Relationship Tips: Hang In There!
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Yesterday, I got a message from a client who wants to stop coming because she’s tired of her husband saying one thing in the session, and the opposite at home. I called her back, and reminded her that the three of us had made an agreement to meet in person if any of us wanted to stop working together. All relationships involve cooperation and commitment. It ain’t always easy.
Many clients come to me when their relationship is hanging barely by a thread. We have to work really hard to rescue the invisible third “person” in the relationship—the couple. (When I refer to a couple, I mean any close relationship, whether life partner, family, friend, or colleague.) I know what you’re thinking: “Doctor-Jon, it’s hard enough to focus on our own needs, let alone our partners’—and now you want us to focus on a make-believe person’s?” But it is that invisible place between the couple where growth takes place.
I just used the word, “growth.” We all say we want it, but do we really? I think this client is, and all of us are, afraid of it. She and her husband had just had a great session, in which they showed some understanding of each other. When we’re used to being hurt by our partner, we try to hang on to our defenses. Something different happened in the session, and it freaked this gal out! They were so used to misunderstanding and mistreating each other, that it’s only natural that the communication broke down outside of the session.
If we say we want to heal and grow, we have to walk the talk. We have to know that growth is not a smooth path—there are many bumps and apparent impasses along the way. But none of these obstacles is insurmountable if we hang in there and keep the lines of communication open! There’s a Billy Joel song called, Tell her About it. Well, she may not want to hear! I remember when I worked so hard to “get” Robin to talk about his feelings. Well, shut my mouth—a lot of anger came out!
Every year, Robin leads an action at the Richmond Marriage Bureau on Valentine’s Day. We LGBT people in life partnerships have shown that we can make it despite powerful odds. Robin and I will keep going to that marriage bureau every year until marriage is passed in Virginia—and we know that it will happen. Whether it’s a relationship with our partner or our community, we have to hang in there until we get a win-win!
Jonathan Lebolt, PhD (“Doctor Jon”) is a licensed clinical social worker, psychoanalyst, and group psychotherapist specializing in relationship issues. He lives with his partner of 14 plus years, Rev. Dr. Robin Gorsline, and their princely pooch, Cocoa. Robin and Jonathan are proud grandfathers of a beautiful one-year-old girl, Juna. Feel free to contact Doctor Jon at his website.
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