride and said, “seems like a good place to be, I know the work is difficult but it’s worth it because they’re skills that’ll help you beyond this relationship.” Then she turned to G and said, “I guess the ball is in your court today.” I tell ya, that woman is hilarious. She’s not fazed one bit by my pouting and woe-is-me act. She’s just like, okay, do what you need to do. In the meantime, there’s someone else here who can get my attention. So, yeah, couple’s therapy is not the easiest for me but it proves, each week, to be exactly what I need right now in this phase of life.
In fact, I’ve suspended individual therapy to focus only on lessons I have to learn yet in how I am in relationships. I’ve seen now, more than ever, the benefit of healing in community. Self work is important for sure, but at some point, I’ve found that I had to go beyond the navel gazing that accompanies self-improvement. I had to get to a place where I could actively seek input from others around me on how who I am growing to be is impacting them. How I can continue to refine self in community. I am beyond privileged to can pursue this mode of healing. I wish we all had that access; you know? Because it is so so helpful.
How about you? How do you love and relate? Are you able to love without expectations? In fact, do you think expectations ought to accompany love? Last, couple’s or individual therapy, which is your fave?