Popular media often conceptualize romantic relationships as one partner being “complete” upon finding a “soulmate.” This has been reinforced with ceremonial practices of pouring wine or sand into one vessel, representing two becoming one. While the sentiment may seem sweet and romantic, it may not be the most effective model for enduring, meaningful relationships.
Perhaps a more effective model is represented by two celestial bodies in orbit. These “relationship” bodies rotate around each other and have a gravitational pull towards each other; they feel a sense of connectedness, belonging, and security. The centrifugal force that drives the bodies away from each other provides independence, individuality, and separateness. When these forces are in balance, the orbit moves smoothly. When there is an imbalance, the two bodies can be pulled together; in this scenario, one body may feel engulfed and suffocated. When imbalance favors centrifugal force away from each other, individuals in a relationship can feel lonely, forgotten, or uncared for. Either version of the imbalance results in a collision of conflict, resentment, and contempt.
In relationships, we can recreate balance through re-establishing our secure connection. When we can remind ourselves that the problem is separate from the individuals involved, we can allow each other to respond rather than react. Through the development of skills of partnership, communication, and independence (e.g., friendships outside relationship, tolerate feelings of loneliness), we can help reset the balance of the celestial bodies in orbit.
I help clients navigate this through a low-volume, slow-moving process in a safe and supportive environment. We avoid discussions of “how it happened” and “who said what”, and instead focus on naming our vulnerabilities (e.g., “I felt sad when I heard you say…”) and offering validation (e.g., “I see how upset you are, and I feel sad as well.”). We work together to re-fortify the emotional bonds that keep us close and safe with each other. This sets the foundation for an enduring, meaningful relationship.
Written by Matthew LeBauer and Jamie Diaz