May 11, 2017
What I’ve learned from Coaching with Power Couples
By Coach Hina Khan
At a certain point your marriage stopped working.
You and your partner both want a healthy home life and the liberty to pursue your professional ambitions, but at some point you stopped acting like a team and started becoming adversaries. It’s gotten to a point where your cell-phone sometimes even feels like the third person in your marriage. You’re not communicating. You’re not experiencing intimacy. You’re basically cohabitating.
Does this sound familiar?
Power couples (a term we use to describe households where both individuals seek professional fulfillment) are becoming increasingly common as new generations leave behind the fixed gender roles of the past.
Because many of us find ourselves operating within a model of relationship we didn’t necessarily see our parents navigate, we don’t always have the references to guide us.
As a result, I work with many couples who fit the above description. When they’ve reached rock-bottom in their relationship the question often becomes, is there a way back from the edge?
The answer is yes! – but before that can happen we need to address a number of key points:
Are you both committed to the relationship?
In my therapy practice, I do not take on couples as clients unless they are both 100% committed to working on the relationship. Once we’re committed, we sign-up for a six-month journey in which there is no talk of divorce or separation and there are are no exits, refunds, or excuses; in other words, we agree to put the relationship above work and all other priorities. We will no longer be victims of our schedules; we will re-take control of our lives and of our marriage. It’s not the role of a therapist to convince someone of the merit of his or her relationship. No matter what has happened, we need to begin with the firm commitment from both partners to the process, regardless of how uncomfortable it gets.
Re-learn how to communicate.
Some relationships operate on cruise-control with less than optimal communication, but over time, like unchecked rust on a car, the relationship will deteriorate to the point where it’s no longer functional.
The first step in rebuilding a relationship is to re-learn how to communicate and how to listen to each other. By the time they come to me, many couples have been speaking, or even yelling, AT each other, but not stopping to actually listen to what the other person is saying.
Together we’ll set the ground rules for communicating and begin the process of rewiring the relationship through listening, validation, and empathy as the new cornerstone. Creating new communication habits is the hardest part of couples therapy, but also the most rewarding and long-lasting.
If it’s on your plate, you ordered it: accepting responsibility.
One of the biggest challenges for power couples is accepting responsibility for the context they’ve created, especially if there has been a one-sided breach of trust such as infidelity.
To be clear, we never want to blame the victim.
At the same time, when relationships begin to break down both individuals have a role to play, and they have to accept responsibility for the behaviour that helped create the breakdown.
Being a victim often feels good, but it is impossible to build a solid relationship from that position because we become entitled and we fail to undertake the level of self-reflection and analysis required to start over.
If we are committed to rebuilding our relationship regardless of what has happened, we need to accept responsibility for our words, behaviour, and actions, and be willing to put ourselves under the microscope.
Power Couples need to retake control
We live in a world of constant distractions, the cell-phone just being one of them. Many times power couples feel like they’re in competition with their partner’s cellphone.
With ubiquitous communication always at hand it is easy to feel that we are not masters of our time but time is a master of us. Part of rebuilding a relationship is becoming protagonists in our own stories, determining our priorities and giving those priorities the attention they deserve.
Power couples are often conformed by successful individuals who sometimes forget that they are where they are because of their partner and not in spite of them.
Successful power couples are teams working together to help fulfill their common goals.
When power couples work well together they prioritize each other and they serve each other.
To do so, power couples need to first recognize that their context is the product of their decisions, and then begin making the decisions that will enable their relationship to be what propels them forward and not what holds them back.
You Can Come Back From The Edge.
When I start working with power couples I ask them, “on a scale of 1 to 10, where are you?”. They often start at the lower-end of the scale. Then I ask, “what does a 10 look like?” and we spend the next six-months working towards creating the conditions in which a 10 is the norm rather than the exception.
When couples are committed to the process anything can happen. I am no longer surprised when couples confide in me that they’ve become pregnant during the course of our time working together on their relationship.
Once we make it through the hard part of re-adjusting our communication, therapy night slowly transforms itself into date night, with couples continuing their dialogue over dinner. After being forced to put their phones away and focus on each other, couples re-connect.
Power couples live in a new model of relationship. We can either be victims of change, or we can become the pioneering cartographers, mapping the model our children will use to manage their own relationships. Not all power couples find the communication and cadence to enable each other’s success. Those who do, however, often find that by changing habits and mental paradigms they can replenish their relationships, and continue to evolve, grow and mature as strong individuals and as strong couples.