3 Lessons Learnt To Become A Conscious Couple
For our 10th wedding anniversary last November, my husband and I bought each other a weekend away.
Not on a romantic city break or a spa hotel as you would imagine. Instead, we spent two days sitting in a training room on the outskirts of Manchester in the UK with five other couples!
After 27 years of being together and a decade of marriage, we decided to give ourselves the gift of attending a Couples Educational Weekend Workshop!
I’d been following one of the workshop facilitators, Joanna, for a while on social media and loved what she was sharing. When I discovered she ran couples workshops with her business and life partner, Ian, I mentioned it to my husband, who initially was a little reluctant.
Although we’ve always invested in our growth and development;
- We’ve invested in business coaches
- We’ve invested in financial coaches
- We’ve invested in health coaches
But we’d never invested in our relationship, and we knew that didn’t make sense. So despite thinking we were doing alright after 27 years together, we were intrigued to see what we could learn.
And the insights were mind-blowing! The workshop was based on the Getting The Love You Want approach developed by Harville Hendrix and Helen LaKelly Hunt.
We learnt that even the best relationships thrive when we tend to them regularly (makes sense, right?!).
Here are the top three takeaways from our weekend:
1 – There is a hidden process relationships go through, and getting stuck is normal
The six stages in the process are:
- Romantic Love
- Power Struggle
- Doing the Work
- Real Love
Most people think of relationships in terms of the first Romantic Love stage. At this stage, we bring the best of ourselves and see the best in the other person. It’s based on infatuation, and we’re flooded with all those fantastic love hormones.
Our culture tells us that this stage will last forever if it’s true love, but that’s not the case. All relationships move from this stage into the Power Struggle stage. This stage can feel challenging, but the conflict is actually growth trying to happen in our relationship. But most of us get stuck in this stage unconsciously and reactively.
The Power Struggle stage can feel uncomfortable, so we find ways to ease the discomfort through exit strategies. These are strategies that we use to avoid dealing with the conflict arising in our relationships – it can include watching TV, children, technology, working, playing sports, cleaning and going out with friends. There is nothing wrong with these activities unless you are using them to avoid talking about the challenges you’re experiencing in your relationship.
Many relationships get stuck in the Power Struggle stage for years, leading to ‘The Invisible Divorce’. Unless a couple decides to Re-Commit to their relationship, get curious and commit to Doing the Work.
Doing the Work consists of understanding each other’s unconscious patterns and talking intentionally (known as Dialogue).
If they become intentional about Doing the Work on their relationship, a couple can move into the Awakening Stage, where they gain new awareness of each other and their relationship. At this stage, the relationship has shifted from unconscious and reactive to conscious and intentional.
This can ultimately lead to Real Love, where true safety, joy, and passion is found.
But each relationship is like a spiral. Once you experience Real Love, it throws you back into the Romantic Love stage, and you go around the process again. Each time the conflict feels less complex, the repair happens faster, and the connection feels greater.
How freeing to know that all relationships go through a cycle and that it’s unrealistic to expect to stay in the Romanic Love stage! Phew – we can now all give ourselves permission to have healthy human struggles and know that this is just growth trying to happen!
2. We need to learn healthy Dialogue in our romantic relationships
Effective communication is essential to a good relationship – I think we can all probably agree on that, can’t we?
But we often don’t realise how we get hijacked away from communicating effectively with our partners. Romantic love is often the most vulnerable place we can find ourselves – putting our hearts on the line. So we develop unconscious patterns that can get triggered if we feel like our vulnerability is being exposed.
These patterns often block healthy communication and can undermine our relationships’ health. Healthy Dialogue requires us to understand what gets in the way of this happening in conflict and develop ways to navigate this within a commitment container. This involves commitment, empathy and compassion even when you don’t feel like it!
The big takeaway from this is that you have to schedule regular dialogue time – it sounds like booking a meeting, doesn’t it! But the practice of effective and healthy Dialogue in our relationships requires this commitment. If we can show up when things are going well, it also means we’ll be in a better place to do it when we hit a bump in the road.
3. Becoming a Conscious Couple doesn’t happen by chance
It’s easy for our relationships to slip into an autopilot setting, especially after we’ve had children. There’s no time to even go to the toilet on your own, let alone have a conscious and intentional approach to us as a couple.
But a romantic relationship is hard work, and conflict is supposed to happen, even if you’re living with your soulmate. It’s an important journey, not trying to stay in a state of romantic love. Romantic love is a step to a more profound love if you’re willing to learn how to be intentional towards one another as you go on that journey.
So those are our top three lessons learned!
My husband and I haven’t implemented these insights consistently and flawlessly – a great reminder that we’re human. But they have given us a robust foundation to keep coming back to as we navigate our marriage going forward.
This stage in our lives as a couple can be tricky. Sleepless nights. Little time between our roles of professionals and parents to find time to be conscious partners, but we know that if we don’t take the time and make an effort now, we might not have the healthy container to hold our family in years to come together.
We are so glad that we took the time to get curious about what we could learn – we came away with a level of connection and commitment we hadn’t realised we needed.
So if you’re interested in learning more and want to take a more conscious approach to your relationship, check out the Work of Joanna and Ian at the Affinity Centre. This is not an ad – just recommending brilliant people doing brilliant Work in the world.
I hope you found these insights valuable, and here’s to you getting the love you want!
We’re genuine, like-minded women, just like you!
We’re a community, reinventing how we combine work and motherhood without sacrificing our sanity and wellbeing.