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The Path Forward

Jeannine Crofton - Calgary Marriage Counsellor


Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius is given credit for the idea that when we identify what is getting in the way of a better life, we can see the pathway to get there. In her recent book “Dare to Lead”, Brene Brown, restates this idea “What stands in the way becomes the way”. This is paradoxical, meaning that the thing we see so clearly as a barrier is actually the solution.

Young couple holding hands walking on autumn path

The path forward.

In therapy, we can talk a lot about the problem, but the better option is to flip the problem and create clarity by asking what the opposite of the problem is. In my practice, I ask people how they would be experiencing their relationship differently if there was a miracle in the night and it was fixed. I often see a client move in their chair as they consider the resolution. This perspective shift is a robust intervention and is often challenging for all of us. When we have thought so long and hard about what the problem is we are then noticing all the evidence that it is true. Social Psychologists have long understood that what we look for we find. Take the example of when we drive a new car. We may feel like it’s relatively unique and then as we drive the car notice how many other cars are just like it.

Let’s get back to relationships. For example, if you feel your partner doesn’t respect your need for joint decision-making that can be a problem. If you think they often make decisions without your input or do not allow your thoughts to influence their final choice that can hurt. The experience has an emotional quality to it. It can feel like we don’t matter, or not enough to shape our partner’s decisions. We then can notice when they bring home a different brand of toothpaste or decide to stay out longer than you would have liked. These small choices confirm your belief that they don’t really care about your opinions and therefore they don’t really care enough about you. The more this narrative is reinforced, the more the belief and the underlying feeling is experienced. So if we asked Aurelius……he might suggest you see a therapist.

“Gaining assistance to move you toward the solution is just a call away. Allow me to help pave the way to a better relationship.”

A marital therapist is a neutral third party, an advocate of the relationship, who can see these beliefs, draw attention to them and assist you to say what you really want. Undoubtedly, the brand of toothpaste is not a relationship deal breaker, but the feeling of not mattering can be. I can help you establish a plan whereby you create opportunities to behave in ways that refute the belief, or I can tease out which exact circumstances are non-negotiable and which ones are. The beliefs then become more specific to the actual circumstance and the beliefs can be rejigged to accurately reflect the differences in the relationship. Gaining assistance to move you toward the solution is just a call away. Allow me to help pave the way to a better relationship.

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