Just as we need to pay attention to what is going on inside of us (our emotions, thoughts, memories and hopes for the future), we also need to be curious about what is going on between us and those we love. All the dynamics and patterns that are part of a relationship are found in the “between”; it is in the between that relationships struggle or thrive.
It serves us well to remember that the between is where we first see evidence that something may be off in a relationship. We feel strain, misunderstandings, distance or reactivity and we get a sense that things aren’t quite right between us. And the between is often the first place that we see improvements in a relationship; we start to feel a connectedness, ease or sense of being understood or known in the between.
All relationships have a between. Think about the important people in your life. What is the tone of each relationship? What you are describing is this dynamic that is created by how you both interact with each other. The between is never the reflection of just one person; it can only exist when two people are in relationship. That can be both a freeing thought as well as a grief-inducing thought. You contribute significantly to the between, but you are not the sole contributor.
Daring to pay attention and honestly assess what it feels like between you and another person is a necessary step toward strengthening that valued relationship. This goes for any form of relationship- between spouses or partners, between parents and children, between siblings, between friends, between co-workers and between neighbors.
Sometimes the disconnect that is felt between people and the loneliness that accompanies that disconnection are the catalysts to begin the journey of therapy. The beauty of therapy is that is honors both the work within the individual and the work between people. There is a connection between what goes on inside of us and how we interact with those around us. Unresolved hurts that develop between us and those we love can be addressed. Almost always the healing comes through a combination of work within ourselves and work between our loved ones and us.
When the between is thriving, we feel deep satisfaction in our relationships. There is a strong sense of being known and loved. We feel emotionally safe as we have room to grow and create room for those around us to grow as well.
Take time today to notice the betweens in your relationships. Which relationships are thriving and filled with life? Let those loved ones know that you are thankful to feel connected, loved and valued. Which betweens are suffering? Can you identify your part to help the between become more vibrant or healthy? If you aren’t sure, but know that something is not as should be, consider talking with a therapist to help gain clarity about how to move forward.
Often I get asked what makes Marriage and Family Therapy different than other forms of therapy. Perhaps the best way to understand how a Marriage and Family Therapist looks at a situation is to say that we are looking at what is both within a person and between people. It is a view that we humans are complex beings; we are physical, emotional, intellectual, relational and spiritual. Each part of us interacts, and no part fully explains who we are.