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Fight the Good Fight

Why I Became a Couples Therapist

A lot of therapists shudder when they think of working with couples -- the bitter comments, the  eye-rolling, the blame, blame, blame. So much easier to just sit with one person instead of dealing with two, with all their combined histories, hurts and anger. Not to mention this "thing" they've created, this relationship that has seriously gone off the skids.
I like the skids.
That's where all the real stuff is.  It's inside that mess of frustration and pain and old patterns that the answers live. It's not about who is right and who is wrong. (Really, it's not.) It's about why this one person - of all the people in the universe - can set you off so easily. Yes, you fell in love with him/her. But, really you chose this partner to make you happy. You just didn't know that the road to happiness was going to be this hard.
It's supposed to be hard.
Relationships are hard, and the intimate connection you make with someone you love is really, really hard. That's because if you want what we all want--a person who accepts you for who you are, loves you despite your bad temper, your bad taste, your bad breath--you've got to work for it. You've got to slog through the times she reminds you of your angry mother. You've got to try to understand why he feels like your remote and distant father. We get set off so easily by this person we fell in love with because they bring up all the old, unresolved pain of our past. And because we fell in love so completely and now we are so disappointed this person is not who we thought.
The disappointment is where true love begins.
I know that doesn't sound romantic. What about the crazy passion and racing hormones and I-can't-think-of-anything-but-you days? Wasn't that love? Yes and no. It's like the moment a mother looks into her newborn baby's eyes--a moment so deep, so connecting, so pure. That moment is nature's way of cementing the bond to help her through the days of diapers and crying and later, boneheaded teenage behavior. We are supposed to fall in love so we can grow in love. And, make no mistake, truly loving someone means growing like you've never grown before.
So why bother? Why bother falling in love, only to be disappointed?
Because the rewards are great. We can learn to tame the Beasts of
Blame and Scorn. We can learn new skills, ways of talking and fighting and stepping back and coming together. And we can learn to take responsibility for our feelings (no, someone else didn't make you feel that way!) and realize we can never (I repeat never) change someone else--but we can change ourselves.
And if, despite all your changes, your partner doesn't change? Well, then you get
to make a decision whether it's worth it to stay. But that decision
will come from a powerful place where you are strong in yourself--not
from an angry, reactive, blaming place where someone else controls your behavior/feelings.
Why do I know this?
Because I've done this work. I've been the Before and I'm now much more the After. (Except on my worst days, but we all get to be human...) I'll hold off that story for another day.
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