Archive: June, 2012

Traveling Together

Couples can learn how to be together through travels. This can consist of a small weekend or day trip or something longer and more intricate. The metaphor of the journey a couple takes and how they navigate and progress along the way, parallels the essence of a relationship, as we note in our book, Couples at the Crossroads: Five Steps to Finding Your Way Back to Love. The same challenges of a relationship appear daily in our regular routine and become accentuated when we travel to new areas whether physically or psychologically. Once we change, we cause a ripple effect and change occurs. Once we take a trip, we can expand our world as it may take us to places that we have not yet experienced.

The travels together can be a vehicle to encourage partners to co-exist in an altered proximity than happens in daily life and therefore require partners to adopt different methods for coping. Each one has to pitch in and may find out that the support needed is actually there, when it was assumed otherwise. And, partners may be surprised to find that once emotional needs are put forward, support can emerge. Only when partners acknowledge the holes, can they work together to fill them. This creates an opportunity for each to carve out ways to make the situations with each other more solid. The traveling becomes foundation building.

When traveling, partners can learn to build safety with and for each other. They become partners on the road and learn reliance and healthy dependence when together in different territory. And, from this experience, they find they can learn another level of trust and well-being. There is a give and take, a flexibility that can be discovered as they move out of the known into the unknown. Qualities may emerge that each did not realize and these become appreciated.

Travel brings out a time for relaxation and pleasure. It breaks up routines of hectic daily life and accentuates the basics of spending uninterrupted time together. By setting up a different rhythm, partners can open their interactions to other possibilities. For example, they may take the time to share dreams, daily observations and reflections on feelings and emotions. They set aside the time to listen rather than be in the midst of rushing out the door. Each can learn ways of being attentive to the other. Once again, this happens as partners make a conscious choice to spend time together, but really be together. The joys and discomforts of intimacy come into bold relief. Each comes to see the challenges and rewards of their connection.

The following quote is another way of explaining the necessity of recognizing the value of the inner and outer travels that partners can take together. “The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed.” C.G. Jung

Susan E. Schwartz, Ph.D.

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Love as an Iceberg

Scientists tell us that icebergs – masses of floating ice, like the one that sank the Titanic – have one eighth of their mass above water and seven eights under water. So, when we think we see the whole thing, in reality we see only the tip of it, as the biggest part is hidden.

The same is true with love. We think that we know how we feel; we know how our partner feels for us; we know what’s going on in our relationship, and yet we may be seeing only one eighth of what’s there. There is, in fact, a whole different reality under the surface. Of some of it we may be aware but don’t want to face and deal with it; other parts we may avoid acknowledging and sharing because we may be afraid it could affect our relationship in a negative way, and of some parts we may be totally clueless and unaware.

It is this hidden layer that provides the fertile ground for love to develop and be felt for a certain person and, often, for the challenges and difficulties that develop later on, because its existence affects our views, wishes, dreams, fears, thoughts, plans and actions. This is why, at times, couples are surprised when things change in their relationship that they did not see coming.

The metaphor of the Titanic is quite apt here, because this luxury ship was supposed to be the top liner, unsinkable, with all the latest and most sophisticated technology available in those days. All its passengers and the crew felt safe and convinced that there was nothing the Titanic couldn’t handle, until it struck the ice. So, here they were, in the middle of the ocean, partying and having fun and being self-confident about their abilities to avoid danger. When all of a sudden they were struck by something they did not see, all the security and comfort they felt a moment before turned into panic, as each was scrambling to save their lives.

But how can we prepare, you might ask, for something we don’t see and are unaware of? And my answer is: by getting to know as much as we can about what lies underneath the surface. While we may never know what’s going on underneath the surface in its entirety, the more we know and are aware of, the better tools we will have to deal with challenges when they come up.

We get to know ourselves and the people close to us by entering therapy, either individually or as a couple; by reading self-help books that open up new ways of seeing things for us; by learning more about how our mind works and how we can identify and get in touch with and regulate our emotions, preventing them from becoming overwhelming; by exploring our history and piecing together what happened in our childhood and beyond that might still affect us today; by having meaningful conversations, sharing and getting feedback. All this allows each of us to get to know, reflect and make better sense of who we are.

When lovers first meet and develop an emotional relationship with one another, there is an impetus for each to talk about themselves and listen to the other. They spend a lot of time, when together, sharing their histories, their thoughts and, particularly and more importantly here, their FEELINGS. Sharing feelings is the deepest – and the most difficult – level of communication, but the one that best allows for the development of emotional closeness and intimacy.

Yes, we all have heard that men typically say they have difficulties in getting in touch with and sharing their emotions, due to centuries of cultural prohibitions against doing so, but they are also the ones who suffer the most from violent acting out, substance abuse and emotional isolation, quite possibly because they have less healthy emotional outlets. So it is healthy for men to learn to be more in touch with their emotions and talk about them with people they are close to, and with whom they will get closer still if they communicate with them at a deeper emotional level.

In a culture like our current one, where men and women alike seek emotional relationships that are open, equal and balanced, being in touch with our emotions is a necessary requirement for healthy relationships to develop and thrive. It is like having a third eye, an acquired ability to see below the surface and understand and make sense of why we feel the way we do. This, in turn, facilitates deeper emotional connections, providing more emotional security and well-being in our lives.

Daniela Roher, Ph.D.

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