In the work that I do as a therapist, whether it be relationship counselling or eating disorder counselling, family dynamics often play a role. People come in and share not only their history with their partners/families but also the present day patterns that leave them stuck. I am not going to dive into all of the different ways to understand or explore your family history in this blog, but something I think is really important is to explore what role you and each person in your family or relationship plays.
We all have ways in which we define ourselves and those in our life but how often do we explore how those affect our relationship dynamics? For example, in my household growing up, it was often labelled that dad was good cop and mom was bad cop. I remember as a child feeling like if there were things I wanted to get away with, I would often go to dad because he seemed more lax about things. Mom on the other hand would be more of the disciplinarian who would ensure we had boundaries that ensured we would navigate the world in healthy ways.
What about in your adult relationships? What is your role in your partnership? When I thought about this in my own relationship, I got stumped. I actually don’t know what role I play in my partnership and am going to have to sit on it. Initially I started to feel like I wanted to label who I was only in contrasts with my partner, kind of like the black and white roles of good vs bad cop that I remember as a child, but I don’t think people fit into boxes that way nor do I think its healthy to believe that a strength in one person must mean a weakness in the other. What this made me realize is how easy it is for us to tell others who they are but how rarely we actually look at ourselves to see who we are in the partnership. Roles don’t exist only for other people, we too fill a certain role. I think it’s important to be honest with yourself and explore yourself in this way, have your partner do the same, and see if you both like the current ways you are engaging in the relationship. Talk about the things you love most about your partner, and maybe each share a way you would like the other to grow to better meet the needs of the relationship as a whole. As with anything, if we allow ourselves to be flexible and to have our roles change, the outcome will likely be a much more connected relationship.
So take some time this weekend to do your inner work and figure out who you feel you may be in your relationship, and ask your partner to do the same. It can be a really fun way to gain insight into yourselves and each other that you didn’t previously have.