Imagine a beautiful crystal pitcher filled with water to the brim; place cups around the pitcher. Notice the pitcher beginning to pour water into the cups. The pitcher is constantly pouring water. It does not stop or take breaks since the cups never seem to say full. The pitcher does not believe it deserves to take break. It does not stop to rest and think to fill itself. Eventually, the pitcher has no water to pour, but the pitcher continues to pour water into the cups until it is empty.
In this metaphor, you are the pitcher, and your responsibilities to yourself, partners, and children become the cups. In my work with couples, one of the objectives becomes to teach each partner to be their best self in order to provide the love and security for each other. I teach clients to take time alone, by learning to take the guilt away so the moments are enjoyable. A friendly reminder is you must take care of yourself before you can take care of others, making it important to take time for yourself. This benefits you to continue the focus on who you are as a person, and as the pitcher, fill yourself up with energy. As a person, you have the right to focus on yourself to appreciate who you are as “Self” instead of focusing on what you have to do as a “Partner,” or “Parent.” It is an important skill to focus on the “couple self.” Your spouse and children also benefit from taking breaks since you gain energy and can focus on them more clearly. Providing your best self allows others to receive your best self.
Communication is another objective in my couple’s work. It seems that many clients struggle with “communication.” This term is used so much, that I work to get the specific details in to the type of changes in communications couples and families want. Clients struggle listening to each other since, often, I hear, “I want them to listen to me.” It seems clients want to speak their opinion and emotions and want the other person to listen. Communication is a two-way street in which the parties involved must listen and speak. When listening to your partner, you are active listening. Active listening requires partners to focus on what others are saying without distractions and remember the information. You do not agree or disagree with the statements. You simply listen and repeat what you heard to demonstrate your skills.
Couple flexibility is another valuable skill. Couples unconsciously fall into roles to fulfill responsibilities. Other times, partners choose specific tasks to complete since they have the “right” way of doing it. I challenge that thought to this is your “preferred way” of completing a task. I have heard a story or two about the dad that does not know who the name of the child’s pediatrician because mom takes care of it since she is better at it. I follow up with, “How is dad expected to help at the doctor’s office?” Couples that learn flexibility in their roles learn to handle and manage stress healthily. The couple must allow each partner to use their skills to be effective in the relationship. Flexible couples depend on each other knowing the task will be complete, lessening their stress in situations, allowing the couple and family to be successful.
Take the following skills from this post: take care of yourself, truly listen to your partner, and allow flexibility in the relationship.
Emma Pineda, LPC Intern, LMFT-Associate is a couples therapist. She practices in our Lewisville and Farmers Branch offices.