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Understanding Relationships: Before, During and After

February 26, 2012 | Comments: 0 | Views: 144

You've heard the phrase "You marry your mother (or father)." Psychologists attest to the validity of that expression. Of course, they put it somewhat differently: we tend to marry (or establish a relationship with) someone who embodies the strongest traits, both positive and negative, of our primary caregivers, usually our parents. If you are already in a relationship, try the following exercise.

Draw two large circles, one above the other, with a horizontal line through the centre of each. In the upper half of the one of the circle, write all the positive traits of your partner; in the lower half, write all the negative traits. In the upper half of the other circle, write all the positive traits of both your parents (you don't need to distinguish them) and in the lower half all their negative traits. Now take a red pencil and draw connecting lines between words that appear in both circles. If you have never done this exercise before, you may find the result surprising.

Why do we do this? Some say we choose partners who will enable us to work out issues we were never able to resolve with our parents. There's more. When we reach adulthood we unconsciously endeavour to replicate the psychological world of our early childhood. If you grew up in an atmosphere of love, acceptance and respect, you'll be happy with the replication. Unfortunately it also works in negative cases. I had a client, consistently ignored as a child, who now lives with a wife and son who consistently ignore him. It's no coincidence.

During the Relationship How do you make a relationship work? You'll probably think of the word "communication," but I suggest that the word "listening" carries more power. We seldom have the experience of being really listened to, with full attention. In a dispute we tend to concentrate on our counter-arguments. Mirroring offers a formal technique for attentive listening, but you don't need to follow that exercise if you remember that love is attention: complete, undivided attention.

I have found three books to be particularly useful: Guy Grenier, The 10 Conversations You Must Have Before You Get Married John Gottman, The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work Terence Real, The New Rules of Marriage

If asked for a single piece of advice, I would say that in the happiest marriages the partners allow themselves to be influenced by each other.

After the Relationship The marriage or relationship has ended and after an initial period of anger and grief you find yourself experiencing a certain measure of relief. It's nice to be able to live without that perpetual conflict. You might even be thinking about starting another relationship.

Before you do, consider this. We establish relationships with people at the same level of psychological maturity as ourselves. Unless you've gone through psychotherapy, or some other experience of personal growth, you will hook up with a pretty close simulacrum of your last partner. If you have been abused, you will take up with another abuser, despite all your promises to do things differently this time. (Remember the principle of replicating your childhood situation.)

Before getting involved in another relationship, consider individual or group therapy, or some other formal training to foster your personal growth, so that you can attract, and be attracted to, someone who can better assist you on your life's journey.

Arthur Wenk, a psychotherapist practicing in Oakville, Ontario, combines cognitive-behavioral therapy (discovering techniques for producing immediate changes) with a psychodynamic approach that helps make changes permanent by addressing the root causes of mental health problems. Learn more at http://www.arthurwenk.com, where you will find one-page summaries of recommended books on personal growth, brief explanations of common mental health issues, and lectures on parenting, the psychology of families, and the functioning of the brain, as well as an explanation of the mirroring technique and how to use it to improve partner communication.

Source: EzineArticles
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