Relationship Re-education

Are you ignoring important aspects of your relationship? Are those parts of your relationship crying out for recognition?

I have recently been seeing a local bodyworker/healer for rib pain and I’ve been impressed by her talent to “read” bodies. Along with significantly helping me, she has pointed out some important ways to “re-educate” my body. For example, she noticed I breathe much more from my belly than from my chest. As a result, my chest and ribs have stiffened, partly leading to my current problem. So part of my homework is complete breathing, chest as well as belly, which will help to stretch the constricted areas.

As she was working on me, I thought about how Joyce and I “read” relationships in the same way this woman reads bodies, and how important it is to re-educate people in their relationships. A relationship, like a body, is a whole organism existing in a delicate balance. If we ignore a part of the relationship, it will become constricted or inflamed like my rib cage.

In our counseling sessions or at our workshops, we often see couples where one partner has taken on the role of a parent, and the other partner the role of a child. This was true in a recent workshop with Paul and Beth. Paul was older, financially stable, as well as a nurturing man. Beth had trouble making decisions, and yielded to Paul’s wisdom. Thus they were stuck in the role of father and daughter. The part of their relationship they were not using, and which was becoming constricted and inflamed, was the mother/son part. The mother part of Beth was not taking adequate care of the child part of Paul. Paul was ignoring his inner child, and therefore had difficulty asking Beth for the parenting love he was needing. This part of their relationship was becoming constricted, literally squeezed out of the couple’s consciousness, and inflamed as well with a building resentment. A pain and sadness had crept into their partnership because a little boy was not getting the love he needed and a mother was not giving the love and nurturing she needed to give.

When we had Paul curl up into Beth’s lap, and guided them to feel the mother/son part of their relationship, a trapped energy was released in the form of emotional catharsis. An unused part of their “relationship body” was being stretched. This is relationship re-education.

Let’s look at Virginia and Stan. While working with them in therapy on the phone (since they lived across the country), I noticed how much they criticized one another and rarely said words of appreciation or acknowledgement. They were surprised when I pointed this out, and admitted they had never noticed how the criticism had all but taken over their relationship. Without adequate appreciation, genuinely telling your partner what you love about him or her, the love will drain out of the relationship. Again, their relationship was needing re-education. I began and ended each of Virginia and Stan’s sessions with their appreciation of one another. They told me it made all the difference in their being able to make the changes they needed. Their appreciation became a kind of baseline from which they could then heal the wounds of the past.

There are so many ways our relationships can be re-educated. We love to teach couples how to be more vulnerable with each other, to admit to feeling hurt without having to resort to anger or blame, to admit fear rather than running away, or to ask for love rather than push a partner away. In the sexual arena, we teach couples to be more aware of each other’s needs, to speak to one another while making love, and to slow down. When there is anger, to express it in healthier ways, with “I” statements rather than putting the other one down. And perhaps most of all, to bring spirituality into the relationship by means of shared practices like prayer and meditation.

What part of your relationship is not being used, or is constricted or inflamed? How can you re-educate you own relationship?

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