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  The Space Between

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Couples can cocreate a sacred space that meets their needs and is sustainable.

In a relationship, we can honor our highest self and the principles we value. Being in a relation- ship allows us to practice honesty, compassion, and empathy. As we ask our partner to treat us with kindness, we are kind in turn.

But all too often, the space between partners falls short. In my work as a couples counselor, here are examples of how couples depict their relationship:

  • “I feel like I’m walking on eggshells around my partner, not sure whether she will love me up or throw me under the bus in front of friends and family.”

  • “We still love each other some. I just don’t know who my partner is anymore.”

  • “I don’t confide in my partner because it doesn’t feel safe.”

Couples can cocreate a sacred space that meets their needs and is sustainable. Dr. Stan Tatkin, Founder of PACT (Psychobiological Approach to Couple Therapy) and author of We Do, suggests couples create a Couple Bubble. This is a relational space where each partner can be themselves and where the partners accept each other as is. The individuals in the relationship and the relationship itself are valued and respected and never threatened. In Dr. Tatkin’s words: Why would you devalue the person you have chosen to be your most important person? Lift your partner up—or they will underperform for you. A deeply connected, secure relationship is based on principles such as:
    • Collaborating to determine your life’s purpose and plans
    • Being transparent at all times
    • Brokering win-win outcomes when you disagree

    In my experience, the prerequisite to building a spiritually based, secure couple bond are two actions that many individuals fear taking:

    • Committing to being vulnerable
    • Committing to protecting your partner and the relationship

    BEING VULNERABLE WITH YOUR PARTNER. I received a call from a radiologist who read my mammogram. She found something irregular and asked if I would come in to discuss this find- ing. On the day of the appointment, my husband offered to go with me. I felt scared and apprehensive inside. But I chose to go alone, thinking it was my worry to bear. After retesting, the results were negative.

    I felt grateful, but I also learned something about being like an island during disquieting times: This is not the way. Why? Because it is a missed opportunity to share something that ultimately brings intimacy to the relationship. I thought I was saving my husband from added stress. Being silent, I denied our relationship the mutual benefit of caregiving as well as care-receiving.

    Have the courage to confide to your partner your worries, frustrations, and disappointments as well as your joys. A spiritually connected relationship is an open book, an ongoing dialogue about your deepest thoughts and feelings.

    PROTECTING YOUR RELATIONSHIP. Humans naturally look out for them- selves. But we often forget that it is equally crucial to look after our partner and the union we created. There are numerous potential threats to the relationship, big and small, that exist outside the Couple Bubble: competing relationships, jobs that ask too much of us, and other daily pressures.

    A spiritually connected relationship is an open book, an ongoing dialogue about your deepest thoughts and feelings.

    In addition to a Couple Bubble, I suggest that couples create a Couple Huddle. In this space, partners unite and take pause from a stressful interaction to assess their options and pool their resources. Being proactive, the couple decides what is best for them while looking after their relationship. They stand tall and acknowledge the strengths that accompany being a team.

    Some couples relinquish their couple power for varied reasons. Some practice people pleasing and fear social disproval. Others are anti- kerfuffle: They avoid making waves. Some couples don’t realize that their power is already present, waiting to be discovered.

    Nicole and Shawn attended a meeting to sign a contract on their new home that was being built. The developer surprised them by stating that they had to buy products and finishes from a particular design store. A tense discussion ensued.

    Time passed and Nicole and Shawn were sweating—they didn’t want to lose the property. Instead of caving, they asked everyone to leave the room. Clock ticking? Too bad. Developer’s eyebrows raised and mouth open? He’ll survive. With the contract team wait- ing outside, the couple sorted through the dilemma and collaborated on options. In their Couple Huddle, they tapped into the wisdom that existed between them. Ultimately, everyone’s interests were addressed because the couple was able to broker a win-win for both parties.

    I recommend taking the leap from partner observer to partner insider. Observers keep their partners at a distance, avoid emotional connection, and share superficially. It’s a
    safe but unrewarding position. Insiders welcome interaction with their loved ones. They cherish and accept their partner as is and willingly disclose thoughts, feelings, and experiences. The bond that insiders create becomes a rich base for personal growth, mutual discovery, and teamwork.

    Creating a spiritual haven takes relationships to a more meaningful level. It isn’t easy. It can feel risky for partners to reveal themselves and risk rejection. And protecting a relation- ship from outside influences may require courageous action. Chances are, partners will love the new relationship they consciously create and ultimately keep safe.

    • Committing to being vulnerable
    • Committing to protecting your partner and the relationship
    Happy couple

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