couples therapy
imago therapy

Looking back and looking forward

from publication series OUR RELATIONSHIPS    July 2012

For two years, I’ve been writing my column about couples’ issues that affect us all — but with a particular slant toward you, dear readers, whom, I’ve been assuming, are mostly married women with young families, working toward finding happiness in the relationship with your partner. In my columns, I’ve tried to combine knowledge from my studies, my practice, my marriage, and those of my friends and colleagues. The main thing I’ve learned over the years is that we’re all in this relationship thing together. We struggle, we learn, we practice new techniques, we compromise, we do what’s required in order to give ourselves what our human species needs: a family, a partner who is there for us, a safe haven in which to repair our wounds and regenerate energy, and the experience of trust and comfort that enable us to go back out in the world feeling peaceful and good.

The lucky ones among us have a “normal” enough growing up experience, so that we can mostly get these needs filled without acting out in ways that make things worse. The more challenged of us grew up in less-than-ideal circumstances and have to fight every instinct not to fall back into crazy old ways. Whether more challenged or not, there are no guarantees of which of our marriages will endure and prosper, and which will fail and end.

Looking back over my columns, it seems that the main tool to keep a couple on the hopeful track is thoughtful, gentle, and calm communication. Without talking things over and problem solving, it’s hard to imagine what else can help a couple get through the ups and downs of life. Doing the right thing is the hard part, but the path we must take is no mystery. The mystery that seems to be pulling my attention now is that of achieving success in other kinds of situations.

I’ve recently been witnessing people going through the aftermath of a relationship breakup. The shock, disorientation, loneliness, and the figuring out how to rebuild life are powerful challenges. But, in talking about the relationship and why it failed, clients and friends usually see signs of something to learn about themselves that can point toward personal growth as they move on.

Most single-again people will wish to learn from the past and find a new, happier relationship in the future. In these new, committed relationships, experience and age have supposedly taught us what it takes to make things work, and we want to attend to following those guidelines; it is of interest to see what kind of satisfaction and rewards we can realistically reap. The possibility of new complications like stepchildren, money issues, health concerns, and even retirement transitions make these later-years relationships an increasingly interesting phenomenon.

Another mystery is our relationship with our children: how we can help our kids grow up well-adjusted with a realistic idea of what to expect from life and from themselves? The parenting, obviously, starts at birth, but presents different complications at different phases. For example, many parents are faced with young adult kids who are having difficulty launching themselves, and the parents must figure out an appropriate role that’s not too distant, but not too enabling of an over-dependence that can stunt personal growth.

And then, of course, as we parents get older, we have to find a comfortable role in attending to adult children who have their own spouses and kids, just like the kids have to find a comfortable role with us.

A final relationship question that intrigues me is our relationship with our self. There are few of us who continually feel the inner peace that we crave. Inner depression and anxiety are world-wide issues and seem to plague all of us human beings in one way or another. How to best handle these feelings by learning techniques that help and keep us connected to those we love seems to be the short answer for now, but this is a search that we are all in for the long haul.

All of this is to say, dear reader, that for the time being, I will stop writing these columns devoted to young family relationships and look at what’s next for me to explore. My pleasure in writing will, no doubt, remain, so I will be writing again in the future. Until then, best wishes to all.

>> read the previous article in the publication series OUR RELATIONSHIPS
>> return to list of publications

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