At the end of my last Couples Retreat, one participant, who’d had quite a challenging time of it, declared with a big smile and evident relief that she realised that prior to the retreat she had not been relationship-oriented.
I see this a lot, in various manifestations.
In some couples, one declares they are quite happy in the relationship and so their dissatisfied partner must have their own issues to deal with. Well, no, I’m afraid that if one person is not happy then there is something wrong with the relationship not with only one of the individuals in it. Thinking otherwise is not being relationship-oriented.
I see other couples where they might both be feeling dissatisfied in the relationship, but one claims to know what the problem is, and the problem is the partner, who needs to sort out ‘their’ issues. This person is also not relationship-oriented.
And frequently I see couples where they have both done a lot of individual personal development and growth and so are puzzled as to why they are having relationship issues.
In all these cases, one or both of them is seeing themselves as two separate individuals, rather than as a two-person psychobiological unit.
If you’re recoiling from this, then you probably fall into this category too – you’re not relationship-oriented. And I have to confess that I used to be this way myself! I thought a good relationship was one where there were two strong independent individuals who got on well together.
I was partly right, yes, you do need to be two strong independent individuals, I’m not talking about fused co-dependency here. But we are a social species, and we are a pair-bonding species. When we have quality relationships with people we love, we are physically and mentally healthier and have a stronger sense of well-being.
When you are in close relationship with someone you affect each other’s biology and psychology – for the good and for the bad. So you want to be sure that your interactions are positive for both of you. That creates a secure functioning relationship.
When you have a secure functioning relationship, I like to think of it as your ‘couple bubble’, it gives you greater security in life, so you become a better individual; and becoming that better individual also strengthens your couple bubble. It’s a positive feed-back loop.
If you see yourselves as two separate individuals, then there is no couple bubble, with none of the benefits that brings. So you need to make sure that you are paying attention to your partner. You need to become experts on each other, really understand how your partner ticks, what he or she needs and wants and feels, who they really are. In that way you are relating to them in a way that works for them, not just in a way that works for you. When you are both doing that then you are co-creating in a way that is positive for both of you.
So, think about it: are you an expert on your partner? Do you relate to your partner in a way that works for them? And are they doing the same for you? Is your relationship a secure couple bubble that supports both of you physically, mentally and emotionally? Are you both relationship-oriented?