In re-discovering our core self in relation to a loving other, we learn to trust and to share our deepest emotions with them
My therapeutic work with couples focuses upon human nature and how people relate to one another. I am keen to support couples in overcoming their current and historic difficulties, and in learning to relate to each other through kindness and a greater awareness of the other’s needs.
Often, though not always, difficulties in a relationship may in part be rooted in unfinished business from the past: in the way we connected emotionally with our parents and/or how we related to our siblings and learnt to adjust to the relational dynamics of our family.
No matter how much time or physical distance we put between ourselves and the past, this unfinished business never leaves us, until we decide to bring it to a close. We can do this by dealing with the wounds that were created in the past and that affect us emotionally and in terms of how we relate to others.
During our developmental years up until adulthood, we might have difficulty connecting emotionally with our parents and perceiving their love. We learn to be creative and adjust to the lack of parental love by developing coping mechanisms. While these may have been the best coping mechanisms for us in the past, they often become less effective in the present. The strategies that supported us as children and teenagers, and were important there and then, can become damaging to our personal relationships if we attempt to live our adult life by them.
Often, a traumatising past affects different aspects of our present life, such as our ability to form permanent and nurturing relationships with lovers or friends, to maintain a job or choose a career that satisfies us, to take care of our health and wellbeing or to form nourishing relationships with our children.
I am particularly sensitive to the effect of childhood trauma, whether a difficult emotional attachment with our parents, or some form of abuse or a lack of loving kindness that we experienced while growing up. This may hinder our ability as adults to express our emotions and to be part of a loving and nourishing relationship.
In a couples’ relationship, we might find it difficult to recognise that our partner loves us. I encourage my clients to understand the difference between lacking feelings, and having feelings but lacking the means to express them. I also explore with my clients how it may often be more difficult to live a rich emotional life with a loving and caring awareness of others, than to live in an emotional void, lacking love and care.
We are all capable of experiencing feelings but might get stuck when it comes to expressing them in the most direct and appropriate way. Sometimes we find maladaptive ways to express them: instead of asking for a hug, we might be angry with our partner for not offering us a hug, or be silent in the hope they will intuit what we need. We might express emotions that we learnt to express as a child, when our parents did not understand or meet our emotional needs, even though this is inappropriate to our situation as an adult.
I invite my clients to practise kindness, care and nurturing behaviours with their partner. If you allow yourself to practise dependency when you need care, and to care for your partner at times when they are dependent on you, both of you can learn to sustain a caring and interdependent relationship, based on reciprocity.
I encourage my clients to explore their primary feelings, and to voice them to their partner in a non-threatening and non-judgmental way. When couples are at an impasse, it often involves polarised emotions, anger and/or holding back from expressing themselves. I support partners in exploring hidden or stuck emotions, so as to reach an acceptable middle ground characterised by less polarised emotions, a more loving dialogue and greater care for each other and themselves.
I help couples learn how to revitalise the energies, passion, curiosity and affection for each other that brought them together in the first place, so as to enhance their ongoing relationship. Couples therapy is fundamentally a journey of re-discovery: in re-discovering our core self in relation to a loving other, we learn to trust and to share our deepest emotions with them.