Couples and Shadow Work

Being in relationship can bring many riches in to our life, and also many challenges. Being in an intimate relationship is the surest way to bring our shadows out of the dark and into our awareness. Many of us avoid relationships for this reason, and there are certainly times in everyone's life when it is necessary to be alone and to work on your personal development outside of a relationship. Alone, we can explore our shadows without the added pressure of a partner, and without the intensity of emotions and complex interactions that take place in relationship. However, when the time is right, embracing the emotional challenges of relationship can provide one of the richest possible sources of growth and self knowledge. Getting the right support at this time can make a significant difference to the process, as the strength of the emotions that arise can be difficult to hold between two people alone.

Allowing for the expression of each person's shadow sides

The first work I do with couples is to teach them to understand and use the powerful 5 Fields Authentic Communication Framework. This model has been developed as a way of allowing people to explore their difficulties respectfully whilst also allowing expression of any shadow parts which may be at play. For a relationship to deepen it is vital that we share these shadow sides with our partner, even if we fear these parts of ourselves are irrational, mean, selfish, shameful or silly. If we don’t bring these sides of ourselves out of shadow they will continue to run the relationship from behind the scenes and will cause much pain and confusion. Sharing these shadow sides of ourselves with a partner is however very challenging and full of potential risks. It can make us feel extremely vulnerable - it’s very different to sharing ourselves in a Shadow Work workshop where the people witnessing us are not part of our day to day life. With a partner this work has to be done very carefully and respectfully and each person needs to decide for themselves what aspects they want to take the risk of sharing and what they feel it is not safe to share at the moment.

Gaining a deeper insight into the relationship dynamics

As these shadow sides are revealed the dynamics in the relationship become clearer to both parties and the healing that is needed becomes self evident. We can then move on to speaking to these shadow parts using the Shadow Work coaching tools - we can find out more about where these parts have come from and what they want. This work can bring a deeper understanding of your partner and more compassion and patience when managing their sometimes ‘irrational’ or ‘childish’ behaviour. It also allows your partner to gain a deeper insight in to your behaviour and to have more understanding and compassion for you. It helps you both to have a language with which to talk about the difficulties you experience as a couple and it becomes easier to see each other’s challenging behaviours as wounded parts that need tenderness and care. Paradoxically it then also becomes clearer what boundaries need to be set in order for both people to feel safe in the relationship - understanding and having compassion for the other person does not mean we have to tolerate behaviour that is damaging to us. Having an agreed communication framework means that, rather than causing separation, each new difficulty can become a source of connection and deepened understanding between you both. Working together in this way it’s possible for you to support each other so that each person is able to grow and develop and feel understood and respected.

Background and further information

The work I do with couples is underpinned by my two years training as a relationship cousellor with Relate and my experience of working with couples at Relate Bristol. This is combined with the Shadow Work coaching tools and the 5 Fields Authentic Communication Framework. The first session is six hours in total. In the morning we have a three hour session where I teach you both the 5 Fields Framework, then we have a three hour session in the afternoon where we begin the work together. We then continue working together in three hour sessions. If you’d like to find out more about this way of working please do get in touch for a discussion of the work and how it may support your relationship. 

I welcome all couples to my practice. LGBTQ+ welcome

Authentic communication work

I also offer the above work for any two people wishing to improve their relationship and their communication, this includes friends, colleagues and family members as well as couples. In addition to this I run group workshops in Authentic Communication and couples, colleagues, friends and family members are welcome to attend these workshops together. On these workshops you each learn to use the Five Fields Framework and you will gain an understanding of some of your personal shadows that may be at play in your communication. You don't work directly on your relationship in these workshops, but you each work individually on your own communication challenges. You can then take this framework away and use it together. The Five Fields Framework is powerfully effective for working through difficult issues as they arise in your relationship and for deepening your understanding of each other. Please see the workshops page for further information and dates.

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