Thank you in advance for taking the time to read some of my thoughts. My hope is that this blog and my entries may provide comfort and remind you that you can create a path toward peace and healing in the chaos that can exist at certain times in our life’s journey.
I am a therapist, but I am also lucky to be a mother, and a partner to a supportive husband.
Inevitably, my husband vicariously absorbs through me the many therapeutic tools and techniques from my training and experience. Lucky for him, right? Some therapists, myself included, strongly believe in the benefits of personally participating in therapy. There are many reasons for this and I will tell you mine. The first is that I am not immune to issues or life struggles. And so, individual therapy facilitates an opportunity for me to constantly practice self-awareness, which allows me to be more effective in the work I do with my clients (among many other benefits). Most importantly, I strive to empathize with my clients in their experience as a client. To achieve this, I feel it is imperative that I understand the therapeutic relationship from the perspective of being the client.
Consequently, you can imagine what I requested of my husband; to attend couples therapy with me before we said, “I do.” He hesitantly agreed. Again, lucky him … and me! We learned many tools that we continue to benefit from more than 10 years later.
I disclose this personal story with many of my clients when they apprehensively enter my office for their first couples session. Participating in couples therapy still holds the stigma that your relationship is in dire trouble, or that things have to be completely dysfunctional before you contemplate accessing support. In my practice, I have seen this stigma result in too many couples avoiding support, or attending therapy when they are on the brink of separation.
Although it is never too late to access therapy, participation does not indicate that your relationship is “in trouble,” if you consider attending therapy sooner than later. It serves as a preventative and proactive measure to ensure the solid foundation of your relationship for years to come. I like to compare it to taking your car to the mechanic for an oil change or check-up prior to a very long road trip. On a side note, long road trips together (with or without children in the mix) absolutely require the use of learned therapeutic tools. I know this firsthand.
I do not have the perfect partnership – and I’m not sure that a perfect one exists. I’ve never seen one, but I’ve witnessed (and fortunately experienced) unconditional love. When my husband and I inevitably push each other’s buttons, disagree, argue, or forget to fight fair, we always (eventually) take responsibility for our behaviour. We practice empathy with each other by acknowledging and validating each other’s realities and perceptions of what may or may not have happened between us. This requires what can sometimes be difficult; taking responsibility for our personal contribution to the dynamic that is “us.” It’s nearly impossible to always fight fair, but we try.
What does this all mean? It is a partnership. My husband has taught me to self-reflect just as much as I have taught him. It is hard work at times, but it is some of the best work. The most intimate and healing moments can come from allowing yourself to be vulnerable. Being vulnerable means to acknowledge to your partner that you’re not perfect by taking responsibility for your role in the dynamic. Neither of you are perfect, nor should you be.
During a disconcerting time in my life, I was reminded by a very wise therapist that as humans we are all flawed in some way. As a result, remembering and accepting imperfection as part of our human condition is a valuable skill. When we allow for our vulnerabilities to be realized, uncomfortable emotions such as shame and embarrassment can be experienced. In place of these difficult emotions, try to reflect on feeling compassion for yourself, your partner or anyone else who has chosen to share their vulnerabilities with you.
Remember, we have all come from a myriad of experiences that have resulted in our varied and sometimes less compatible ways of communicating and problem solving. Be mindful and understanding of your diverse experiences. This may not be a comfortable exercise, especially when there’s been an emotional and physical disconnect for a long time. However, vulnerability, compassion and acceptance can validate your unconditional love and support for your partner, even during chaos and periods of disconnection.
Our vulnerabilities are where we find strength; in ourselves, in our relationships, and in those people around us. Let us be human together — not perfect, but perfectly imperfect.