NYC Psychotherapist Blog

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Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Emotionally Intimate Relationships Provide An Opportunity to Know Yourself in New Ways

People who are in new relationships are understandably focused on getting to know their partner, but being in a relationship also provides you with an opportunity to get to know yourself better--sometimes in unexpected ways.

Emotionally Intimate Relationships Provide An Opportunity to Get to Know Yourself in a New Way

Although there is always the potential to get to know yourself in all relationships, including friendships and work-related relationships, being in an emotionally intimate relationship brings up core emotional issues that you often don't discover in other relationships.  This is because you're at your most emotionally vulnerable when you're in a relationship that is emotionally intimate.

Often, these core issues involve aspects of yourself that you haven't encountered before--even if you're been in other relationships--because every relationship is different.  Each dyad is unique and combines the personal histories of each person in a unique way.

Getting to know yourself in a relationship gives you a chance to see yourself in a new light in both ways you like and in ways you might want to change.

Fictional Clinical Vignette:  Emotionally Intimate Relationships Provide You With An Opportunity to Get to Know Yourself in New Ways
The following fictional clinical vignette illustrates how being in a relationship provides an opportunity to get to know new aspects of yourself and how psychotherapy can help:

After his divorce, Tod waited a year before he started dating.  He had been married for 15 years and, initially, he found the dating world to be daunting.  It was all new to him.  He lacked confidence in himself and he felt discouraged by online dating.  He often felt like he was "doing it wrong" when he met women online or he felt inadequate in some way.  But when he met Nicki through mutual friends, he felt he met someone who was special, and he stopped his online dating activity.

They were both divorced, in their mid-40s, and without children.  Not only did they have similar values and interests, but they both had demanding careers and were both looking to get into a serious relationship.  After dating for several months, they decided to take the next step and move in together.

After living together for a couple of months, Nicki began to express her frustration with Tod's unspoken expectation that she do all of the cooking and housework.

Hearing her complaints, Tod was surprised--mostly at himself--because he always saw himself as believing that men and women were equal in his personal relationships as well as in his work-related relationships.  As a managing director at work, he tended to mentor and promote qualified women, and he encouraged his managers to do so as well.  So hearing Nicki say she thought his behavior at home was sexist was something he hadn't thought about before.  But when he did think about it, he realized that she was right.

As Tod thought about it more, he realized that when he was married, his wife, who didn't work, did the housework, and she didn't mind.  This is what he was accustomed to for 15 years and it was never an issue for them.  He also grew up in a household where his mother stayed home and took care of all the household chores while his father was at work.

The problems that led to Tod's divorce had nothing to do with disagreements about household chores and more to do with their growing apart.  His wife at the time was a perfectionist about housework, and she preferred to do things herself, which suited both of them.

In the last few years of his marriage, Tod started psychotherapy to deal with the loss of his mother to a sudden illness.  While in therapy, Tod learned things about himself that he never realized before.  Getting to know aspects of himself that he never knew before helped Tod to grow and become more psychologically minded, but his wife didn't understand why he attended psychotherapy.  Even when it was obvious to both of them that they were drifting apart, his wife wouldn't even consider going to couples therapy, so the relationship eventually ended with each of them acknowledging the unhappiness in the marriage and opting for an amicable divorce.

Tod began discussing with his psychotherapist how surprised he was to realize that he was behaving in a traditional sexist way at home and even more surprised that he didn't realize it himself before Nicki mentioned it.  Although he agreed with Nicki once she pointed it out, he felt completely inept about doing housework because he had never done it before.  When he lived with his former college roommates after he graduated college, they hired a cleaning person to do the housework and, as previously mentioned, when he was married, his wife preferred to do the housework.

His psychotherapist sensed that there was something more going on for Tod beyond that he didn't like or feel good at doing housework, so she explored this issue with him further.

What eventually came up was that, beyond housework, Tod often felt "not good enough" when he tried anything new, including online dating before he and Nicki moved in together.  This included going away to college, which resulted in him attending counseling through the college counseling center when he was tempted to drop out of college during his freshman year.  It also included when he was new at work after college.

Fortunately, his college counselor helped him to get through that difficult first year so he stayed at college.  And he was assigned to a caring mentor at his company, who helped him make the transition from college to work when he was a new employee, and it also helped Tod to build up his self confidence in his career.

As Tod discussed this problem with his psychotherapist, he realized that new situations still triggered the feelings of not being good enough in many areas of his life, and he wanted to work through this issue since it was bound to come up again and again in his life.

To discover the underlying issues involved with Tod not feeling good enough, his psychotherapist used the current situation with Nicki and the clinical hypnosis technique called the Affect Bridge (see my article: What is Clinical Hypnosis?).

With the Affect Bridge, Tod was able to sense his emotions and where he felt them in his body with regard to his current problem and go back to the earliest time that he felt this way about himself to get to the root of the problem.

Once Tod and his psychotherapist were able to pinpoint the earliest experience where he felt inadequate, which was in his childhood, they used EMDR therapy to help him to resolve the past, present and anticipated future events that could trigger these feelings of inadequacy (see my articles: What is EMDR Therapy?How Does EMDR Therapy Work: EMDR and the Brain, and Experiential Therapy, Like EMDR Therapy, Helps to Achieve Emotional Breakthroughs).

Along the way, Tod began taking over half of the household responsibilities that Nicki had been doing, which Nicki appreciated, and after doing EMDR therapy, he no longer felt inadequate with this  issue or other new situations.

Emotionally intimate relationships provide an opportunity for you to get to know yourself in new ways, including both positive and negative aspects of yourself.

When there are issues that are getting triggered in your relationship, these issues often have their roots in earlier experiences.

Experiential therapy, like EMDR, Somatic Experiencing and clinical hypnosis are effective forms of therapy that help you to overcome unresolved trauma.

Getting Help in Therapy
If you have been struggling with unresolved issues, you can get help in psychotherapy (see my article: The Benefits of Psychotherapy).

A skilled psychotherapist can help you to overcome the problems that are keeping you stuck so you can lead a more fulfilling life, so rather than struggling on your own, get help from a licensed mental health professional (see my article: How to Choose a Psychotherapist).

About Me
I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing therapist (see my article: The Therapeutic Benefits of Integrative Psychotherapy).

I work with individual adults and couples, and I have helped many people to overcome unresolved problems.

To find out more about me, visit my website: Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.