The simple truth is that we need relationships. We’re wired to be in relationships. Being in a good relationship extends and expands our life. While being in a bad relationship shortens and hampers a person’s life.
The only problem is that it’s hard work being in a relationship. People change over time, our needs and stories shift as we age. As a result, if you are not proactive in working with change, your relationship will fracture and break over time.
People seem to think there are only two states of relationship. You’re either in it all the way, or you are out of it.
I remember when my ex-wife said that to me: Casey you are either 100% in or 100% out. The next day I realized with her thinking that way, I needed to be 100% out. There was no room to be in a state of transition with a partner who couldn’t accept nor work with me in my change. The point of this lesson: thinking of a relationship in such a black and white manner destroys many relationships and also dooms many people to stay in bad relationships.
The 9 Stages of Relationship Issues
The nine shades of grey within relationship work.
0) Ignoring your relationship. Zero means nothing happens and divorce ultimately.
1) Everything is OK. You have healthy communication and connection with your partner.
2) Simple problems which two people can naturally work out.
— Outside assistance is required after this stage. —
3) One partner needs to do some personal work or counseling.
4) Marriage Counseling
5) Relationship Rebalancing (my focus for this article)
— Separation of some form is required after this stage —
7) Both parties required physical separation.
I focus on helping people for steps 2, 3, 5 and 6. I don’t work as a marriage counselor and will refer people to marriage counselors when appropriate. Marriage counselors tend to work at changing two people to refit in the old marriage. I find it more appropriate to help people become stronger and change the relationship to fit both partners.
I have found that relationship rebalancing offers more flexibility than traditional marriage counseling. As a teacher I have discovered helping people change and grow within option number 3, does help to save many marriages. Working at stage 2 or 3 is far more efficient and easier than the later stages of relationship problems. I also do quite a bit of work on options 5 and 6 to help people shift their relationships into a healthier balance between both partners.
An interesting truth comes from these stages of relationship work. It shows what technique to use to help solve relationship problems based on the timing of the problem.
If you’re trying to apply marriage counseling (stage 4) when you should be working on personal problems (stage 3) you can artificially create bigger problems and accelerate your relationship problems. Likewise, if a partner denies there is a problem (stage 0) but the relationship is at stage 4 and requires marriage counseling, then you are doing too little, and your relationship quickly falls apart. This last example shows an interesting truth: where a person is at in their stage of work and the stage of work that a relationship needs can be quite different from each other. When two partners are out of sync with each other and with the style of relationship help they need, that often causes deeper problems!
In relationship rebalancing work, one of the first steps I perform is to assess where both partners are in these stages. This allows me to apply the correct techniques to help two people come to terms in their relationship. When partners and the relationship are at odds in these stages, then there is quite a bit prep work to get both partners and the relationship into a place where you can start working constructively with each other. This means just diving to fix a problem with the wrong baseline can cause far more relationship problems over time.
New times means New methods for relationship help!
In helping so many people work through a midlife crisis, I discovered that many of the traditional relationship techniques weren’t working for people in midlife transition. As a result of this, I ended up creating several new techniques to help people work and expand their relationships.
The first process I created to solve relationship problems was my spiritual divorce process. The concept was based upon using a spiritual separation before divorce to better balance out both partners. The process of re-syncing two people in their relationship stages that is built into the spiritual divorce process was a major improvement in helping relationships.
The second process I created was what I called the Tree of Love teaching. The tree of love teaching shows the importance of chemistry within a relationship and how to work with chemistry rather than against chemistry. The tree of love teaching is an incredible diagnostic tool that lets me x-ray relationships and fine tune the approach in helping people connect to others more deeply in life. One fundamental problem is we inherit too many misperceptions about relationships in our culture. The tree of love teaching helps people see the deeper truths that exist within a relationship rather than trying to force the relationship to match social expectations.
Over the last five years, I have created a new process I call relationship rebalancing. In relationship rebalancing, instead of trying to change two people to fit the relationship, it’s about changing your relationship to fit both partners.
Relationship Work is About Timing.
People try to change too fast. They think they can fix a relationship in a few weeks or months. The truth is it takes three months to get past a single emotional pain. Often problems can be a twisting of many emotional problems. Additionally, it takes three to six weeks of consistent and repeated practice to create a new habit (For example: holding your partner with respect). All too many people will focus on a new practice for a week and then drop off to go back to old habits. This means you have a back and forth process to re-sync two people. I have discovered a fast process would be 6 to 9 months while the more normal midlife relationship process is 18 to 24 months. When you pace a couple to work at their natural change speed, then the processing of relationship changes becomes realistic. Pacing in this manner allows you to re-balance your relationship to be more naturally in a better place. The people who try to force the relationship back to the old place with only 3 to 6 months of work will only circle to being in the old broken relationship again.
Another problem is that people approach solving relationship issues in a fact-based manner, when in fact relationships are a heavily emotional process. You have to balance out each person’s change process and then reconcile the emotional differences between each partner’s changes. Finally, as each person changes, that drags up many false perceptions and issues that can be pushed to the other person. Ironically many of the issues we blame upon our partners can be issues inherited from bad relationship models that society or family has shown you. As a relationship mediator, we can help balance out the swings in moods, frustration, and anger as each person shifts in their nature. We help you release the problems which aren’t yours but larger issues from society and family history. In this manner, two people don’t create an endless blame loop on each other. This makes for a gentle shifting process with time rebalancing each person towards a more natural newer relationship.
Changing Your Relationship
Most people try to change themselves to make their relationship work. This doesn’t work very well because people unconsciously resist change unless they’re at key change points in their life (such as midlife transition). When working to improve your relationship we can make some small changes to ourselves and also help our partner make a few small changes. However, realize that distinct limits exist in how much change a person will embrace at once.
