Help and advice with relationships
Although I've practiced counselling in places as different as Exeter and East London, relationships have always been a central theme. Often it's about being in a difficult relationship, but sometimes it's not having a relationship at all.
Relationships are complex and it's impossible to make generalizations about why something isn't working. Counselling provides a space where you can safely explore your relationship with another person and with yourself. How do you relate to others? How do you feel about yourself? What patterns of relating have you picked up from your childhood?
- We might explore what's most important to you in a relationship. Are your needs being met? If not, what needs to change?
- We could try Mindbody Focusing. This offers a way to listen to your felt sense of the situation and can unearth hidden wisdom.
- Mindfulness offers a valuable way to manage stress and build self-compassion. Relationship difficulties can be rooted in a lack of self esteem and mindfulness is just one way we can work on that.
Relationship is the soil from which healing grows
The Drama Triangle
How do you relate to your partner? Do you see each other as you really are or as playing a particular role? The Drama Triangle, developed by Steven Karpman, can be a revealing way to look at a relationship.
The names here are for roles that people sometimes play in relationships. Imagine a relationship starting between two people who are playing the roles of Victim and Rescuer. The person playing 'Victim' has low self-esteem and imagines that they cannot cope alone. Someone playing the Rescuer role imagines themselves as strong and capable. Despite appearances, they very likely also have low self-esteem and feel better about themselves when they can play the hero and become the Rescuer. In a way these two seem made for each other! The person playing Rescuer gets to be the hero and the one playing Victim is looked after.
But this honeymoon can't last. Neither person is being who they really are; they are both just playing two dimensional roles in a drama of their own creation. Eventually one of them gets fed up with playing their role. Very often the Rescuer gets sick of taking care of the person playing Victim: 'Why do I have to do everything? Why are you so damn needy!? What about what I want?' They haven't left the drama - they've just changed roles and become the Persecutor. The person playing Victim is initially confused. 'What did I do wrong?' And then they try to repair the rift: 'I didn't mean to hurt you'. You can already hear them trying out a new script as they prepare to move into the Rescuer role. 'I'm sorry: I didn't realize. I'll help out more.' Their partner now starts feeling guilty about their angry outburst. They feel remorseful and sad: they have failed to be the hero. Slowly they slide down into Victim role. Both partners in the drama have switched roles now, but they are playing out the same old drama.
Sometimes the Victim gets bored with their role. They have potential that's not being expressed, and they begin to resent that. 'Why must you always take the lead? I'm perfectly capable of doing that for myself, thank-you!' Cramped by the Victim role, they move into acting as Persecutor. The person playing Rescuer feels under attack. 'After all I've done for you! I was only trying to help ...' You know the script by now: they have stepped into the Victim role.
This sad drama can go on for decades, but there is a way out: stop playing your role. The drama can't continue unless both partners play. As soon as you step out of role - and stay out - the drama begins to collapse. Of course that's much easier said than done, and Counselling can help, but simply recognizing that you're caught in a drama triangle is a major step forward.
If you'd like to talk about how Counselling can help with your relationships, get in touch. Your first session is free, so what not see if I can help?