Can You Give Me what I need?
Being in a committed long-term relationship is the hardest thing we do. Individuals in a relationship boil down into two distinct categories. You can call them Pursuers and Withdrawers, Minimizers/Maximizers or the-one-who-is-eternally-Disappointed and the-one-who-lives-in-fear-of-eternally-Disappointing. It all boils down to the same fears: “I am never going to be enough for you and you are never going to give me what I truly need.”
What is at the core of conflict?
This belief and the feelings, thoughts, and behaviors that contribute to and maintain the belief is potent. When one person in the relationship is comfortable addressing conflicts, disruptions or life in general head-on with demanding energy and critical emotions, it is not surprising that the other person responds by withdrawing, shutting down or avoiding. Or when one person avoids and is unavailable, the other person redoubles her efforts to get his attention. Herein lies the core of what prevents couples from staying connected during conflicts and hard times: What you need most from me is something I need to learn to do better and vice versa.
You Are the Cream in My Coffee
In Imago, we say that two people are attracted to each other because they are protecting themselves from similar old hurts. AND the way they each respond in this situation is opposite of the way their partner responds. Pain is self-absorbing and will distract you from your deepest desire to be connected. When we lose our feeling of connectedness AND we feel pain rooted in old stories, past losses, and deeply mourned unmet needs, it is very difficult to avoid the seduction of default defenses. Our defenses, which have served us well in the past, are immediately activated and we are off to the races again.
If it’s hysterical, it’s historical.
The key to restoring balance and harmony is to help the maximizer (pursuer) contain emotion and the minimizer (withdrawer) express emotion. This is no small feat. Each person is being asked to do the thing that is least comfortable for him or her. When different defensive adaptations are validated and understood the couple can become a team and work together towards a mutual bond. If it is an old wound it is a painful one. The older it is the more painful. Understanding your default traits in a power struggle leads to safe connection and relaxed joyfulness. Conflict is co-created, as is connection.
Minimizers learn to express their emotions and energy. Maximizers learn to contain their emotions and energy. In truth, we all have aspects of both minimizers and maximizers. Stress, conflict, and fear feed our dominate minimizer/maximizer traits. Self-aware, connected minimizers are more fully present, open, available, and emotionally expressive. Attuned maximizers contain their emotions, breathe into the moment, self-soothe, and manage their feelings, thoughts, and behaviors. Your deepest need is your partner’s opportunity for growth and therefore your best chance of healing.
Imago Relationship Therapy helps.
Working with a trained Imago Therapist, couples learn:
- to restore balance
- heal old wounds
- develop new tools and adaptations
- ensure survival
Partners in a relationship come to understand each other and to cross over into their mate’s world validating her or his experience. Embrace your Minimizer/Maximizer traits, they are the key to your connection.
Take the Minimizer/Maximizer Survey to see which trait you are most likely to portray in a stressful situation.