Happy Valentines Day – 2014
I have always thought that valentines day is a day for lovers, a time to communicate your feelings for that special someone. Yes chocolate, flowers, dinner and dancing are common vehicles intended to deliver these tender feelings, but without presence and intention they miss the mark. Even if you find the “perfect gift” but you don’t “show up” to deliver it (you just go through the motions cause that’s what your “supposed to” do) your special someone won’t receive YOU and you will both feel disappointed.
This is often the story I hear while counselling couples, right before the words, “I can’t do anything right” and “I have no idea what she wants from me anymore.” Being on autopilot, trying to “do what she/he wants me to do”, while a common coping strategy, is a recipe for disaster.
While understandable, this behavioural response is often seen in a partner, who over time has come to believe that they really can’t do anything “right” and have no idea how to please their partner. So they start to hold back, to shut down. Eventually they become withdrawn. Not only does this partners voice and emotions get muted or silenced, they miss out on opportunities for tender moments of connection.
The other partner likely feels like he/she can’t “find” the partner described above – can’t connect with him/her as he/she is physically present but not emotionally accessible. Over time this can lead the partner to “pursue”, often in nonproductive ways. The behaviours of “pursuit” are protests triggered by disconnection. They look and feel reactive. They sound like this, “You never talk to me” and “This relationship is doomed.” The deeper, more vulnerable translation of these statements sounds something like this, “Can we sit down and talk after the kids go to bed? I really miss you?” and “I’m so worried that we won’t be able to figure this out and our relationship will end.”
It’s challenging for couples to recognize these patterns and create healthier ones on their own. This is where counselling is very helpful. While it may seem “odd” to give couples counselling to your partner as a gift on Valentines Day, in reality, it is a tender gesture of hope. It might go over better if you add chocolates and red wine and it’s sure to be a hit, if you are emotionally accessible when you present it. Good Luck and Happy Valentines Day to all Lovers.
Elizabeth Lacey is a Couples Counsellor and the Founder of Oakridge Counselling (2004). She has worked with Couples for nine years and feels honoured to walk alongside partners in their journey.