Relationship Stuff – there’s gold in that there compost!

Intimate relationships can bring out the best and worst in us.

Piglet tries unsuccessfully to connect with Eeyore.

Piglet tries unsuccessfully to connect with Eeyore.

It’s disturbing when a loving, supportive pleasure in the other’s company turns into a tangle of unfulfilled expectations, resentment, sadness, exclusion, distance – or boring, recycling conflicts.

But this ‘stuff’ is really compost for growth – of yourselves and your relationship. Voice dialogue offers a wonderfully freeing perspective: it’s all about bonding patterns . These are the entirely natural way we are programmed as infants to bond with our parents or the carers around us. They are laid down as early as six months, and become the foundation for all later relating to others, in both healthy and unhealthy ways. Fortunately unhealthy bonding patterns can be relearned later in life. Meanwhile…..

Phase 1:  You meet, fall in love, feel truly seen, appreciated and loved. In the language of the inner child you feel safe, cared for and belonging to another. Negatives get ignored, opposites intrigue; you are very available to each other – supportive, kind, tolerant. This is called a positive bonding pattern – it feels really good.

Phase 2:  After some time, life happens – stress, kids, work; you’re less available to each other. Negative events and your opposite qualities to those selfless caring ones now may bring problems to the relationship. Your inner child feels neglected, you feel your needs aren’t being met. You may feel hurt, rejected, disappointed. To the inner child, this is your partner’s fault – they have changed. It’s all gone wrong!

Phase 3:  Not realising that these are your own old feelings (that were previously masked by the happy state of feeling so loved) you go to your default position of blame and complaint, or withdrawal. The more you feel unheard or criticised, the more hurt you feel, so the more strongly you blame or withdraw. The more they feel attacked or shut out, the more they do the same. Instead of loving ‘parent’ they are now a critical or withholding ‘parent’ to your vulnerable inner child and vice versa. This is called a negative bonding pattern – and it feels awful. It’s no-one’s fault. It just happens.

Phase 4:  One of you decides you need to talk. This may sort it all out. But often, without sufficient self awareness, both partners are likely to be invested in changing the other, because the inner children of both partners are hoping they will then get back that unconditional warm, safe feeling. So even after really sharing, the same feelings and issues may keep re-emerging. Our inner Fixers ‘know’ our partner’s patterns and convince us that if they could only see this, all would be well! So why won’t they change. It can then become a power struggle – a painful stand-off

Phase 5: The turning point One partner moves back into self awareness with a commitment to do his or her own inner work. (It only takes one to break a bonding pattern). This involves two tasks:

1. Take full responsibility for how you feel when they do what it is they do. It’s likely to be an old wound of yours which is needing your attention, e.g. feelings of rejection, unworthiness, inadequacy, abandonment. This is your job, not your partner’s. It’s a powerful shift, to move from blame to self responsibility. But this is where the possibilities of real change and healing actually lie.

2.  Alone or with a counsellor, really connect with and understand the pain that’s inside – i.e. give your vulnerable feelings the very love, acceptance and TLC that they are wanting from your partner. Listen to, and respect, your own feelings and find out what you need to give yourself. Only you can do this powerful work for yourself.

This is the starting point – gradually it will bring a dramatic shift in your own well-being and sense of feeling loved and valued and it will also begin to alter the way you see and interact with your partner. This in turn brings a freeing-up between you. Acceptance, understanding and real intimacy become possible. You are free to really see the other as a person in their own right – not someone who owes you something.

This compost is truly the gold that transforms.

There are some tools to do this kind of inner work under Articles on Life, Meaning and Resilience and Articles/ Wisdom That Works/Confidence Through Wholeness

For more about bonding patterns go to Hal and Sidra Stone’s website. They are the psychotherapists who developed voice dialogue and the psychology of selves.


Copyright Kris Hines 2013