I’m a therapist… I’m a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. I’m a Certified Imago Therapist (additional training in doing couples work). Hence, I specialize in working with couples. I’m often asked what’s my niche, what’s my thing… I specialize in working with codependent couples (partners having poor boundaries and self ownership…). And, I further specialize in working with couples where apathy is ramped in their relationship. Where one partner is not involved, withdrawn, removed, difficult to engage, self absorbed and such. And, where the other partner is driven insane by this (not literally of course!).
This is the pattern that is so prevalent in couples. This is the pursuer-distancer dance. Partners in this dance have a difficult time staying connected without loosing themselves… Therefore they strive for connection, but as soon as it gets too comfy they feel threatened. To deal with their unconscious fear, they pull their shenanigans that end up creating space for psychological, existential, safety. The problem with this pattern is that the shenanigans and the space created are damaging to the relationship, the bond, respect for each other, and the self-esteem of the partners. This might create psychological safety, but this doesn’t meet our inherent need for connection and love. This is the gun we use to shoot ourselves on the foot. This is a disaster for relationships!
This is so damaging that when too pervasive it’s difficult to comeback from. And, unfortunately, this is when couples come in for Couples Therapy… So, I want to do you a favor, and give you specifics about this pattern so you can catch it early and do something about it early before it’s too disruptive in your relationship. These are the characteristics I have identified in the Codependent Couple™ that create this debilitating dance:
The “I Don’t Give a *S—T” Partner – Underfunctioner in relationship, Minimizer (simplifies interactions/situations), Distancer (withdraws from interactions/situations), Rigid boundaries, Lets other take control / ownership / responsibility, Passive-aggressive, Narrow range of emotions (shutdown), Narcissistic personality characteristics, Independent, “Me” oriented, Little access to memories, Needless / “clueless”, Dismissive, Left brain dominant (linear thinker, appears controlled / posed, reticent), usually Male
The “Oh, Poor Me” Partner – Overfunctioner in relationship, Maximizer (exaggerates interactions/situations), Pursuer (“hounds” in interactions/situations), Loose boundaries, Controlling of other / takes over / overly responsible, Manipulative, Emotional / emotive / hypersensitive, Borderline personality characteristics, Dependent, “We” oriented, Elephant memory, Needy / clingy, Martyr, Right brain dominant (circular thinker, appears flaky / crazy, verbose), usually Female
The characteristics fall on a range. The couples that struggle the most are the most polarized. Now, nothing is black and white and so clean cut in life. I’m sure there are characteristics in both groups that you can identify with. Please note, these do not define you! These are defense mechanisms, bad habits and lack of skills and tools… All of it can be changed!! What I want you to do is to identify which group is more like you, most of the time, or in times of crisis, stress or transition. Once you identified your side. Your job is to become more moderate in the way you operate.
So, more specifically, your job is to pick one or two characteristics that get you the most in trouble, stuck, in your relationship and give it your all to moderate it. This is challenging as with any habit we try to change or any other self-growth or development endeavor we undertake. You’ll be out of your comfort zone for sure. But it is in this stretch that we heal, grow and evolve… And, how we create our awesome relationship to boot!
Remember to pick one or two to focus on. Don’t go overboard trying to change everything at once. You’ll only accomplish to trigger yourself and your partner (explanation beyond today’s writing), and to crash and burn! Instead, take baby steps in a massive way! To do this successfully:
- Gratitude – Keep a Gratitude Practice™ where you stay in a state of appreciation through out the day (or as much as possible…). Your brain cannot physically be in a state of appreciation and fear at the same time…
- Accountability – Share with others what you are trying to do and have them keep you accountable in a loving way.
- Tracking – Keep a journal or other tracking of your feelings, experiences, impact, effects, results, etc.
- Self-Care – Practice a lot of self-care to soothe your unconscious mind… You don’t want to undermine or sabotage your own efforts…
- Reassurance – Your partner might become suspicious… Reassure them that you are investing in the relationship.
- Support – Get support to help you see things differently so you can pursue operating differently, to learn the skills and tools you might need, to support your efforts, to cheerlead you, to help you tweak your investments for better results, and help you manage your Self…
Even if you are the only one changing the steps to the dance, the dance changes… As usual, focus on what you need to do to be the best you and the best partner, and you’ll soon be performing your best choreography yet!
Complete the MetroRelationship™ Assignment below to help you effortlessly implement this, make changes and immediately start experiencing your awesome relationship, and Authentic Life…
P.S. I’m sure that you have felt at one time or another: Taken advantage of, stepped on, like a door mat, neglected, taken for granted, invisible, pushed around, not given credit, not acknowledged, stretched too thin, overwhelmed, over committed, at others’ beck and call, pecked at, burdened, over responsible, bad mouthed, criticized, put down, dug at, cursed at, yelled at, ignored, stood up, you get my drift. These are all indications that better boundaries are needed! Get my 10 Hot Strategies for Setting Effective & Loving Boundaries. It’s FREE! Enjoy!
~ Your MetroRelationship™ Assignment
Ask your partner what they need from you this weekend. What would be a gesture, behavior, attitude, or such that would touch their heart? What is something they’ve been wanting from you that hasn’t happened yet, or could happen more?
This is your chance to stretch… For as soon as a partner is presented with such a question, you know you’ll be asked for something that is challenging for you to give… This is the beauty of our relationship. It’s a playground at the ready. Here we get to learn and practice new skills…
Go ahead, honor your commitment to yourself to heal, grow and evolve… Your partner is gifting you with the opportunity to stretch!
Go about this respectfully, responsively, intentionally, and mindfully – no need to crash yourselves!
Add this to your Tool Kit…
~ Share Your Thoughts & Successes in the comment box at the end!
Take a moment now to share below any thoughts, comments, take away, tips, and successes! PLEASE post a comment now – we grow in community!
Thanks for connecting with the MetroRelationship™ Family!
Copyright (c) 2016 Emma K. Viglucci. All rights reserved.
Want to Use this Article in Your Own Website or Publication?
Be our guest! Here is how, you MUST include:
Emma K. Viglucci, LMFT is the Founder and Director of Metropolitan Marriage & Family Therapy, PLLC, a private practice that specializes in working with couples, she is the creator of the MetroRelationship™ philosophy and a variety of Successful Couple™ content that assist couples succeed at their relationship and their life. Stay Connected™ with Emma and receive weekly Connection Notes in your inbox with Personal Growth and Relationship Enrichment insights and strategies, visit: www.metrorelationship.com.