The essence of a happy life is found in the quality of our relationships!
Friday, October 7, 2011
Understanding The Value Of Separateness In Your Love Relationship
In the early stages of a couple’s relationship when their greatest desire is to spend as much time as possible together and melt right into each other if only they could - as described in the togetherness article - they may find the concept of separateness difficult to comprehend. Unfortunately, a lack of understanding or an inability to appropriate this concept can set the couple up for a co-dependent relationship. This basically means that they become so entangled emotionally that they lose a healthy sense of self. As co-dependence is a breeding ground for control and manipulation (whether subconscious or otherwise) as well as confusion, resentment and anger, recognising the necessity of separateness in a couple’s relationship is vitally important.
A true and lasting love can only be based on a foundation of freedom. SEPARATENESS is just as important for the healthy development and maintenance of a couple’s relationship - whether that be a marriage, a de-facto relationship or any other love partnership - as is TOGETHERNESS.
INTERNAL SEPARATENESS: In order to understand what internal separateness means we need to have an understanding of what it does not mean. Internal separateness DOES NOT mean: • Behaving as though you weren’t married. • Making independent choices of a significant magnitude. • Treating your partner as though his or her wishes do not matter to you. • Ignoring or disregarding your partner’s needs. • Being selfish and uncaring. Internal separateness DOES mean: • Understanding and accepting that you carry full responsibility for your own thoughts, attitudes, feelings, beliefs, values and behaviours. • Understanding and accepting that your partner carries full responsibility for his or her thoughts, attitudes, feelings, beliefs, values. • Understanding and accepting that you cannot change another person, not even your partner. • Giving up on trying to change your partner. Understanding and accepting that each partner carries full responsibility for their own internal wellbeing draws an all-important boundary between a couple that enables each one of them to work on their individual shortcomings rather than wasting their precious energy on attempting to change their partner. Example: Marianne screams her frustration at Simon: “It’s your fault that I am so angry all the time! If you didn’t take your son’s side in everything but listened to me for once, I could be happy for a change.” Does her frustration sound reasonable? Absolutely! Will her behaviour achieve the desired results? Not likely! Let me explain: Marianne sees Simon’s behaviour as the problem because she believes that if he listened to her and supported her in her relationship with his son she would no longer feel angry. This is totally understandable. However, Marianne does not recognize that she cannot change anyone’s behaviour other than her own and so, blaming her husband for HER feelings isn’t going to get her anywhere other than (eventually) the divorce courts. How much better would it be if Marianne decided to take responsibility for her own feelings and reactions and would say something along the following lines: “When you don’t listen to my side of the problems your son and I have been having, I feel really helpless because it doesn’t seem to matter to you what I say. When that happens I feel hurt and totally powerless, because I just don’t know how else to tell you what’s going on for me. For me to be happy in this relationship I need to feel valued and loved and that can only happen if you listen to me and try to understand my point of view, too.” Communicating in this way, Marianne takes responsibility for her own feelings whilst at the same time, without blaming, letting Simon know how his actions are impacting on her and what she needs from him in order to feel safe and happy in their relationship. Approaching their difficulty in this way ensures that Marianne does not violate Simon’s boundaries, that she retains her own integrity yet gives Simon all the information he needs in order to make helpful choices. Remembering that true love can only be rooted in freedom, giving a choice is of vital importance. Because Simon now does not feel manipulated, controlled or treated like a little boy who needs to be told what to do, he is far more likely to change his behaviour to one that is more conducive to a happy love relationship than he would be if he felt coerced or manipulated. Respecting our partner’s boundaries also helps THEM keep their self-esteem intact and to feel truly valued and loved. It helps US recognize that WE ARE NOT at the mercy of our partner’s behaviours, but have the RIGHT TO MAKE CHOICES that are appropriate and healthy for us. It gives us permission to say “no” to something we don’t agree with, approve of or aren’t wholeheartedly prepared to do. It also gives our partner the same rights and privileges. EXTERNAL SEPARATENESS: The freedom to retain our individuality (not having it resented, ridiculed or quashed) also allows us to continue doing the things we love but in which our partner has no interest. For instance, if you enjoy ballet (like me) and your man (like mine) would much rather endure all kinds of torture than sit through Swan Lake, this does not mean that you have to give up your love for ballet! It just means that you have the wonderful opportunity to call a friend who shares your passion and with whom you can make ballet concerts your special girl’s nights out. If your partner enjoys a blokey get-together for footy grand finals (which are of no interest to you), it doesn’t mean that he has to give up on this pleasure for your sake. You can hate it all you like whilst respecting that this is something he enjoys. With this in mind, why not stock up the fridge with his favourite beer, wish him a great night and vanish to your bedroom with a good book or use the opportunity to catch up with a friend. Individual differences, preferences, likes or dislikes will only have the power to diminish your love for each other if you give them that power. If you decide that these can, in fact, be the very things that make your relationship more interesting and more colourful, then you can see them as empowering and positive.
I trust that this post (together with the previous one) provides a useful illustration of the importance of both, TOGETHERNESS AND SEPARATENESS. Clearly, only a couple who trust each other can have true togetherness and the kind of separateness that enhances a love relationship. This demonstrates how vital it is to a healthy relationship that couples have all essential building blocks in place, as one or just a few of them simply cannot provide the type of foundation that promises to withstand the storms of life they are certain to encounter throughout their relationship journey.