My approach to relationship issues is probably a bit 'left field' since much of it is derived from my spiritual background in yoga.
First of all let's acknowledge the obvious – men and women are different! They have quite different hormonal drives and male and female brains are wired up differently. Not only that, but men and women acquire quite different perspectives on life from the 'socialisation' they undergo whilst growing up. Socialisation refers to the process whereby as children – and subconsciously for the most part, we adopt the prevalent attitudes, belief systems, & behavioural patterns of our parents and other significant adults in our lives - which in turn reflect the cultural values of the society we are living in – and that includes gender bias.
As one major Yoga leader put it: Men and women are polar opposites! Neither can experience the world of the other so the challenge is for each to understand as much as they can about the world of their partner – and to accommodate the difference that creates.
So what does this all mean? Well, by and large, it means that (to varying degrees) men grow up somewhat detached from their feelings, poor communicators (at least with women), and orientated towards 'thinking' and 'doing'. By contrast women tend to grow up very much in touch with their emotions, good at communicating (although not necessarily with men), and orientated towards 'feeling'. Women are also great 'doers' – but may have quite different priorities about what needs to be done!
Moving from disharmony towards harmony therefore has to involve:
- Understanding the impact his/her hormonal system has on your partner – and accepting it. Not only that but learning how to accommodate the way it works on your partner – and providing support for that where necessary.
- Understanding a little bit more about the differences in brain function – not only accepting them, but accommodating and respecting them.
- Understanding how socialisation has given you certain attitudes regarding gender that are damaging to relationships. Learning how to de-construct damaging attitudes and adopt new attitudes that foster communication, understanding, and harmony in relationship.
And then of course there is the ego! The statistics for same sex relationships indicate similar breakdown rates to heterosexual relationships. Given that the issues outlined in 1), 2), and 3) above shouldn't be of much relevance in same sex relationships the problems must stem from another source – and the ego seems the most likely culprit! And if it is then it will also be at play in heterosexual relationships. The ego is likely to show up in our expectations, needs, and demands – which are all too often prioritised without due attention being given to the needs, expectations, and demands our partner will also have. Disharmony is the inevitable result. The good news is that needs, expectations, and demands are all behavioural patterns lodged in our subconscious mind – so if we want to we can choose to change them.
There are also a couple of other factors that eminent authors on relationship raise for consideration:
- To successfully love another person you must first know and truly love yourself.
- Every person should embody a balance of both masculine and feminine characteristics. IE. A man should also have available to him the qualities of feeling, empathy, and receptivity, and a woman some of the masculine aspects of energy and doing. If this is not the case the danger is that a partner will be chosen to meet a need (often subconscious) to provide balance in respect of the undeveloped masculine or feminine aspect in that person's life. A relationship based on need – even subconscious need, is likely to be in trouble as soon as the chemistry of physical attraction (often mistaken for love) begins to diminish (usually within 6-18 months).This is probably not too much of an issue for post feminist women – but is very likely to be an issue for men in a society where homophobia, whilst being 'politically incorrect', is still an issue and having 'feelings' is often still given the negative connotation of being 'girly'.
Intimate relationships are about LOVE! But what exactly is love? The Macquarie Dictionary states that it is a strong affection, or feeling of warm personal attachment for another person. It definitely involves feeling good – which is why the chemistry of attraction is often mistaken for love. Perhaps love is a state of the most intimate communication and connection possible between two souls?
Whatever your belief about the nature of love what is true is that anything that forms a barrier to open communication between partners is also a barrier to love.
So relationship counselling for me has a number of aspects:
- It is a journey into self discovery.
- It is a journey into understanding the nature of your partner.
- It will be about communication - identifying and deconstructing the barriers to intimate communication that may exist; and/or learning how to communicate so completely with your partner it is almost as though – in those moments of deep emotional, energetic, and physical connection, you are one entity, not two.
- It is about learning how to co-create – from moment to moment, that state of deep emotional connection that is experienced as love.