Why Healing Our Personal Struggles Can Also Heal Our Relationships
In my practice, I see individuals and couples of all ages and many different walks of life. I learn so much from each of them, and it’s fascinating seeing how people interact with one another throughout their lives.
For example, with one couple that I see, the wife is an Enneagram 7, and the husband is an Enneagram 9. I share this detail to help you understand their strengths and weaknesses. If you don’t know much about the Enneagram, you can read more about it in my blog “Embracing the Enneagram.”
As a 9, the husband is very out of touch with his own anger. His anger is a scary force to him that is too uncomfortable to tolerate within himself. He is so uncomfortable with his own anger, that he is constantly trying to soothe his wife’s anger. As a 7, the wife has a huge fear of feeling burdened, sad, or tied down. She is so uncomfortable with this feeling, that she doesn’t share or open up to him for fear of burdening him. It’s almost as if they both don’t want the other to feel the thing that they themselves are afraid of. Read that again to let that sink in.
Do you see the paradox, here? Because he is constantly trying to soothe her, she feels like she must be a burden on him. When she is constantly filtering her emotions and avoiding sharing too much, he thinks she is angry with him. They are both struggling to protect their partner from the things that are most scary to them, but in doing so they end up feeling disconnected.
The things that we can’t soothe in ourselves, we want to soothe in our partners. The things that are intolerable in ourselves we can’t tolerate in our partner.
While this struggle is challenging, it does have a solution. But, it takes work on each individual’s part. In order to be present and be in relationship with others, we have to be willing to do the hard work ourselves. We have to learn to tolerate that which we fear is intolerable. When we can handle what we are feeling, we are able to handle what others are feeling and not worry about fixing them.
At the root of this solution is cultivating healthy differentiation in Family Systems, something I discuss more in depth in my YouTube series. Differentiation is a concept of learning to stand on your own two feet when in relationships, and being able to tolerate your own anxiety.
Therapy is a wonderful tool for cultivating healthy differentiation. It will help you learn to tolerate and face your own struggles, and in turn, you will become more present with your partner and loved ones.
How Therapy Helps
Two important things happened in the session with that couple and will continue to happen even after:
Naming the problem. Doing so helps them normalize and understand it, so they can work together to solve it. This shifts things away from a “him vs. her” thing and more towards an “us vs. the problem” thing.
- Learning to tolerate and handle their own struggles first. This begins to help them grow personally and be better partners. Our own individual growth is such a key aspect of our relational growth.
We each face unique challenges and struggles, and there is no one-size-fits all approach to healing. If you think therapy could help you work toward your own sense of belonging or bring clarity to a relationship, please don’t hesitate to connect with me. I am passionate about creating the space for you to process and find peace, encouraging growth in a way that resonates with your journey.