Wilfried Sluys Gestalttherapie

Praktijk voor Gestalttherapie en relatietherapie

Categorie: English

Relating on ice

by our guest-blogger Christiane Waterson

 

Over the past year I have been introduced to the “Circle of Relating”, Bob and Rita Resnick’s model that illustrates the dynamic stages of connecting and withdrawing within a relationship. Many others will have got to know their work over the years, and I am wondering if I am the only one who can no longer watch any television without feeling an irrepressible urge to apply the Resnick model to any two living beings who interact on the screen.

Take the recent Winter Olympics, for example. As I was immersing myself in the beauty of ice dancing (despite the protestations of my children who believe that the only sports worth watching are those in which human beings reach a speed of at least 50 km/h) my thoughts invariably turned to the “Circle of Relating”.

The model describes any healthy relationship as being defined by four processes that the couple will live through recurrently, with contact and confluence being two of them. Contact is defined by both partners moving independently of each other but staying in touch, while confluence describes them as (re-)acting as one.

On the ice rink the dance couples act it out perfectly: Contact – yes (I noted that myself)! The performance wouldn’t be half as impressive if they drew a line across the rink and went about doing their twizzles and step sequences each in their own space. For a start, the audience wouldn’t know which way to look! A fluent display of touching and releasing each other, only to find one another again moments later emphasises the strength of the couple’s connection.

And then: Confluence – yes! The way in which those pairs perform their programmes seems to be all about sensing what your partner does, producing exact movements simultaneously and moving as one to the same tune. It makes for compelling viewing.

Obviously some manage it better than others. So what makes the difference?

Take the German pair, for example. Both were clearly gifted ice dancers and together they put on an entertaining, funny show (who says that Germans have no humour!), but, as the commentator remarked, despite well-executed dance components they never seemed to move as one. Clearly lots of contact here, but not enough in the way of confluence.

The young Russian pair made a better job out of dancing as one. They floated effortlessly across the ice and seemed linked to each other by invisible elastic bands. I’d personally say that it helped the overall impression that they wore costumes of the same colour, but surely a more experienced critic than I am would be able to see past that!

And indeed, both top-ranked couples appeared on the ice in non-matching outfits and still enchanted the audience (and judges) with a flawlessly (con)fluent interpretation of their chosen piece of music. After each independently executed movement, they reconnected visibly through their touch and gaze. These couples seemed completely tuned into one another and connected through their identical interpretation of the same tune.

I was left wondering how many hours of training had gone into performances like these. Hours spent practising moves, but also getting to know your partner inside and out, and learning to sense their movement and mirror them in the exact same way. How amazingly well you must know each other in order to move in such complete unison!

In the end, the American couple went home with the gold medal. And with Bob and Rita Resnick being their compatriots, it just goes to show that collectively the Americans must know a thing or two about the processes of relating!!

 

Romantic love

by Marike de Valk

It’s a funny idea to dwell on: the concept of the relationship as a form of romantic love is only a century old. The characteristic of Romanticism was that the loved one was unreachable, this kept the dream and passion alive. The most beautiful art has been created by artists who were unhappy and suffered from a broken heart .

And the marriage was no romance. The wife was happy when she had a decent man who brought bread on the table, was healthy and did not hit or drink. A man was happy if his wife could take care of the children and the household, and there would be intercourse regularly.

How did we ever arrive at the point that we want to combine marriage with romance?

It seems that, after a period in which we discovered how important a good childhood is and in which our parents set boundaries for us, we now arrive in a period in wich we expect things of our relationships. We aim for the highest, for as the saying goes: “The sky’s the limit”.

But always pursuing perfection, creates a feeling of stress and dissatisfaction in our society. People do not learn how to deal with limitations and will eventually reach the point of a rude awakening. They have worked hard, have pursued the world, and are tired, stressed and unhappy . They have not learned to stop and enjoy what is right in front of them. They will constantly aim for what is not there yet; the glass is always half empty …

I am convinced that all relationships come to a point at which we must learn how to cope with each other’s limitations. If you do not learn from what a relationship brings you, your relationship might come to an end after which you will enter into a new relationship. As you did not learn what was needed from the previous relationship, the new relationship will take you back to the same point. If you want to grow old with your partner, you have to learn to take a look at your relationship with him/her instead of what you do not get out of it.

Like the paediatrician Winnicott once said; “a mother is not perfect, but “good enough”. In addition to that, I would like to state that a relationship is not perfect, but ” good enough” as it is.

Don’t you agree ?

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Midlife-crisis

by my colleague Marike de Valk

 

“I think he is in a midlife crisis! ‘

We often hear this statement in the therapy room, after which the wife substantiates this claim with remarks of the husband having purchased a motorcycle, dying his hair, hanging out with ‘the boys’ more often, wanting to purchase a glitzy car and at times falling in love with another woman, usually years younger than his partner.

Midlife crisis or not, when you feel dissatisfied or unhappy about your life there is a considerate chance that this will lead to relationship issues, and very often even cheating.

If you’re not careful , it will linger under the surface. Life is so full of things that need to be done, that after a long day of work you come home exhausted and just want to sit on the couch switching channels. Everything in your life has a meaning, a rhythm, a routine. All projects are on track; the house has been purchased, children have been born, the promotion you were longing for has been received, ​​or not, you feel yourself getting older and having to go the gym more often. There are no major problems, but you are certainly not enjoying life to the fullest.

And your partner, well, is a repetition of the same old routine, the deadliest comment I have ever heard in this context was; “My wife was a beautiful book, but I read it from cover to cover already”.

So then the question arises: is this it? Do I want to be that old? Is this the life I want to lead? Do you live your life or is your life being lived?

That is what people report when they suddenly fall in love: that they finally have the feeling that they are living their lives, they are struck, blood starts flowing again, life has meaning again.

It would be nice if it does not have to come that far if you regularly take a close look at your life.

How does that sound to you? Do you still really enjoy your life? Do you regularly feel inspired? Are you still regularly touched? Can you still wonder and feel real happiness, real joy, without any alcohol? And are you occasionally really sad or really angry? Do you feel real emotions or are they toned down?
And do you still show a real interest in your partner, or do you fill everything in for her/him without checking? Do you give each other genuine attention? And how is your sex life? Do you still make love to each other to your mutual satisfaction? Do you encourage each other in your personal development and ambitions? Are you each independent or will you end up as a drouzy couple on similar bikes with identical windbreakers?

It pays to consciously reflect on these questions on a regular basis. Start now and make up the balance before you get into this crisis.

You will do yourself and your partner a big favour!

 

 

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