Working with people in relationship is some of the most inspiring and fulfilling work I do. My own 40 year relationship in one of the strong foundations of who I am and what I cherish in life. The decades of personal and couples work I have done and shared with my partner Madeline reveals a possibility I wish for everyone's primary relationship, and the ongoing search for excellence in our relationship has activated this offer. I coach couples directly and jointly with Madeline. See her Web site here.
Partners have brought issues such as intimacy, trust, connection, communication, conflict, and family overwhelm to my door. Here are examples of couples I've worked with (names and situations have been altered for privacy).
"John and Janice" – Left Behind
John and Janice found themselves at their wits' end, ready to dissolve their relationship. The consequences to this would have been huge as they had a six-year-old son. John owned his business. Janice took on the dual responsibilities of taking care of the household and working part-time in the business.
What was uncovered was that the needs of each individual were being left behind for the sake of the child and the business. They had ceased working together, and they were having difficulty finding common ground in which to resolve their breakdowns. They did not know how to have conversations together. They were in constant rounds of conversations where no one listened.
I worked with each of them individually to have them understand how their own historical experiences were driving them into their automatic reactions under the stress they were living. I helped them understand that they had developed practices of communication that no longer served them. Through this understanding and gaining the ability to be responsible for themselves, they were able to see each other differently.
Together we developed new practices for communication, new practices for intimacy, new practices for working in the business together – and new practices to live together. The result of this work allowed them to start their relationship fresh, and it still thrives today.
"Tara" – All Alone
Tara was looking for a primary relationship – a life partner. She wasn't finding anyone. This left her frustrated and believing there was something wrong with her.
In observing her shape and how she organized energy within herself, it was clear that she was lacking the body of an invitation.
My work with her organized around forming a deep understanding that she was fine just as she is and a reshaping of her physical structure, the self that she is. We looked at her historical shaping which produced stories of "being something less than other people." Understanding that this was an historical process instead of the present-day reality gave her space and freedom from her old stories.
We looked at how her shape, her actions, the set of her face all contributed to holding others at a distance. Through practices that helped reveal this to her, she was slowly able to reshape into the body of an invitation. Within two months after we completed our work, she met someone. Six months later they made the request for me to officiate their wedding.
"Mary and Tom" – Let's Make a Good Start
Mary and Tom were just starting out. They had been in relationship for about 6 months and had the feeling they wanted to spend their lives together. They ask Madeline and me to work with them to set the ground for a long-lasting relationship.
Tom had not proposed yet, and was fearful of making a "wrong" move in his life. Would he lose himself in the relationship, disappear for the sake of other? His background and upbringing had displayed this with his parents. This combined with a very strong need "to do it right" held back possibilities for honest conversations.
Mary wore her emotions on her sleeve. The smallest suspected poke into her historically sensitive areas would have to be processed redundantly. Her reactions would affect Tom and push him into his "disappearing," making it difficult to move past this place in their personal interactions.
The work with them was to have them and each other intimately know how they would get triggered and the historical cause to the trigger so they can recognize when this place appeared in them and in each other. They then came into an agreement about how they would declare the moment and script each other about what to say. Once the interruption of the old pattern can happen, they were taught the skill of generative conversations, a simple process to have guidelines of how to move through difficult conversation.
This was the beginning. The process from here was to work with patterns that were difficult to shift, build and expand on practices for interrupting old patterns and facing into what was hard. For every difficulty, we would dive deeper into that place to dislodge the old to make room for the new.
The result was a proposal, marriage, and a beautiful daughter.
"Barbara & Richard" – About to Implode
Barbara and Richard came with their relationship in trouble. Their triggered response fit so well together that they lived in dangerous levels of escalation. Both were fiery in their historical shaping, which is part of what drew them together, passion and fire in their connection. After being together for a while, they developed a pattern of escalation, both refusing to give ground in their arguments. It got the point where some physical encounters started to happen.
Barbara's history shaped her to require safety first, so she had a radar for safety. When her safety felt threatened, she would defend herself. Richard's primary shaping was about abandonment to the extent would do whatever it takes to keep that from happening. In a fascinating twist to this, Barbara's fire to defend and have to leave the situation fueled Richard's trigger. In effect, Barbara assisting in provoking the situation.
I want to be clear – there is never an excuse for getting physical with one's partner. Never! There is no situation except self-defense of bodily harm when it can be excused.
This dynamic was invisible to them, they were so "in it" there was nothing else. When this dynamic hit, neither had the skill to interrupt their patterns, so this is where we started. After naming the situation for what it was – abuse – having Richard own this, and having Barbara see her part – again, no excuse for abuse – things started to shift. They began to learn to see their patterns and interrupt them, often creating space for each of them to cool down. Richard began anger management training, which also assisted in his own management. They had conversations about their commitment to the relationship to support Richard knowing he will not be abandoned.
Probably most important, they made agreements about how to maintain a safe space for them both to live in with promises for future behaviors. It was also clear what would happen if those agreements were breached. With the added skill of generative conversations and agreements about how to be in these conversations to support success.
With this depth of the difficulties, the healing process took time and a lot of effort on both parts. And so far, they are doing well.
My invitation to you
These stories are just a small sample of the people and situations that I work with. If you would like to explore how somatic coaching can help you with challenges or assist you in progressing to the next place in your life, let's set up a time to talk. I look forward to hearing from you!
The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance. –Alan Watts