Couple relationships: bonding and responding
Written by listed counsellor/psychotherapist: Graeme Armstrong MBACP
9th May, 20170 Comments
Our couple relationships are profoundly mediated by the bond between us; this bond will be the very thing that determines the overall well-being and continuity of the relationship over time.
If the bond between us comes from a place of jealousy, resentment, anger, hurt, unprocessed childhood wounding or a whole host of unaware defences it can create a difficult to toxic (but not broken) bond, a bond which can labour on in its toxicity for decades, disabling future generations potential for growth, compassion, adventure and real love.
The bond between us as couples - the couple connection - is one that is formed right at the beginning, our couple creation, and is generally a powerfully unconscious one; we connect by getting our unmet and often unaware needs met, or at least temporarily fulfilled. This feels like love. But our needs, like our wanting, can be infinite and we can go from basic needs to more sophisticated needs when the former are fulfilled.
It is in this psychodrama where it can feel as if things are going wrong: the “growing pains” involved in the maturing of couple relationship yearning for its next stage can be met with fear and resistance.
It is at this point when “rebonding” can occur to create a deeper and more emergent connections. It is also at this point when the couple's fight or flight system, a sort of couple amygdala hijack occurs and the relationship becomes marked by reactivity. Hurt is piled onto hurt which then justifies further attack. The relationship turns into a cat and dog drama of reactivity and things go from bad to worse; resentment simmers like a cold fire for years, affairs occur as now both are caught up in their own shadow of suppressed wanting.
Couple counselling is sought but by now it can be too late (research says that the average length of time it takes couples to seek help is six years into their situation), the roots of discord are just too entrenched. The relationship ends and the journey of divorce starts.
Exploring this stage, the breakpoint stage in couple relationships, which is the break between the couple creation bond and the couple recreation bond, can yield rich possibilities. The possibility of a new bond in the couple relationship generating the gold of a more mindful relationship bound up in humour, compassion, adult play, a relationship established in a new identity of deeper roots and togetherness, adventure and getting the real love that the first part of the relationship hinted at.
A relationship of response, a response to deeper needs, more openness and greater love.
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