In my pursuit of my Master’s degree, I have begun to take the small personal steps of researching known authors in the field of Marriage, Couples, and Family Counseling/Therapy until my undergraduate bridge program courses begin. Recently, I have begun reading, “Getting the Love You Want” by Harville Hendrix.
Harville Hendrix first crossed my radar when I was studying to become a Health Coach, and he was a featured lecturer. I was fascinated by a wisdom he shared regarding parenting. He spoke of a child who was terrified of an approaching dog, and a parent saying, “There is nothing to be afraid of.” He explained that by doing so, the parent was actually minimizing the child’s emotions or denying them, in an attempt to soothe them. He shared that by asking what the child feared about the dog, and then soothing those fears, that proved a more successful re-enforcer for a child to embrace and trust in their feelings. I was completely mesmerized by the idea.
After listening to a relationship pod cast that featured Dr. Hendrix and his wife, Dr. Helen Hunt, I decided to invest in his renowned book. I was curious about some of the exercises featured during the pod cast, as well as, his general philosophy that we tend to pick incompatible partners, based on our childhood upbringing, by choosing partners with similar personalities to that of the care-giver who we felt something was lacking. The intention being to finally acquire what was not received during childhood through this surrogate personality, all while genuinely asking both partners to stretch outside of their comfort zones to find our inner flexibility and grow to ultimately become compatible. It’s heady, but it’s quite brilliant.
In “Getting the Love You Want,” I found myself immediately skipping to a chapter that was simply calling to me. It was on negativity within relationships and how to remove it. Hendrix states: “This involved getting rid of blatant forms such as anger, shame, and criticism, but also eliminating more subtle forms as well, including such well-known ploys as “helpful” criticism, inattention, condescension, “the silent treatment,” and using a bored or weary tone of voice. Ideally, this ban would extend all the way to eliminating even negative thoughts. The goal is not to repress the feelings behind the negative thoughts and behavior… rather to bring them out into the open and see them for what they really are: a warning sign that some aspect of the relationship needs work.” Are you as intrigued as I was?
I’m going to take this a little deeper. Hendrix also states: “Negativity is any thought, word, or deed that tells your partner: “You’re not okay when you think what you think or act the way you act. In essence you are rejecting your partner’s “otherness.” We sometimes feel the need to negate our partners when they do or say something that makes us uncomfortable. Usually, they are just being themselves. But from our point of view, they are threatening an image that we have of them, or they are failing to meet an unspoken need of our own.”
Curiously, I was then reminded or a Dr. Phil clip where he explains that every relationship has a cost, and that we should always be asking ourselves, “What is this relationship costing me?” Meaning, how much are you compromising yourself to be in the relationship? Is the relationship worth the emotional cost that you are paying?
I think these ideas almost go hand-in-hand, as I focus my thoughts around the word empathy. When I reflect on Hendrix concepts, I revolve my mind around a greater understanding of why our partner is doing what they are doing. It seems once we understand that a partner is acting out of fear, or trauma, we are able to release the personal emotions being stirred by their actions, and hold a space of empathy for them. Mind you, empathy is not the same as tolerance. We are all responsible for our actions. That leads me to blending into Dr. Phil’s idea – what is the cost for me to hold empathy? Am I losing a part of myself by holding a space for my partner to work through their areas requiring deeper healing? Am I able to help (, by lovingly stretching) my partner towards these lessons? Do I have something to also learn from these lessons?
I look forward to taking you on this journey with me, as I explore new authors and new concepts, and the questions they stir. I hope these wisdoms can serve your life, as I find them stimulating and reinforcing, not just my personal growth, but my greater understanding and appreciation for those around me.