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Rebirth and Renewal in Relationships

» Mental Health Library » Disorders & Conditions » Relational Problems » Featured Article

By Aviva Chansky Guttmann, LMSW

Aviva Chansky Guttmann, LMSW

Nature is not the only place to notice rebirth and renewal. We associate spring weather with new romances and the lightness we feel after winter's weight and coldness. Often we are so glad to shed damp winter dreariness that we develop the colloquial spring fever. It's a wonderful feeling of expanding boundaries and openness, and since many people around us are equally intoxicated so many things feel just right.

Although rebirth is most noticeable in spring the truth is we can experience a rebirth in our relationships and sense of personal identity at any time and it's not contingent upon the weather. We are ever-evolving in our approach to life and as what we value changes (and especially as we increasingly value ourselves) our approach to existing and new relationships changes. A new identity and self concept emerges and this is not static. Reflect back ten years ago and count how many of the same people from that time remain in your life, how many are no longer there because of personal growth or change for either of you and how you would likely not select these people as friends again. In existing relationships and with family members consider how relational dynamics have changed along with other changes including life cycle events and stages and health and career changes. Things by nature do not remain the same and this applies to absolutely everything.

What is rebirth in our relationships? Consider a couple married for decades with grown children and grandchildren. Perhaps they met in college and married in their twenties. The relationship was initially based on a limitless future where all possibilities and career choices outstretched before them. In general they spent a good deal of time together building the relationship and closeness between them and then at some point the dynamics changed and so did their identities when the children came along. Fast forward through child rearing, career growth, grand parenting and perhaps health issues along the way including the deaths of their own parents, financial stresses, and any other concern or life event.

This couple is certainly not the same as it was in the beginning. Cellular and physical aging notwithstanding there has been a combined relationship evolution and two separate personal ones. In one respect if they have lasted this long and are still a viable and relatively (everything is relative) happy couple then they've adjusted and experienced many rebirths in the relationship over the decades. In Imago relationship theory, for example, we assert that intimate partners are attracted to one another because they unconsciously sense traits in a partner which will help them heal unresolved childhood wounds which can range from any type of emotional injury or deficit, to a sense of feeling overwhelmed and invalidated and anything in between. The subconscious ideal they hold of what love looks like is called an "Imago", which is the Latin term for image. As couples progress through the lifespan they may connect and relate in such a way that overt childhood wounds are indeed healed through trust and consideration. A previously unheard partner may feel heard, a partner requiring respect of personal boundaries may be given space and time, and so on. If needs are met and wounds healed through the partnership there is a chance other needs will emerge which were secondary to the most obvious ones since needs always change and in turn more healing (and sometimes conflict and resistance to healing) may take place.

Relationship rebirth also holds true for our relationship with ourselves and in fact the pervasive societal shift to a more conscious and self aware world offers a wealth of resources for nurturing the ongoing development of our inner life. Previously people scoffed at the concept of a midlife crisis which is really an unfortunate misnomer for midlife rebirth and reassessment. Our generation's longevity has offered a stage of life not previously available to our ancestors who struggled daily with the basic needs of food and shelter. We are fortunate on many levels to have this extended opportunity to be different selves or to enhance our more constant sense of who we are many times over. Perhaps that's the existential goal of having this chance. The universe is asking "If I give you this opportunity, what will you do with it?" There's beauty and growth in the life cycles of birth, rebirth and renewal. Enjoy the natural inclination toward renewal and repair and healing in our interpersonal and internally divine relationships. Spring into delight!

In peace, Namaste.

About the Author...

Aviva Chansky Guttmann, LMSW is a Certified Imago Relationship Therapist with over 25 years experience counseling couples, individuals and families experiencing challenges ranging from marital conflict, sexual and emotional intimacy, chronic and terminal illness, caregiver stress, special needs parenting concerns, adoptees' identity concerns, and other areas of suffering and difficulty. Imago Therapy offers a safe and non-confrontational method of dealing with conflict. Aviva is also pursuing accreditation in certified sex therapy through AASECT.

Last Update: 3/28/2017

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