I wrote, some blogs ago, about how immersed I was in Esther Perel. One of the things which stood out for me was how she felt she had been in several marriages; to the same man. Gabor Mate (who is my latest listening/reading obsession) says he has been married 8 times to the same woman.
What does that even mean?
I’m a long term, serial monogamist, not by design, it’s just how it has been. One relationship ended in my partner’s untimely death, but usually I get to the stage in a relationship where I’ve had enough. Up to this point I will have tried to talk about any issues as they went along, done my own therapy, my own learning, accommodated and changed my life to try and make the relationship work. Twice before I have been to couples therapy, but each time the guy has been ‘for’ rather than ‘with’ me and so haven’t bought in to the process themselves and so, of course, nothing has changed.
It is very possible that I try too hard (or maybe they would say, not enough) and then I quit.
But this time is different. We are both agreed that things are over between us. Things are dead. Communication has broken down. The relationships isn’t working, it hasn’t been for a while. We know we feel stuck. But both of us know we have things to learn about our self in relationship and both of us are committed to at least remaining very good friends. And who knows, maybe we will have another relationship with each other, like Perel and Mate, but on very different terms.
This is new for me (and for him). We would both usually quit and walk away. Yes there are kids involved, but that’s not the reason for going to therapy. For me, it is because I have had enough relationships now to see the patterns I take with me; patterns which I want to drop. I know where they come from, I know the roles well and maybe it is this shift to 50+ that means I am sick of them.
I always feel like I am the responsible one, the motivator, the organizer, the relationship maintenance person. I fall into being the therapist, thinking about and reflecting on emotions for both of us (in all my relationships). I know that I get labelled ‘too emotional’ and that this goes way back to my earliest, childhood relationships. I see how I often go for men are emotionally unavailable and who can’t or don’t commit, and maybe that is because I am not good at commitment either. I see how I set up some of those dynamics and how I allow them to continue. I know the only person I can change is myself.
And it is a privileged to have him join me in this journey too. For the first time in my life I have someone who is as committed to the journey of therapy as I am.
It takes courage to do therapy. It takes even more courage to do it with a person who, on one hand, knows you so well and in other ways, might not know you at all. To be in the room with someone who might contradict you, challenge you, disagree with you, prise the therapist/client alliance from dyad into a triad is challenging.
The therapy room is inevitably crowded; my parents, his, our exes, our shadows, our siblings, our work and colleagues, the kids. The therapist has a unique opportunity to see the relationship dynamics played out live, in the room and to give feedback , offer suggestions, teach new skills. It can feel scalding to hear another person point out your faults in front of a therapist. It is painful, exhausting and hard work.
I wouldn’t miss it for the world.
Because I don’t want to settle for a relationship which is ‘good enough’ or ‘nice’. I don’t want to stay in a relationship because I feel scared to be alone or feel like I have no choice.
I have choices. I know what I want. I want joy, lightness, fun, great communication, adventure, playfulness, great sex, respect, intimacy, support, emotional connection, friendship, laughter, loyalty. This list goes on. And as Esther Perel says, we have never expected more of our relationships at a time when we have less support and fewer skills.
Maybe he and I should just walk away and, in time, start again with someone new.
And still we might. But because of the therapy, we will be starting again much more wisely and aware, whether it is with each other or someone new.
Neither of us know what the outcome will be. We are trying to stay open and curious.
Staying with not knowing is a spiritual practice in itself.
(ps..for those of you who are wondering, yes he is OK with me writing this).
Some of you might be interested in the On-line course starting on 15th February (your valentines gift to yourself). It’s called; The Freedom At Fifty (or before) Course and in it I’ll be sharing (live) all my learning, tools and tricks to living the next decade more vibrantly, on your terms. Click here to find out more. x