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Monday
Jun012015

Kings and Queens

Are you the king or queen in your relationship?

No, I don't mean, do you "rule" over your partner. Rather, do you set yourselves as king and queen (or king and king, queen and queen) over the domain of your own relationship? Or are there others who get to rule the land?

Sure, for most of us, there are times when other people (kids, parents, bosses, etc.) seem to have the upperhand in terms of whether we get to be happy or relax - but couples in secure relationships need to put their core relationship above those other voices. It doesn't mean you are less of a parent, in fact, it's a fantastic model for your kids. And it doesn't mean you have to fall down on the job at work, either. But it does mean protecting your relationship with your partner both in public and private. It's what my trainer, Stan Tatkin, calls "secure-functioning" in a relationship, and it's critical if you want the partnership to last.

If you have chosen a relationship with another person, you are making the choice to know them better than anyone else in the world. You scan their likes, dislikes, needs, and wants. Maintaining this database is your responsibility (and his/her responsibility for you as well), and that doesn't change when you are at a work event or a family gathering. Remembering that your wife feels insecure around her older sister, and staying close to her a the family dinner so she feels like you are supporting her - that's your responsibility. Noticing that your father makes your partner uncomfortable when he starts asking questions about his job prospects, and giving him a knowing look while steering the conversation into safer territory - that's how you show up and protect him in a challenging situation. These moments can be discussed or just second nature, but they are crucial to reminding the one you love that you two are in this together, and she has someone who wants her to feel safe and comfortable all the time.

Those of us trained in couples therapy want our clients to feel more connected to one another in our offices. But for this work to be effective, it has to translate back into the real world. You may have to make some radical efforts (e.g. talking about how the dinner went, making mental notes, negotiating for a better outcome next time) before this awareness comes naturally. But it's effort well-spent.

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