Where is the love

Most of us would have experienced that dreadful moment in time when the relationship with our partner somehow feels different: heavy, difficult, guilt-ridden, anger provoking, suffocating, annoying - whichever way you may experience it at this point in time.

Where is the partner who we fell in love with, who we singled out from a myriad of others because he or she was so special, who made us dive to the bottom of a seemingly endless well of joy? Where is the mirror that we get lost in, the reader of our every thought?

As human being we experience ourselves largely through the eyes of the other.  Only in relation to other people do I have a sense of myself for example as humorous, loving, attractive or charming. It is our image in the eye of the beholder that gives us a sense of self. And the most important image is the one that gets reflected by the one who matters most, the one we love and who loves us.

We have first experienced this sense of self through the love of our parents/primary care givers. The way our first carers demonstrated their affection for us will stay with us for the rest of our lives. And we are likely to seek their particular way of showing affection in others later on. We are drawn in by a particular smile, a particular way of holding us or stroking our head. Romantic love some will argue is therefore a replacement for the love of the primary carer who provided us with our first sense of intimacy. All of us are influenced by our earliest experience of love and by the patterns of behavior in our family of origin.

Romantic love will change in the course of a relationship. We realise that our partner is not quite the person that we wanted them to be in our fantasies. The mirror that reflected back a perfect image is now getting cracked. In addition to our own changing perception of our partner external changes may impact on the relationship or the two- way family system changes to a three-way system when a child joins the couple. Internal changes in one partner will impact on the whole couple or family system.

In couples therapy, couples will have an opportunity to explore how to get through the difficult second stage of the relationship which forces us to accept the more realistic version of our previously idealised lover. We will look at how the internalised experiences from the past influence our present and how our present behavior impacts on the partner.

While both individuals will learn to get to know themselves better, the focus in couples therapy is not on the indivudal but the relationship itself, i.e. the couple is the client. The love that emerges in the more mature stage of our relationship is likely to feel different from the early, heady days of courtship; like a good wine it is more matured, deeper and softer on the palate.

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Written by Angela Dierks, BA (Hons), MStud (Oxon), MA Integrative Counselling, MBACP (Acc)

Update: I currently work online (Zoom/Skype) or via telephone.
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Written by Angela Dierks, BA (Hons), MStud (Oxon), MA Integrative Counselling, MBACP (Acc)

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