The two challenges of couples coaching are (1) desire and (2) intent.
When a couple comes to me for coaching both parties usually express that they want their marriage to succeed, they want happiness, peace, and connection to each other. Unfortunately, the perceived solution is almost always a desire to change the other person. Most individuals want their partner to change more than they are willing to consider changing themselves. Being right becomes a common theme where each party looks at the other, even subconsciously, wanting their spouse to suffer, admit guilt or stop an addictive behavior.
The first principle taught is that the only change agent in your marriage is you. It becomes incumbent on the individual to desire to change themselves, evaluate their expectations, and challenge their assumptions in order to heal themselves first. Expecting your spouse to change without considering your own role in the relationship is challenging. You run the risk of identifying yourself by your spouse’s behavior instead of understanding how you are running a program created long before you met your partner.
Circle of Integration
Each of us was born into a world of trauma. There is no singular trauma that is the same. If my parents got a divorce when I was three and your parents also divorced at age three, we will both experience it differently. Neither of us is right or wrong, only different. When trauma (divorce, separation, abandonment, abuse of any type, addiction, family dysfunctions, birth) occurs, you are a target, which means you are the recipient of underserved, maladaptive behavior. You did nothing to cause, illicit or deserve the harmful behavior, it happened. Perhaps it was an act of nature (emergency C-section, forceps at birth) or you were abused, abandoned, or worse because of maladaptive behavior by another person. Being a recipient of this kind of trauma makes you a target. You were an innocent bystander. Even though you were at no fault yourself you will make assumptions about yourself based on that event. Now let’s assume another like or similiar, unfortunate event happens. Perhaps it seems insignificant at the cognitive level. If your initial event produced feelings of abandonment, lack of power or fear, having your parents leave you alone at a vulnerable moment, like leaving you alone to run outside to take care of your younger sibling, leaving you inside, alone, without any support can compound the feelings of abandonment, powerlessness and fear all over again. As a 2-year old, you can’t make sense that Mom and Dad are helping your sibling in perhaps even a life or death situation. You only know that your needs are not being met. You re-experience the original trauma only 10x more so. This is compounding. Compounding is exponential, not additive.
The cognitive or claimed intent of coming in for coaching is to make the marriage work. The challenge is what lies below the surface intentions. Is your intent to save your marriage? Is your intent to improve yourself, increase your emotional intimacy, increase your communication skills, increase your capability as a spouse and parent?
If your intent is about you, then this process will return amazing results! You will notice a difference within the first hour. After one week, your self-awareness will have grown exponentially and you will wonder why you didn’t learn this at home, school, church, or work. In fact, you will be a tad frustrated that in all your years with parents, leaders, teachers, and ministers, no one thought to share this material with you.
However, if your true intent, deep down inside, is to prove you are right, justify your maladaptive behavior, or vent your frustrations to a professional, you are in for a rough ride. Your assumptions will be questioned and your conclusions about yourself will be revealed. You will find yourself on shaky ground, looking, probably for the first time, at how you have driven the wedge in your relationship. Your very foundation will tremble. Why? Because you will be on the verge of success! That is a wonderful place to be.
After a series of compounding events, you move from being a target to being a victim. A victim perpetuates the cycle of whatever your particular experiences created. These are your core beliefs about yourself. Things such as, I am alone, powerless, worthless, I deserve this, it’s my fault etc. These core beliefs will now govern your actions and you will act out based on those beliefs. If you have no worth, then you have no boundaries and you’ll do whatever it takes to be liked, seen, approved, or appreciated.
You live in a world of shame and you literally sabotage your happiness and well being by manufacturing scenarios, relationships, or events that inflict harm on yourself. Have you ever met someone who is constantly running into bad luck? It may not always be fate, but rather manufactured at the subconscious level.
The healing comes through the process of moving from victim (shame-based) to target (guilt-based) and eventually back to integration. How that is accomplished is the secret behind TheraCoaching. The key to happiness and well being is finding intrapersonal integration, a oneness from within. Only then can you commence the healing process with your spouse and children.