When I became an adolescent my relationship with my father became increasingly complicated, confusing and painful for me, and remained that way for decades. It remained that way until a few months before his death.
When I was 18, a freshman in college, I already knew that my relationship with my father would color all of my interactions with other men in my life, and especially any intimate partner I would have.
I was determined to shift the inevitable, so I went to therapy. The experience of therapy is a whole story unto itself, which I will share another time. For now, I am sharing this to establish that I was motivated to turn to experts to assist me in areas where I was in unfamiliar terrain and clearly had blind spots.
My husband had some intense, confronting experiences when he was 16 and ended up working with a therapist to make sense of what had happened. It was very positive and healing for him, and gave my husband tools for self-reflection, inquiry and awareness.
When we got married, even as we were happy, in love, and entirely excited about the future, I always knew we would seek out therapy or couples coaching. Each of us had individually benefited from working with an expert, and I was eager to bring the same attention and expansion to our shared experience.
We had to have blind spots in our relationship (though I didn’t have any idea what they were)! I knew more joy and fulfillment were possible for us than we would be able to access on our own, so I just assumed we would benefit from the resolution and expansion that comes from working with and learning from someone wise and devoted to our success.
This attitude meant it was very straightforward for me to reach out to someone when I felt our communication was starting to dip or I didn’t feel as seen as I wanted to. I couldn’t have really said what was missing if someone had asked—I just knew I wanted to feel more seen, more cherished, more understood… NOW, after 23 years of marriage, I would say I wanted more emotional intimacy and more sensual passion, I wanted to feel more alive in my own skin and to connect deeply with the man I already loved so much.
The first step we took was to participate in a 3 hour workshop. That was 21 years ago and what I remember most clearly was a couple teaching the workshop together. At one point she stated beliefs she had and assumptions she often made, and with each one she picked up a big yellow balloon. He did the same, stating his assumptions and picking up a balloon for each one.
The beliefs and assumptions they made included things like…
- “My husband should make me happy.”
- “My wife should leave me alone when I’ve had a hard day.”
- “My husband should be available whenever I have something to share.”
- “My wife should be happy to see me.”
Once they each had their handful of balloons, they each put them in front of their faces, and from there they tried to see one another and have a meaningful conversation… which was impossible!
It was such an instructive and potent visual of something typically completely invisible and usually unconscious. To this day, when my husband or I realize we have made a false assumption about the other one, we refer to them as yellow balloons.
In that workshop, we learned a few ways to pop the balloons. Since then I have learned from many other teachers, and invented some of my own great ways to pop the balloons, because there is truly nothing better in a relationship than a clear line of sight between oneself and one’s partner.
Clear vision means seeing your own and your partner’s true motivation— the nobility, the good intentions, the pain that has camouflaged and distorted those good intentions, the bright light that is in everyone and the shadows that create the growth and learning that you also see.
I am particularly excited about the path because I am immersing myself in it as I create the Conscious Partnership Program, my group program for committed couples.
I have been having so much fun choosing which exercises will serve participants in popping their own yellow balloons!
I am almost done and will be taking couples through the course starting June 10. If you might be interested in joining in, please hit reply and let me know, or take the Test Your Relationship IQ Quiz to see where you are in your relationship, and then schedule a call to connect.
A few couples are already enrolled and it is going to be an amazing, transformative journey for all involved!!