It’s incredibly frustrating to find yourself in a stuck relationship.
Despite all your best efforts to get unstuck, things just don’t change or improve. You find yourself feeling frustrated, powerless and unhappy because the relationship is not giving you what you need and want. It also seems that the harder you try to fix the relationship, the less success you have.
IFS therapy offers a very helpful insight into what’s going on when you and your partner are stuck. It also offers a way out of the difficulty, and healing for you, your partner, and the relationship.
When we look at a stuck relationship through an IFS lens, what we often see is that
– each person is merged with a protector part
– these protectors are adamantly opposed to each other
It’s said that you can never win against a protector. So here we have two protectors, neither of which can ever let the other win. So unfortunately, the two people merged with those protectors are never going to get what they want, and will stay endlessly stuck in a relationship tug-of-war, unless they can step outside their protectors, and start to interact from a different place.
The first step to healing is for each person to get to know their protector.
You need to find out what its positive intent is. Despite the harm it’s creating, it will have a positive intent. Once you understand the positive intent, you will understand the exile that is being protected.
The next step is to work with the protected exile to understand and heal it. This will then allow the protector to soften, relax, become less extreme and take on a new, truly supportive role.
Once you have done this, you are ready to come back to your partner and address the stuck place in the relationship.
Each partner needs to speak FOR their exile, rather than AS the protector, while the other listens. The listener needs to do their best just to listen from a place of Self, with kindness and the desire to truly understand. The speaker tries to stay in Self also as they talk for, rather than as, their exile.
Once we truly understand the emotional pain of our partner’s formerly hidden exile, it usually melts us into compassion, concern and love for our partner. We understand that our partner was not trying to frustrate or deny us. Their behavior was simply being driven by trying to protect an exile in pain.
So the way to love, flow and harmony in a relationship is to get in touch with your exiles, and share about them with your partner; and to listen with compassion and acceptance while your partner shares about their exiles. This approach, rather than coming from a protector, will create a loving space for you both to grow and unfold into your very best Selves.