Getting to the Core of Your Relationship Saboteurs
By Corinne Farago
Most couples who come to me for intimacy and relationship coaching have one thing in common; they want to know how to get their partner to change.
They’ve gotten so used to paying attention to their partner’s shortcomings, that they’ve forgotten, or chosen to ignore their own 50% of the relationship equation.
Getting to the core of our own relationship strategies and patterns of behavior is required learning if a couple is looking for lasting transformation, not only in their intimate relationship, but in every relationship in their life.
Our patterns of relating to others run deep. Most of us don’t recognize how our patterns of behavior unconsciously run our lives and impact those around us.
We want a better relationship but rarely do we delve into the core strategies we’ve taken on in life and assess the role they play in our relationships with our partner.
Chronic conflict, finger pointing, complaining, judging, blaming are all bi-products of unhealthy patterns and old programing. Before I work with a couple on their sensual life, I ask them to spend time doing some Core Relationship Coaching with me. Understanding the patterns partners bring to their relationship is often the key that opens the door to what they both long for, deeper love, better sex and authentic desire.
Here’s what I mean by ‘Core Relationship Coaching’
We’re all born into environments that challenge us, to a greater or lesser degree.
As children, we quickly develop strategies to cope with those challenges in order to survive.
No child escapes the experiences of fear, insecurity, sadness, self-doubt, even in the best of families. These challenges are built into our human development, and depending on our environment, as children, we must quickly adapt with strategies that will protect us from pain.
Pull out an old photo of yourself under the age of 10 and take a good look into the eyes of that child. They’ve already developed their coping strategies. They’ve already formed belief systems about their self-worth, and they’ve already begun to armor themselves from the pain that comes with being human.
In the beginning, our coping strategies appear to be our helpers. They protect us from life’s slings and arrows. Let’s use bullying as an example. If we were bullied at home or on the playground, our helper may have shown up as:
Introversion, to keep us alone, and away from the threat of others.
Aggressiveness, in order to fight back, perhaps becoming bullies ourselves.
Pleasing, to insure that others will like us and keep us safe.
Hyper-vigilance, in our choice of friends, by becoming suspicious and mistrustful of other’s motives.
Victimization, to feel validated in our betrayal and gain the attention or sympathy we feel we deserve.
Our innate ability to survive as children was tailored to our environment, and sometimes modeled by those closest to us. By observing our parents, our siblings, our community, we learn ways to cope with the challenges life throws at us.
The fact that we’ve grown into adults is proof that our helpers did their job of insuring that we adapted to our environment, and in essence, stay alive.
Q: When do our adaptive childhood helpers turn into our maladaptive adult saboteurs?
A: When the same strategies that helped us cope as children create obstruction to intimacy and connection in our adult relationships.
What literally felt life-threatening when we were 8 years old, no longer holds the same threat to us as an adult. We may have successfully protected ourselves from the pain of bullying, but we’ve consciously or unconsciously decided to keep those helpers around. Our childhood protector is no longer our ally. It’s now one of our saboteurs that feeds us with beliefs that no longer serve our happiness.
Even though we’re no longer experiencing bullying on the playground, our strategy to be introverted, aggressive, pleasing, suspicious, or victimized has become an ingrained part of how we operate in relationships today. What was once adaptive and helpful in protecting us at 8 years old, has become maladaptive and harmful in our adult relationships today.
Until we recognize the nature of our maladaptive strategies, and how they sabotage our relationships, we are locked into unconscious programming and reactivity that can cause a lifetime of conflict and disconnection.
If you’ve ever seen a profile photo of an iceberg, your maladaptive programming is the large mass of ice under the surface. It’s huge, and, as we know, it’s not visible from the surface.
This is what Core Relationship Coaching uncovers. It reveals what’s under the surface, and gives us powerful tools to clear our life of old programming that no longer serves us. It helps support self-awareness and self-compassion by acknowledging the usefulness of our old helpers once upon a time, and it welcomes in new programming and belief systems that supports harmony in our adult relationships.
Brain Training as a Couple
Insights are important. They give us awareness and wake us up to parts of ourselves that may be unconsciously running the show, and forming the negative thoughts inside our head.
Core Relationship Coaching shows us that we are always able to choose our thoughts. It’s just that most of us have gotten so adept at choosing the negative thoughts, that we forget we have a choice in the matter at all.
Insights empower us, but it’s what we do with those insights that create actual, tangible differences in our day-to-day life with our partner.
That’s why my couples incorporate brief daily practices that rewire neural-pathways in the brain. Just like going to the gym to increase our physical strength, we build emotional strength and capacity to create new neural pathways in our brain. We replace old limiting patterns with the wisdom that comes from awareness and practice.
Core Relationship Coaching is like looking at your relationship through a brand new lens. When conflict arises my coaching couples approach it as an opportunity to use their new tools. They draw on a common language to understand themselves and each other better, and they realize for the first time, that happy relationships aren’t mysterious accidents that only happen for the lucky ones.
We can all have happy, connected relationships if both partners are willing to join as a team and commit to the same goal. Identifying and exposing our saboteurs is the first step in my Core Coaching Program for Couples. By the end of our Core Coaching, couples are equipped with what they need to feel love, show love, and be love, more consistently.
Just like every one of our relationships, love is a work in progress that never stops growing and never stops giving.
If you’d like to know more about building a happy relationship using Core Relationship Coaching, I’m happy to talk with you.
My female cousin was a primary contributor to my early sex education, when I needed it most. For instance she clarified that I couldn’t get pregnant by dancing with a boy, no matter how close we got. She also confirmed that I wasn’t the only person who touched themselves (down there), and most importantly, she showed me that ‘wellness massagers from Sears were used for things other than sore necks and shoulders. A few years later my boyfriend introduced me to the real deal. A vibrator made specifically for genital arousal. It was a cream colored, hard plastic, shapeless cylinder with a twisting on/off switch at the end.
This week a client told me she was doing a Marie Kondo on her closet. She was getting rid of what no longer gave her joy.
We went on to talk about her sex life with her partner and the nagging resistance she has to being touched.
Somewhere along the line she formed a belief system about touch. She couldn’t identify a particular incident that informed that belief system. There was no trauma or abuse. She just knew that when she was touched (even by her loving partner) her body would recoil and she’d shut down.
There’s no getting away from the fact that couples in long-term relationships impact each other profoundly, in small and large ways. If you’re a couple who live together there are moments throughout each day that bring you together to discuss something, to work on a task, to accomplish an errand, to share a story, or listen to one. Partners flow in and around each other with such symbiosis, that we can sometimes feel like we’re one mechanism with a shared mind.
Even in the midst of this unprecedented time, the holiday season is once again upon us. If you’re fortunate enough to have one or more loved ones around you, you’re probably giving and receiving a gift or two. I’d like to share a few thoughts I have on gifting.