Relationships are the growing edge of each partner’s personality, where we are encouraged, hopefully, toward all we can be. Effective relationships support individuality as well as enriching interconnectedness.
Because unhelpful patterns of relating become more obvious during struggles in relationships, partners hold the key to our becoming more whole and aware. The commitment of being with a partner takes courage and a willingness to be at least a little flexible.
Relationships are key to personal growth
Relationships are rarely easy. Unfortunately it is usual for them to bring pain and frustration at times; tolerating this is a test for our maturity and love. Partners often push our psychological and emotional buttons, and bring out our fixed and limiting habits of relating, which often are similar to how our caregivers related.
The power struggle that sometimes reveals itself in couples problems shows that we often need to win, proving ourselves right and our partner wrong, rather than extend ourselves to help our partner feel loved and good about themselves. Extending ourselves, and not competing, helps improve the relationship for both parties.
Sometimes in relationships we feel that we own our partner, and as such treat them as if they are an extension of us rather than a separate person in their own right. Truly loving relationships require non-possession rather than possession, this demands immense courage.
Gestalt therapy views relationships as necessary for personal growth and wholeness. Imago therapy provides specific dialogue structures that when used within Gestalt experiments offer couples opportunities for insight and creativity in finding new ways of relating.
Imago therapy is becoming more popular across the world for couples work. The originator, Dr Harville Hendrix, proposes that when we enter new relationships we tend to choose our Imago – the person who appears to satisfy all the qualities that we yearned for, but didn’t get, from our caregivers. According to Hendrix, when the romantic love phase ends, and it always does, the real relationship begins, and often the things that most attracted us to our partner become a source of frustration and struggle.
Hendrix suggests that we become so engrained in our personal world view that it is difficult for us to set this to one side to understand our partner’s world view. The Imago approach offers some useful ways of widening our world views to include the views of others and stretch ourselves into becoming more supportive partners.
Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.Carl Jung
To love means to be actively concerned for the life and the growth of another.
A love [relationship] is defined as a voluntary union of two individuals based upon romantic attraction that is stirred by unconscious needs that have their roots in unresolved childhood issues. Harville Hendrix