In our world of fast-developing technology, and the need to stay connected with friends and colleagues through texts, emails and social media, the irony is that in our face-to-face relationships with others we are becoming increasingly disconnected. The need to check messages and emails as they arrive, to scroll through social media just to "catch up with what's going on" means that time spent together is often time spent on phones and tablets, and that means we are not "together" at all. In that distraction, we are not being present with our partner or family.
In my therapy practice, I am seeing increasing numbers of clients who are experiencing "relationship issues" for one reason or another...
Relationships are not about “getting it right”, they are about connecting with another person. The most important aspect of connection is the ability to listen… when was the last time you did that? Really listened, with total presence and with no other distractions at all?
Listening is a skill we all possess; it is a natural, innate ability. However, as we grow and develop, we learn different, adapted ways of listening, which require effort.
What can happen when you just listen…? Listen with no judgement, no effort, and without trying to offer solutions. Even if the other person is in a negative place – what happens if you just be with them, and hold the space, with compassion and empathy…?
Put your phones down, people, and just be present with each other... talk to each other... and, more importantly, listen... it's the biggest gift you can offer.
For any couples who feel they would like to spend some time together to reconnect, you may like to know that I offer a very special course... Because it’s only for one couple at a time, it’s tailored for the individuals concerned, and whatever you want to get out of the day. (You may also like to know that there is absolutely no mobile signal in our training and consultation offices at 'Planet Wykeham'!)
Self-Awareness and Relationships is an experiential workshop-style day, with some bits of NLP – understanding how we think, and how we each do that differently from one another; there are also some bits from other psychotherapeutic modalities too, because the day is all about having fun as well as learning about yourselves and each other within your relationship. It’s designed to be very much a future-oriented day, rather than looking back at whatever has happened in the past – it’s all about developing connection and understanding, and creating your future together.
If you'd like to know more, just give me a call and we can have a chat to see if this is something you'd like to do together.
The other day I came across the following story, from the wonderful author and therapist, Bill O’Hanlon.
Some years ago, at the therapy group practice where Bill worked, a couple had sought relationship counselling. They were very embittered with one another, but couldn’t get a divorce because they had a dog that was the centre of their lives and neither of them was willing to give up even partial custody.
When the therapist worked with them, he discovered that the wife resented her husband’s habit of coming home from work, not even acknowledging her when he walked through the door, but heading straight upstairs to shower. By the time he arrived back downstairs she would be so livid that they would get into a terrible argument.
The therapist asked what the dog did when the husband arrived home, which was different from what the wife did. It turned out that the dog would run to the door, greet the husband and get a nice rubbing in return. The wife would wait in the other room for her husband to seek her out, which he didn’t do.
The husband complained that the wife was not physically affectionate. He longed for her to cuddle up next to him on the sofa while they were watching television, and would complain sarcastically that he must have body odour when she sat some distance away from him.
The therapist discovered that the dog was very assertive when he wanted affection; he would come over, sit next to the person from whom he wanted affection and push his nose under their arm if they were distracted or unresponsive, until they gave him a cuddle.
The couple was given this task: they were to study the dog and make him their teacher and guru. When they saw how he got what he wanted from their partner, they were to model that behaviour and try it out with their partner. They had great fun with this and began to turn their relationship around, no longer wanting a divorce.
For any relationship that you would like to shift in a positive or better direction, Bill suggests that you could think of an animal whose behaviour you could model – or, as he says, let Dog be your co-pilot…
...and the Canine Members of Staff