Ok, suggesting there should be 3 of you in your Relationship may make some of you look twice; it might even make some of you quite mad! But read on to discover a whole new way to approach your Love Relationship (it’s probably not quite what you think!)
It’s an easy trap to get caught in: We don’t see ourselves as separate from our Relationship. We are Yin and Yang; two halves of the one whole; 2 peas in a pod; each other’s other half… I could go on.
Love songs & stories have told us this tale for years – the one about ‘2 Becoming 1’.
I’d like to suggest something different though:
There should actually be 3 of you in this Relationship.
And actually for various psychological reasons I am not a fan of the idea of polygamy and so I do not mean this literally. The foundation of my work is about creating Emotional Safety in Relationships and I don’t believe this is entirely possible when there are more than 2 of you involved.
So, I mean this Conceptually:
Considering your Relationship as an entity on its own, separate from the 2 of you, can be a really helpful way to work out where you are at & how you might improve things. Especially useful if you currently find yourself in crisis.
Now in the first place, you have to remove yourself from the old narrative that you 2 are simply 2 halves of the same whole. While there is actually some truth to this from a psychological perspective, it can be a damaging way to perceive our Relationships. It’s one that can rob us of our own identities and often leaves us saying the Oh too familiar ‘I have lost myself in this Relationship!’.
So in your Relationship it’s vital that you learn to individuate. Especially if you are having problems currently, spend some time focusing on You – what you like, what you need and what makes your soul sing! Spend some time seeing how different you 2 actually are; spend some time learning about who you are. This process in itself is extremely valuable.
However, there’s a bit more:
Now it’s time to see your Relationship as the 3rd entity. To see it as there being 3 of You: ME + ME+ WE. And this may be a very new idea to you so let me back up a touch.
It seems that we’ve been conditioned to play out our relationships rather like the diagram below. When you meet you are 2 separate entities; you’re Independent beings, just considering ‘merging’ into a ‘We’. However, because we’re not taught to see the Relationship as a separate entity, we tend to slide right into We-ness:
In the early stages of a Romance, when we are in Love we rapidly move from being the 3 separate circles at the top to the merged model shown at the bottom.
The chemicals that flood our body when we are in Love actively encourage this merging & there is a tendency to believe that you are both100% alike & there’s no cause for argument. Once the Love Chemicals wear off however, the fights can start to appear & rapidly you can zoom back up to your starting position, Independence, feeling disconnected & separate.
In reality neither position is helpful: too merged and we hear ‘I have lost myself in this Relationship”; too separate and we hear “we’ve just drifted apart”.
So, rather like Goldilocks, we are aiming for something that is ‘Just Right’: A Relationship where we still retain our own interests, friends, beliefs & differences whilst also being able to join with another person in a 3rd space we call ‘Our Relationship’.
This is known as Interdependence.
In his now classic book ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People‘ Stephen Covey talks about his 7 Habits in relation to a model of Dependence. This same model can also be applied to our Love Relationships:
In Covey’s model we start off Dependent: In his model Dependence = Someone takes care of you. From this point we must learn to become Independent = You can do it yourself. Finally from there we can become Interdependent = We can do it together.
Now as Covey says in his book:
“Interdependence is a choice only independent people can make.”Stephen R. Covey
And again, the same is true in our relationships.
If we accept that the process of falling in Love forces us to merge and forces us into Dependence (which, by the way is not a bad thing or a dirty word – it is simply a natural, and rather necessary from an evolutionary perspective, survival mechanism) then it’s from this point that we can then learn how to Individuate and become Independent and then, finally to reach the magical state of Interdependence.
Look a bit deeper into this idea and you perhaps understand that the move from Dependence to Independence may not be altogether easy… but actually it’s something we’re all already quite familiar with:
When I was a young girl, the day came for me to stop wanting to hold Mum’s hand out in public – in case (heaven forbid!) someone thought I was ‘childish’ – I mean I was like 11 or 12 for god’s sake – to my mind I was definitely an adult! I remember that moment clearly: me pulling away, asserting my new found independence; my mum clearly hurt but simultaneously understanding this necessary rite of passage. I remember it because, as necessary as I felt it was, I also knew that by making that move, I had hurt my mum. And that in turn hurt me.
The move to Independence
This move to Independence is also what plays out in your relationship after the blissful period of being In Love ends and this stage – often known as the Power Struggle Stage – is like the growing pains of the Teenage years. It can be a hard, confusing and emotional time. One where you struggle to assert yourself and you often cannot see how this could ever be possible without total detachment; or collateral damage.
Whilst most people see this stage as problematic and a sign that the 2 of them are simply not meant for each other (often because they simply don’t even know that it’s just a stage), I instead actually see it as an Opportunity.
3 of You
If you can only reach Interdependence (the WE +ME + ME model shown below) by first becoming Independent as Stephen Covey explains, then it follows that we must pass through this often very dark night of the soul (the move out of Dependence) in order to get there.
It’s true that the journey from Dependence to Independence is a painful one. This is the stage at which most couples call time on their Relationships. Often because they are simply not in possession of the right information and skills to navigate this stage. Or they wrongly see Independence as just that – and so they decide to go it alone once more.
If you start to see this time as ‘just a phase’ though, it becomes far easier to deal with.
The stage where Couples can finally discover their Happily Ever After: Interdependence.
Moving to Independence then allows you to finally seek to hit the stage where Couples can really discover the magic of a Happily Ever After: Interdependence. This is the WE + ME + ME phase – finally there’s 3 of You in this.
So Why should we see our Relationship as a 3rd entity?
Well, consider it like this: if your Relationship was a pet for example it would need feeding & exercising each day; it would want some play & it would likely demand some affection. In short, it would need consistent daily care. Without basic care, it would simply die.
Seeing your Relationship as an entity radically alters your perspective. Instead of only asking ‘What do I need?” or “What does (s)he need” you can now also ask:
“What does our Relationship need?”
This change of perspective in itself can be extremely powerful. It can break the deadlock of ‘If he’s not bothered then neither am I!” or “if she’s not going to make an effort, then neither am I!“. If you 2 can see your Relationship as something, separate to the 2 of you, which requires care, attention, play – like a little puppy or a kitten – in order for it to thrive and you can ask what it needs in order to improve, then this mindset shift can be the thing that helps you to turn things around.
It also serves as a reminder that there ARE 3 of you in this and all 3 of those entities need looking after.
So you need to look after yourself, your partner and your relationship. The same is of course true for them. Remembering that all 3 of you need care and you may at times need to prioritise your self care over the needs of the other 2. Other times you might be the one doing all the giving.
Depending on your personal needs & external factors in your life at any given time, it’s likely that you will travel through all these stages & some people may feel happier being closer or more separate on a long-term basis – it’s completely personal.
Crucially though, know that if you can see both your Partner and your Relationship as separate entities to you; and if you both understand that all 3 of you need looking after, you will find it far easier to overcome any problems and level up long-term.
If you’d like to discover how to save your Marriage (even if it feels like you’re the only one trying right now) head over to our Training page now.