If the two of you lack relationship balance as a couple, the symptoms are quite clear. One day you both have plenty of weekday date night ideas and an eagerness to put them into practice and have fun, feel like flying to the moon, and then the other day you just feel like something is off and you want to shout: “I need my personal space!” in each other’s face.
Although it might feel like an uphill battle, relationship balance just needs a little extra work to accept each other’s differentiated activities and personal space, while also figuring out great hobbies to do as a couple, together. One way of dealing with our different needs is through imago relationship therapy, and we’ll discuss this later but first, let’s focus on what relationship balance actually means and how it should feel “right”.
Relationship balance – an equilibrium between symbiosis and differentiation
The word “symbiosis” comes from Greek and it means “living together”. In nature, symbiosis is a deep biological interaction between two different organisms. In some cases, the symbionts depend on each other for their own survival; in other cases, their symbiosis is facultative.
In short, symbiosis is the art of living together in harmony and health and extrapolating, we can apply it to our own everyday family relationships and couple balance. However, to master this art you need practice and hard work, and the fact that you choose to see an imago couple therapist means you’re prepared to put in the work needed to make it.
There is this misconception that if you go and see a couple therapist, then you are doomed, you are on the edge of the cliff. The truth is that seeking the guidance of a professional can open new couples dialogue horizons, help you communicate better, and, in the end, help you overcome your own personal barriers. It is basically a very mature way of building good family relationships, because they should not include only you two as a couple, but also your family as a whole.
Many couples make the mistake of believing that if “it’s meant to be”, a relationship should work like a self-sustaining, perfectly-oiled machine, where the partners will only spend time with each other and won’t need anything else. It shouldn’t work like this; in fact, it is advisable not to work like this. A relationship is a living organism that needs its own periods of respite and insatiability, and balancing them is the trick.
During the Corona Lockdown, the relationship balance of many couples worldwide has been thoroughly tested. When everybody’s personal space was shrunk down to their apartment or room, then the challenge grew so much bigger.
Small closed places encourage togetherness. We people usually love togetherness, especially in the Romantic Phase at the beginning of our relationships, when we get to know each other better and experience all the lovely feelings of connecting with another person, of symbiosis if you like the term.
However, one of you might really enjoy to, say…paint, alone. One of you might enjoy reading in peace or playing video games for two hours without being interrupted. We’ve all got those little solitary pleasures that make us happy and don’t need anything else from the people around us.
Frustrations might arise at every step of the road, especially if one of the partners hasn’t figured out how he/she likes to spend her alone time and just goes with the flow of his/her significant other’s activities. This is already a little disturbance in the relationship equilibrium, and with every little trifling thing, a growing tension can develop between partners.
Enter Imago relationship therapy vision
When two opinions differ, then an opportunity for dialogue arises, and, subsequently, relationship balance may be restored.
In the following, we’re going to tackle a little imago relationship therapy method which promotes couple dialogues, a healthy couple relationship, and a clear vision inside that “I need space relationship” we’ve been talking about so far.
This is an exercise that will help you both see the potential in your relationship and start understanding each other better, teaching personal space, and learning to respect each other’s personal space and favourite solo activities.
Each of you should take a sheet of paper. Separately, write a number of sentences that describe your personal vision of a deeply congenial relationship. Write the sentences in the present tense like: “We have a lot of fun together”; “We cook together”; “We have meaningful conversations” etc.
Share your sentences and underline the visions that you have in common. If your partner has written something you really agree with and haven’t written it yourself, just add it to your list.
Now each of you returns to your piece of paper and rate each sentence with a number from 1 to 5, where 1 means “very important”, and 5 means “not so important”.
Both of you, circle the two most important things on the list for you
Each of you, mark the items that you think would be the most difficult for you two to achieve
It’s time to work together on your two visions in order to create a bigger, general one that would apply to both of you. Start with the items you are both in agreement with. Then discuss the items that you both know are the most difficult to achieve. Put the most unimportant items at the bottom of the list, and dialogue on the things that are the main source of conflict.
It might sound a very “childish” way of sorting things. Actually, it might seem like that because it is simple, and it encourages dialogue. You might find it hard to do it yourself at home, maybe the motivation isn’t there.
If you’re new to the imago therapy term, you should know it is an “integrative systematic theory of intimate partnership and a unified, theory-based therapy for couples (1).
Imago relationship therapy is both an art and a science, and we’ve been using it successfully for years keeping couples in connection.
Re-establish relationship balance through imago therapy
Relationship balance can be established through unifying your divergent views in a safe converging global perspective where you’re both happy. It means teaching personal space to each other, it means dialogue, and the courage to acknowledge your conflicts and work on eradicating the sources. Perhaps above all, we need to recognize that relationship balance starts with a decision. Your decision!
Image sources: Unsplash