Hello, I’m Tamara Bess, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and Director at the Center for Healthy Relationships. And today, I’d like to talk to you a little bit about finding your ‘sweet spot’ as a couple. And I want to get you to think about your relationship a little bit, think about the history of your relationship and how you got to be where you are right now. The ‘sweet spot’ in your relationship is this place where – I help couples find it all the time – it’s that space where you and your partner are safe together in a vulnerable space where you know you can protect and understand each other, it’s a space where you’re able to share things that are deeper with your partner then you’re able to share with anyone else and you’ve got each other’s backs. So, it’s this safe space that you can come back to over and over again when you know how to find it.
The thing I find with most couples, what gets them stuck and unable to find this ‘sweet spot’, this vulnerable space that allow both of you to be real and honest and who you actually are and feel safe in that space and know that your partner accepts you and loves you and understands where you’re at in that space and you understand them. The thing that gets in the way is assumptions based on each person’s personal history. You see, in my personal history, in your personal history, every one of us has what I call our ‘body history’.
Body history is that space in your body that holds unresolved energy, oftentimes it’s intensive energy, oftentimes it’s energy of things that have been held there for a really long time. And when we have something in our body history, then our partner does something that wakes up and resonates with that body history, we tend to assign the beliefs – whether they’re right or wrong – that were developed at the time that part of the body history was formed to our partner; so, we start to make assumptions toward our partner based on our own body history. I do that with my partner, my partner does that with me, it’s a mutual action. But what happens then, when you do that, is you end up creating this dynamic that makes it look a lot like what the dynamic was wherever you were growing up in whatever that relationship was, where those beliefs that are grounded in body history that’s unresolved, where those things started, your current relationship ends up looking like that. Why? Because you make assumptions whenever something that your partner does resonates for you in your body history.
So, for an example, I’m just coming up with an example on the top of my head. Let’s say that every time you washed dishes at home and you didn’t wash them right or they didn’t come clean because kids, we all know that children don’t wash dishes well all the time, that’s what learning is about but let’s say that when you wash dishes at home, your parents flipped out, they got very upset and so, you now carry anxiety about the way dishes are done in your home. So, you wash dishes or when your partner washes dishes, that anxiety comes up for you and it comes up really strong and so any interactions that you have with your partner around making sure the dishes are cleaned or who does them or how they’re done, is going to be laden with emotional baggage from your body history as well as the beliefs that get formed at that time. So, let’s just say that in that time that your parents got upset with you for not getting dishes done right, you developed a belief that says, “I can’t do anything right”. If you developed that belief, then your partner is likely unable to come to you with anything that needs to be problem-solved, anything that is a need that they have that actually needs to be addressed, anything that would require negotiation in relationship, your unexplored unexamined belief around not having done the dishes ‘right’ will lead you to that conclusion that you made a long time ago, “I can’t do anything right”. And then, you can see how every time your partner comes to you to problem-solve or to say, “Hey, what are we going to do about this?” if that belief pops up, “I can’t do anything right”, then you’re likely to sabotage that problem-solving conversation at the very beginning, from the start. And without exploring that, without figuring out what that’s about and figuring out how that pops up in context of the communication that you have with your partner over and over again, those unexplored undiscovered often beliefs that are so laden with emotional energy just control us behind the scenes.
So, what we do here, at the Center for Healthy Relationships, is we get the two of you talking. We get you talking in a way that helps you start to see what your assumptions are, where you’re making assumptions, where you’re running on beliefs that were true from the past but maybe aren’t a good fit for your current relationship and help you start to question, help you start to be open and curious about the fact that maybe the things that feel true for you aren’t actually true in reality in the relationship. Maybe you’re safer than you think you are. And the more we chip away at that and the more we learn how to recognize your patterns in your relationship, the easier it is for you to start to recognize those assumptions when they come up when you’re not in the therapy office.
One of the other things that I want to say about finding that ‘sweet spot’ as a couple is that while a therapist is important as a facilitator in that process, a therapist is not as important as a therapist might believe in that process. So, in a lot of traditional therapy, you’ll see the husband and the wife both talking or that each partner both talking to the therapists, so they create this triangle where the intensity of interaction between partners is reduced because both are talking to a therapist. At the Center for Healthy Relationships, we believe that that’s the wrong way to help you work through relationship issues. There are lots of therapists who have a philosophy that says, “Here, let me talk to you and then I’ll help you sort it through”, but the truth is that by doing that, there’s an awful lot of projection from the therapist on to you a couple about what a healthy relationship looks like for you. Now, it’s true that there are some principles of healthy relationships; you know, fighting fair and not calling each other names, recognizing when your stress level gets too high that it’s time to stop interacting, those are things that are really real and really kind of good foundational understanding to have when you’re talking about couples’ therapy and couple relationships and how to have a healthy relationship where both people are allowed to be who they are, that’s really true. But, when both of you talk to the therapist instead of talking to each other, you don’t really have to look at your stuff. When you’re talking to each other in the therapy room, the places where you get stuck show up; they rise to the surface. And then the therapist – me or the people who work for me, I actually can’t heal the world, so I have two interns; they’re Carla and Roger and they work really well with couples as well – but the therapist can see the dynamic and help you recognize what’s happening and then engage you in a conversation together with each other, not with the therapist in the middle, about what is it; ask your partner what it is that would be most helpful to them right now, instead of the therapist deciding and prescribing what would work the best for you right now.
The whole goal at the Center for Healthy Relationships is to help you as a couple find that ‘sweet spot’ of vulnerability, find that ‘sweet spot’ of openness and curiosity that you had, most likely, at the beginning of your relationship, but after months or years of this interaction where something happens and your body history encourages you to default to old beliefs that sabotage your connection, then you come to this place where you’re meeting a therapist in their office in a level of disconnection, maybe even thinking that your relationship is over when what’s gotten in the way are assumptions and beliefs that are not based in the present but every time they happen, they feel so real that your assumption, your belief, the natural conclusion – it’s not a ‘natural’ conclusion – but the natural conclusion that follows is “this must be the reality in my relationship”. Here at the Center for Healthy Relationships, we specialize in helping you find that ‘sweet spot’. We’re really good at helping you see where you’re protecting yourself, where you’re using assumptions and using self-protection rather than openness and vulnerability to come together in a way that you came together in the beginning, to help you heal and help you heal each other, that’s what relationship therapy is about.
I really believe that healthy relationships are a crucible for personal self-growth. That’s the place where, when we help you find that ‘sweet spot’, the two of you can get back to that – I don’t know, it’s a cliché – but get back to that ‘you and me against the world’ mentality, where you feel like together you can do anything.
So, I just wanted to put that out there today and really talk to you about what couples therapy can and should look like and what the goal is. And how, yes, it’s important to have a third party to guide you in a process, but it’s really not so important to have the third party participate in your couples’ process. The best thing to do is to have a third party stay outside of your relationship as much as possible, while seeing what it is that’s happening between the two of you and equipping you, handing you the tools that you need so that you can rework things together and find that ‘sweet spot’.
I’m Tamara Bess, thank you so much for watching. I also have a podcast and so, if you’d like to get to know me more, if you’d like to get to know philosophies behind treatment or you just are really interested in learning more and taking your healing to a deeper level, you can go to www.listentoyourbodyhealyourlife.com where the podcast lives. You could also email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to have questions answered that I answer once a month on the podcast. Or you could reach out to me at the Center for Healthy Relationships.
Thanks so much for watching, I wish you well. I’m Tamara Bess.