Peter, a client of mine, wants to talk about his relationship in addition to coaching for his work.
He has a composite family. A few years ago he separated from his first love and met a new woman. Together they were very happy for a number of years. Slowly but surely problems have arisen that they do not seem to be able to get out of. His new love works a lot and is always busy, she also has a difficult relationship with his ex, so things with the children do not go smoothly. He states that she is jealous or she has some issue with her his ex, while he keeps telling her that jealousy is not necessary at all. In the background they try to have a baby together and that turns out to be not as simple as thought. He fully understands her insecure feelings now it appears that the pregnancy wish does not seem to come true just like that. But what he really has trouble with is that she only seems to be busy with herself and doesn’t make loving contact with him. Quarrels and altercations are the order of the day, he is retreating more and more and behaving less and less understanding and loving and she is trying harder and harder and seizes every straw of hope to fight in an increasingly urgent situation. He asks if I want to help them, I propose to guide them separately.
Janet comes to me for the first time and is clearly emotional, it is really becoming too much for her. She loves Peter and his children but she feels that she is not a part of the family, that she can never take Peter’s ex’s place and Peter also emphatically agreed: “My children are number 1 and my relationship with my ex is excellent.” She has negative feelings towards his ex and says that she is doing her best to do it right, towards Peter, the children, at work and now she can’t get pregnant. The emotions become too much for her and she bursts into tears.
“I don’t want to disappoint anyone, not at work, not Peter, I try so hard. Peter withdraws further and further, he is less and less understanding.” “What have I not done right now?” She wonders aloud. Then she says, “I really wanted to cancel this session and now I’m crying here.” “Why did you want to cancel?” “Well yesterday it was just as nice and I didn’t feel any urgency, you know I don’t really want to look at the negative all the time, I like to pretend it’s all right.”
“Did you know that procrastination happens to people because they want to avoid negative emotions? I mean a lot has been written about procrastination but very little about its emotional component.” “People procrastinate because they are afraid of negative emotions. Suppose you have to take an exam than you postpone “learning” because you are unconsciously afraid of the negative feelings that arise in the event of a possible failure.” “The paradox is that postponing significantly increases the likelihood that you will fail …” The stress it causes in people is a loop where you fail again and again, as if it were supposed to be.” “Recognize that completely” she exclaims. I don’t want to disappoint Peter and really want to do it right, so much so that I’m not honest with him about what I want and want spend my time on.” “I always postpone the truth about what I really want in the hope that it will work out, but as it turns out I should always have done it differently.” “You know I can’t BE until I DO something, I always have to do more.”
“In your youth and later, our ideas are formed about the essential concepts of our life. Concepts such as “love”, “intimacy”, “masculinity”, “femininity”, “success”, “doing good” … and so on. Those concepts form a blueprint in your subconscious mind depending on what meaning the concept has gained for you through experience.” “I’m just curious, shall we examine your (unconscious) ideas about ‘I have to do it right (in a relationship)’?” “Okay,” she says, not fully understanding what I mean.
“If you think you should ‘do more in the relationship’, what do you think and feel?”
“First I feel panic because how can I make this fit in with the time I have, I am very busy.” “I also feel fear, because does he think I’m good enough?” “What else, I ask?” “I am always looked at, at work, at home in my family, as if it all has to come from me.” “What else?” “I want to do my job well and also take good care of my colleagues, that is also important to me and that I am not sufficiently honest about what I can achieve, because I do not want to disappoint him, I also want it to be different between us and do hope so that it is different, but that will never come true. “
I let this information sink in for a moment and then ask her, “If all of this is going on in you when you think of ‘I have to do it right’, what is going on in your body?” “Huge unrest, I don’t know what to do at all, and I get scared, afraid of his reactions, panic.” “Then what do you predict will happen? I ask her.” “That it goes wrong,” she says firmly, “because I didn’t do it right.”
As she says this, tears flow down her cheeks. In one breath she continues: “My parents broke up and my father never showed his approval, I was difficult in his eyes and my first relationship also broke up, I could not save it.”
Concepts get their meaning in the experiences you have with them, the messages you get about them and of course how you interpret those messages. However way you look at it, your unconscious associations with crucial concepts that enable a relationship will create the emotions you experience in the relationship. Whether you feel rejected, misunderstood, unsupported, or simply unloved, all of these concepts existed in you before you met your partner. It seems as if your partner is a catalyst for those deepest fears surrounding relationship concepts, so that when things get worse, your worst expectations start to come true.
It is my experience that this happens with both partners, which is why I always start working individually in relationship coaching.
Do you want to know how this conversation will end?
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