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Closeness and distance within relationships

In our Relationship Work, we often encounter couples indicating that they have lost each other (somewhat). Responsibilities, children, distractions, or worldly situations reduce the time and attention for the love relationship. Additionally, it often happens that both experience a difference in expectations and desires about intimacy and sexuality.

Are you not sure if the Soul Retreat for couples is for you? In this blog, we, as counsellors/coaches, write each other a letter about symbiosis within the relationship.

Marian – trainer, therapist

Hey dear William,

On this drizzly day in June, I decided to write you something about myself and the theme of symbiosis in relationships. I've been divorced for a year and a half after 28 years of being together with my great love and I'm in a completely different phase than you. I am in a phase of rediscovering myself. I recently said to a very good friend: “If the men around me mirror who I am now and what I radiate, then I am flirty, adventurous, sexually inclined and quite unavailable”. And then I call myself, with a bit of shame on my cheeks, a relationship therapist.

Isn't a relationship therapist someone who has everything properly arranged? Who has a steady relationship that runs smoothly? Someone like you, William ;-)? With a fantastic balance between raising, working and relating? And maybe also someone I used to seem to be because a lot of people thought we were an example as a couple. To be honest, William, unfortunately (in the end) I didn't succeed.

I lived in full symbiosis with my ex-partner. I was just a bit more of a symbiote than he was. That means I was mainly focused on 'him' and the family. I found it difficult to guard my inner limits and live my own life faithfully. Certainly, the last 10 years of our relationship I lived in the footsteps of his marked path. With only 1 goal in mind and that was to make the relationship succeed (because that's how I had it as an example). For that mission, I had thrown aside my own truths, my own route, and my inner compass. I constantly lived in a fear of losing him, with a deep dissatisfaction (because I'm so independent) that came out in manipulation and blame toward him. If I had stayed true to myself, I would have left the relationship much earlier because our personalities had drifted too much apart. I was looking for the connection and sexuality I so longed for in someone who had actually left a long time ago.

Now that we are a year and a half after the divorce, my ex and I are reluctantly getting closer and closer to each other. Not to reunite as lovers but possibly as two people getting to know each other again, apart from what we thought we knew about each other. A very beautiful new exploration, with a tangible love as the driving force. After having experienced such a deep and long process with each other, I can now feel the nuance in my body. When he has a cup of tea with me and I feel myself cramping or leaving anywhere in my body, I now boldly say, "Hey, I'm going to go on with my day." I choose and take care of myself, and the gain is that I trust myself more and more in that. That I'm really there for myself and that feels 'fucking' good!

How do you experience symbiosis in your relationship?

William – trainer, therapist, systemic coach

Hi dear Marian,

Thank you for your candid and direct words. I recognize your movement towards symbiosis in relationships very much. In that pattern, I become so focused on the need and the feelings of the other person, that I can no longer connect to my own desire or feelings. Then I need to be completely on my own, to be able to go back to myself.

I have been married for 25 years and have 4 grown children. In the early stages of our relationship, I often said, "I wouldn't know what to do without you." And it really felt that way. About 8 years ago we entered a deep crisis where there was a real chance that we would break up. We had to get out of that symbiosis in which we were too focused on the other person. We are both children of divorced parents and it was a nightmare to accept that the same could happen to us. We worked hard on dealing with this pattern and were lucky too. Gradually we have found a new balance in allowing space for ourselves and also finding deeper intimacy and connection with each other. She has her own living space near our house in the garden and I have my own caravan in the woods where I stay regularly. The guilt of selfishly choosing myself ultimately turns out to be a source of connection first with myself and then with the other.

In my practice, I see many couples who lose each other as lovers in obligations for work and parenthood. We also have the enormous demand that our children place on us. Older children who end up in a burnout and a daughter in a depression. In doing so, I feel the shame you were talking about; “What kind of therapist am I, if I can't protect my children from this?” Then I think of the metaphor that we encounter stones and potholes on our path and that everyone has to deal with them themselves. I can put a stone aside for myself but not for someone else, unfortunately also not for my partner or for my children. But setting the example that my path becomes freer with aging, is something I like to pass on.

Dear Marian, we have both learned a lot about closeness and distance within the relationship and how nice that we can share these lessons with other couples.

Soul Retreats

Do you recognize the symbiosis in your relationship or maybe the opposite? Do you want to experience a deepening connection with intimacy and sexuality in your relationship?

Find out more about our Soul Retreats.

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