By Monika Nygaard, 
Published in Nanaimo Harbour City Star, February/00

Relationship advice for relationship problems needs to take many aspects of the relationship into account. The forms of communication and relationship patterns can unconsciously influence whether we have a healthy relationship or not.

In couples (or family) therapy there is usually a major complaint from one or both parties.  This “problem” is the symptom of what is wrong in the social unit of the family.  It often is NOT the cause.

 Usually, buy not always, in the dynamics of a relationship, the weakest link is where symptoms show.  One can heal the individual person (i.e. symptom) and then when the person is put back in the system, the old behaviour recurs. The dynamics of the inter-relationship within the system itself needs also to be addressed. 

 Marital conflict is an opportunity for personal and couple growth.  The relationship is where we are creating who we are and want to be.  The goal is to establish an environment of care, safety and trust, allowing both you and your partner to accept and enjoy the risk of self-disclosure, discover hidden parts of yourselves and develop new emotional connections.  It can be exciting, challenging and lots of fun.

The “dance” of interaction is how we respond to each other and becomes a pattern that at times can be hypnotic.  Looking at new choices and possibilities for assisting couples to come up with changes to the patterns generates more and healthier choices.

 The first step when a couple goes for assistance with marital conflict is to ascertain whether both parties are committed to the relationship, for without 100% commitment, sabotaging occurs.  The second step is to ascertain where each person is now and where they want to be and what solutions each envisions or feels would work.

 Third is recognizing the different styles of communication – that there isn’t something necessarily wrong with the other person – they just think/process differently.  This can help in understanding and in learning to speak the other’s “language” in the style that they think/process.

 Fourth, it is important to clear up any problems from each individual’s past because often a person is reacting to some trauma in the past, and not to the current situation.  Once this is done, then the communication patterns in the present relationship can be clarified and new and empowering and respectful patterns taught.

 It is also useful to not focus on negative patterns of relating to others, but find positive patterns that are worthwhile that can be enlarged.  Seeking a small change and enlarging on it in a crucial area can change the whole system.  It doesn’t take a very large hole to lead to a change in the structure of a whole dam.

 An important aspect to focus on is achieving autonomy of family members as much as if not more than togetherness.  If a child and a parent are too intensely involved, more separation and space can help.

 Assessing behaviours, internal strategies, incongruities, reframing, clearing negative emotions and traumas from the past, looking at oneself through the eyes of someone who loves you, cleaning up negative anchors with each other, finding the difference between the intention of the communication and the actual outcome of that communication, are all important areas to look at to resolve marital conflict.  Deep inner longings and unfinished childhood business can cause unrealistic demands and conflict.  What are each person’s expectations and beliefs about how to resolve conflict, how to express affection, values in life, values in a relationship, rules about communication, role expectations, and rules about rules also need to be addressed. 

 “Where does love go when it goes away?”  If there is an answer to this question, therein lies a way to create a satisfying future.’ – Leslie Cameron-Bandler 

Monika Nygaard is a Certified Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) Trainer, Time Line Therapy® Master Trainer and Hypnotherapy Trainer. She can be reached at nlp4change@shaw.ca
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