Finding meaning in relationships
Deurzen and Adams (2011), state that human beings are relational. In other words, no individual can exist separately from their relationships. The need to belong, to love, and to be appreciated and valued in return, is the foundation of all relationships. A healthy relationship is therefore based on authenticity and mutuality, and is characterized by mature interdependence and existential communication. (Deurzen, 2009).
I, as a therapist, support each partner in an open, honest, and respectful communication, so that there is space for them to understand, negotiate, and compromise with the other person’s point of view. I also facilitate couples to explore what they each bring into the relationship that supports or inhibits the relationship. This helps each individual to identify and explore their existential themes.
During couple’s therapy sessions, we explore how each person may project their own themes onto their partner, as well as, where and in what ways their concerns may reflect each other. For example, they can both have the existential theme of “I am afraid of being rejected”. In therapy, they can each discover and sort out their own concerns with regards to rejection, both within their present relationship, as well as what gets triggered from their past experiences of rejection. With such awareness, they can choose healthier ways of dealing with feelings of rejection in the present and future. In this way, by identifying and working through their existential themes together, both partners become allies to each other’s individual growth, as well as facilitate the growth of their partnership.
The Existential-Humanistic perspective entails the exploration of how a person can live their life more consciously and purposely. This perspective explores an unfolding process of discovering oneself and assumes that every individual is responsible for how they exist in the world and how they respond to the conditions presented to them.
Additionally, this perspective also values self-actualization, as a fundamental process for the growth of the individual, which will in turn benefit both the couple and society as a whole.
In couple’s therapy, this perspective offers the opportunity for each partner to explore one of the ‘givens of existence of this orientation: the relationship versus the dichotomy of isolation. In other words, we are all simultaneously alone and relating to others. This dichotomy is embodied by the couple’s relationship. During couple’s therapy, life themes are expressed and understood. In this manner, a closeness evolves between the partners, as each of them struggles with their vulnerabilities openly. Intimacy is the direct result of such mutual self-disclosure and self-discovery.
In conclusion, couples which successfully work within the Existential-Humanistic perspective model in therapy, realize that they each communicate and negotiate better with one another. They therefore experience more intimacy and feel more connected with each other and within themselves. They become more aware and respectful of their own and their partner’s existential themes. Finally, they are more accepting and appreciate a more process-oriented, open-ended view of life.