When we do change over time, then our partners will try to keep you as you were at the start of the relationship. A deep part of the relationship rebalancing techniques is teaching two people how to give space at times and as required assistance in allowing partners to reinvent themselves. Allowing a partner to reinvent themselves is hard because it forces us to change. So at times, a life coach can assist by being a mediator in teaching and balancing out the change in a slower more paced manner.
Relationship rebalancing recognizes this truth that it’s hard to change people. The relationship rebalancing technique includes additional methods to improve and expand your relationship. But this technique requires an open mind because it’s different than what people have been taught. Quite honestly people are wrongly taught first to change someone else first, then themselves second and finally the relationship last.
The biggest traps are the judgments and expectations that prevent a person from seeing different options to solve their problems. When two people form a relationship or are married, that initial moment freezes many of the relationship expectations. This means as two people change, their relationship baselines don’t change. As time goes by this creates more and more pressure that breaks a relationship apart. Every 7 to 9 years we change our story and become new people. So after 14 years, two people can literally shift four lifetimes apart! These differences matter and must be reconciled, or your marriage does break apart. When I marry a couple, I teach them to work with change over time so they can never be too far apart over time. When you try to reconcile a person to fit back to who they were 14 years earlier to support a relationship, that is often too much work. It takes times to change, and the timelines for marriage counseling are often too aggressive relative to how people emotionally change.
So instead of changing you or your partner, it’s possible to change your marriage baseline. This means releasing judgment of what your marriage looks like. If you insist your marriage must look the same as it did 7, 14 or 21 years ago, then this technique won’t work for you! Remember you are now not the same person that you were when you were married. Why not allow your marriage to change to fit new realities of your relationship needs? All too many people hold traditional values to be more important than their own needs or values. If you cannot adapt to your changing conditions then again this option won’t work for you.
A larger part of the relationship rebalancing includes teaching people how to be nonjudgmental so they can use different options. The other part of the teaching is to teach modesty to slow down the changes to pacing the reality of their natural change pace. I buy people time, and in expanding the time frame to solve problems, it becomes much easier to work through problems.
A little help goes a long way in solving relationship problems.
What to Focus upon.
In our Alternatives to Divorce article, we discuss the initial steps to creating a new marriage. I typically don’t start with redefining the marriage. The first steps are focusing on eight basic qualities that define a good relationship.
- Changing Status Quo
- Working with Changes
Harmony represents if you and your partner are in sync with each other.
What harmony represents is not always apparent at first glance. There is a simple question you can ask to determine how much harmony exists between two partners. Ask: Do you like your partner? Like represents harmony, while love represents growth. People often think harmony and love are the same. So when in love they think everything is ok when it actually they may be in disharmony and that disharmony is slowly breaking apart their relationship. Seeing what stages of like or dislike two people are in helps then determine what actions need to be taken to bring harmony back into a relationship.
Often once disharmony is in play, you have to create space for both people to work out issues before bringing them closer together. There are many techniques and ways to teach two people how to have harmony again in a relationship.
Respect represents acceptance. When two people don’t have respect for each other, a relationship is on a downhill slide towards destruction. Relationship rebalancing includes teaching two people how to have acceptance and then later respect again for each other.
Relationships are based upon communication. Strangely many couples have poor communication skills with each other. Even worse many people can have different communication styles which cause misunderstandings between each other. Even worse people often stop communicating when relationship problems start.
It is quite common in relationship rebalancing to reteach two people how to more clearly and openly communicate with each other.
What we perceive and what is real are two different things in life. Often misperceptions cause a fundamental breakdown in a relationship. Part of relationship rebalancing is fixing any misperceptions in play and expanding out each partners awareness to be more open and less judgmental.
A practice of gratitude is amazingly powerful. Over time as disharmony and problems occur in a relationship, two people lose appreciation towards each other. Rediscovering how to give and help your partner is a powerful tool in re-establishing gratitude between two people. When one person takes another person for granted, there is no gratitude, and over time your partner becomes a commodity rather than unique and special.
At times we all need space to grow. In some relationships, people smother their partner. Even in the strongest of relationships, two people should have at least 20% privacy and space for each person to have their own time. Too much honesty, too much truth, too much clinging can very quickly destroy the strongest of relationships.
Think of a car for a moment. A relationship is like a car we share and move through life together through. At times we all need a pit stop to get out of the car move around and rebalance ourselves. Also, do you repair a car engine while driving it? No! Likewise, when a relationship is having problems, we need to step out of the relationship, and then work on that relationship externally. Trying to fix the relationship while trying to go deeper into it, shatters and hurts both people from the moving parts and momentum of earlier actions.
Changing Status Quo.
Life is a story, and stories need to change, or they become boring. The story of a relationship needs to evolve. Experiment and change up your life once in a while to keep your relationship fresh and add new angles to explore.
Working with Personal Change.
While on average people resist change, once a person does change, it can happen fast and furiously. This is especially true in a midlife crisis. When this happens, you must create space for this change. To try and fix a relationship while a person is in extreme change will only shatter your relationship.
In relationship rebalancing, we teach how to re-balance all of these aspects for a healthier and refreshed relationship.
Steps in Redefining a Marriage
After you have worked on the seven relationship elements and helping both people in the relationship catch up on their changes, then it’s time to work on creating a new marriage.
This is the next topic of relationship rebalancing I will write about in a future article.
Don’t Be Alone!
Julie and I are here to help guide you through this challenging moment of redefining your relationship. Relationships don’t magically rebalance on their own; they break apart over time as it gets more out of balance. We’re here to help you shift your relationship to a healthier place in life.
We work over the phone and also offer couple retreats!