Loneliness together. My dear friend – goodbye? Farewell…
«Our relationship is falling apart!», «Help me save the family!».
The request concerning suffering in a relationship and desire to get better is quite common.
To begin with, it is probably worth mentioning that a relationship doesn’t exist on its own and in any couple it is unique. It is a living environment of some kind, which is created by two people. Environment, mutual territory, in which they live. Territory which has two creators. Environment which, depending on what exactly its creators contribute to it and in which proportions and combinations, can be either nourishing or infertile or even poisonous.
That is the reason why, when people come to me to work on their relationship, we are to find answers to many questions. How is their environment structured? Or how they feel living in it? How are they forming the environment? And is there a possibility to structure it in some other way so as to live in this environment more comfortably.
In this article, I would like to describe what is usually behind the request concerning relationship and what the process of therapy looks like in each of these cases.
Sometimes the request «our relationship is falling apart» means a great distance between the partners. Clients with a distant relationship say about themselves: «We’ve become too distant from each other», «We live like neighbours», «Loneliness together», «We have nothing in common anymore».
There are several ways of development in such cases.
As a rule, something has happened at some stage of the relationship. Possibly, something big and substantial. Or a sequence of small but unpleasant events. It’s not so important what exactly has happened. What is important is that, as a result, a critical number of unpleasant emotions and feelings are accumulated: offence, anger, annoyance, irritation, repulsion. Why these feelings might appear? The reasons are different. Someone breaches an agreement, someone doesn’t care about the partner, someone doesn’t contribute to the shared household – the reasons are numerous. And to express these feelings is impossible because the partner might be seriously hurt. Or will become angry in return. Or behave in any other way which will make it impossible to resolve the conflict while provoking another quarrel is quite a possibility.
What to do then? They have a family! And then the partners can decide not to try to express their feelings and needs to save «healthy atmosphere» in the family. Inverted commas, because, as you may have already guessed, the tension is still out there and eventually it becomes overwhelming. And the only way not to let this tension wash over and destroy the relationship is to distance from each other.
That is how the loneliness together builds up. Together with what people describe as «a rift», «a gulf between us».
And when such a couple comes to therapy, enormous heaps of offence, anger, rage, irritation and other unpleasant feelings come to surface fast enough. And if we sort it out during the therapy, then the couple has a chance to reach love under all those layers and save the relationship.
But unfortunately, sometimes it happens otherwise. During the therapy, it may turn out that people have distanced from each other because their love chemistry has expired and other reasons to be together haven’t been formed. Then the therapy centres around acceptance of the fact that everything comes to an end. No matter how trivial it may sound, realization of terminations (of cycles, periods, relationships and lives themselves) sometimes can be painful and distressing. So distressing that it may be easier to lie to yourself that the relationship still has a future. Anything but not to face the fear of loneliness. Or to disappoint mother. Or not to be a loser, in case relationships and family are viewed as a super value. During the therapy, together with clients we look for these poisonous values which justify dishonesty to oneself. That inner work that the client carries out is search for courage and resources to face reality. It is comprehension of the past relationship. It is telling goodbye to the status of a family person and to all that was not realized. It is completion of relationship with the partner. It is mourning, realization and getting over a significant period of life. It is the search for resources to go on with your life with this baggage.
It may truly become a tragedy for a person. As well as provoke a lot of resentment against the therapist. Indeed, the client came to therapy to save the relationship but it turned out to be a failure. At this point it is important to remember that anger is one of the natural reactions to loss. And that the essence of therapy is not to save the relationship at any cost but to give a person freedom of choice and an opportunity to face reality. In fact, it is impossible to terminate the relationship painlessly if you still believe that it is alive. The same way, it is impossible to say goodbye to a deceased close one until deep down this sad fact is not embraced and accepted. Again, it is impossible to give a chance to a new relationship and let happiness into your life until the previous relationship is over.
And this happens. Love dies. Relationships complete. Remember that it’s not your fault. Remember that you have a chance to love, live and breathe again.
Author Anastasija Ratushnaya
Translator Ksenia Aksenova
Original text Расстаться нельзя остаться