Wonder Couples Class #3

Class Three REDUX: May 13, 2020 7:30-8:45 pm PST  “Wonder Couples: Us against the World!” 

 

In this skill building class you and your partner will learn how to utilize your couple power to most effectively care for kids, work, families, hobbies, in-laws, friends and all of the other parts of a busy life while not letting your relationship take a back seat. 

 

Covered: management of thirds 

 

Carolyn will welcome people and Jason will be letting people into the meeting from the waiting room.  

Introduction (5 minutes) [Everyone muted] 7:35 - Very quick because repeat.

  • Tell people that they will have an opportunity to talk in the question and answer period.  Tell people that if they have questions during this period they can put them in the chat box.

  • Then, splitting the class up: Hi to each couple and wave as you guys hear your names called. 

  • Agenda for the class and the upcoming classes. (Jason)

    • SF, Attachment, Thirds, Conflict, repair, Spark/sexual connection, Charting a future.

  • Set up Make it clear that we are learning as we go along in this new medium.(Carolyn) 

    • Bear with us as we learn this process

    • Muted unless in discussion

      • Please use the chat feature to write your question

      • Raise your hand and we will get to you

      • Wave at us if sound or something goes out.

  • Review confidentiality (Jason) 

  • Review group norms 

    • This is not a therapy session. 

    • Many ways to be a couple-acceptance

    • All of us are under stress

    • We are learning and practicing here

    • This is a place of kindness and acceptance of all people/all couples

 

*Brief connecting experience (10 minutes) Carolyn 7:40 

 

Bring yourself together by finding a comfortable seat and gaze with one another. Take a few cleansing breathes together. Notice your partner’s eyes. Notice the color and texture of their eyes. Are they smiling? Can you recall what happens to them when they are smiling? What happens to those eyes when they are sad? 

 

These are the eyes that see you. That communicate everything to you. Now soften your focus. See your partner as the whole person. See them in relationship to all the things they do. Their professional life. Their family life. Their social life. All the things they do in the world. All the things and people that matter to them. Can you express with your eyes how much you love who they are. 

 

How do their eyes look now? Look again very closely at their eyes. Do they look any different? 

 

Take your gaze soft again and see your partner in your relationship. As half of the whole. As the person you have chosen and that you have created a life with. The life may not be exactly how you planned it. It may have challenges, but see them in this life you have built together with all its challenges. This is your partner. Can you express with your eyes your commitment to being in partnership together. This is why you are here now. 

 

Come back into each other’s eyes. How do their eyes look now? Can you express love with your eyes for this life you have and are continuing to build together. Smile together and begin to shift your focus with your EARS only to what we are talking about. 

 

Together, Tonight you are challenged to remain focused on each other to integrate together the information we provide. Decide together what to do with this information. You may both love and be fascinated by the information we share. One of you may love it and one may be challenged by it. Or you may both hate it. Your task tonight is to work as a team to decide how to use it in this hour, and beyond this hour.  

 

Begin: Jason:7:50 

 

We are going to talk about thirds, with some exercises interspersed to bring the discussion into your body to notice what happens when you slow down. Try not to overthink the exercises and focus instead on how you feel. 

 

In order to be part of a secure functioning couple you have to have a place where you can be together.  Breathe together, think together, laugh together, cry together, figure out the complexities of your life together.  We refer to this place through the metaphor of the couple bubble.  For this class you are going to practice being distracted by the outside world (US) and then settling back into the couple bubble.  This space needs to be permeable because no couple is an island and this is an opportunity to allow the co-regulation of your nervous systems when one or both of you gets pulled out of the couple bubble.   

 

[JASON] While the name Wonder Couples: Activate your Couple Power, is a little bit tongue and cheek, it is meant as a playful way to explain the concept of a secure functioning relationship.  The title WC is a play on the Wonder Twins from the Super Friends cartoon that aired on television in the 1970s.  The wonder twins, were just normal looking people, when faced with a supervillain would connect fists and say, "Wonder Twins Powers Activate!" and they would shape shift into different powerful forms to stop the villain. 

 

Our play on the idea is that in long term dependent relationships, couples can come together and practice secure functioning skills as a way to better weather challenges and get more enjoyment along life's journey.  This coming together to activate the power of the couple brings out the best in both partners, helps build new possibilities for creative solutions and empowers the relationship.  Couples who can work together to build and maintain this super power, do better individually, as a couple, at work, play, in other relationships and in all facets of life. 

 

Carolyn: We are looking at how you can take the obstacles and opportunities of life (that will come in many forms) in your life as a couple.  We will refer to these as outside influences or in PACT we call them 3rds. Sometimes an outside influence will be an opportunity for your partner and an obstacle for you (like when you want to go see a friend but it leaves your partner to take care of the kids] and vise-versa (when your partner wants to spend money on a hobby that might not be as rewarding for you]. It may not be difficult for either of you, but when you find it gets out of balance that is when it is time to activate your couple power.

 

Obviously, life can’t be inside the couple bubble just taking care of each other all the time.  You are pulled in many, many directions.  Thirds are kids! Money! Jobs! Parents! Sex! GOLF! None of these are bad, none are good. They become problems only when mismanaged. When the couple does not know how to keep the relationship in balance with the things outside the relationship. 

 

8:00 EXERCISE: [JASON]  In these exercises, we are going to cue you to think of things. You may both think of the same thing, or you may each be focusing on something different. That is not as important as just noticing what happens in your body and what you see happening for your partner. 

 

Now as you sit together, think of something neutral that is outside your relationship that neither gives you any trouble nor any joy. For some this might be car maintenance, managing time with friends, going out vs. staying in. Like, Meh, we get it done, it isn’t distracting. We manage. Takes nothing, gives nothing. So think of this thing. Feel how it feels together. 

 

  • What do you feel in your bodies as you think of it? 

  • Hopefully not a whole lot of angst, perhaps a little bit of satisfaction?

  • What can you learn from it?

  • Do you notice things that your partner needs (oh she doesn’t have enough socks, time to to the laundry, no sweat)?

  • Either way, just keep it neutral and allow yourself to see it with fresh eyes.

 

[Carolyn]

Now, thirds can be wonderful and positive. Shared vacations. Children. Your work could be something that you both respect, love and understand. And while it is challenging work, it brings you joy and resources and benefit and you support each other in relationship to it with ease. 

 

8:10 EXERCISE: Now as you sit together, think of something joyous that is outside your relationship. For some this might be your children. Like, we love this. The benefits of the work together around this gives us joy and pride and satisfaction. For the most part, we manage it well and are successful. Takes work and effort and maybe we do not manage well but the positives outweigh the negatives. 

So think of this third. 

For those of you struggling to find a third that feels good, can you support each other as we talk about this? Can you practice staying connected if one of you is having a harder time than the other. 

 

What do you feel in your bodies as you think of it? 

 

  • Do you have a structured time to plan out how to manage this or does it just happen naturally?

  • Do you feel like you and you can solidly observe how your partner gets satisfaction out of this OI?

  • Do you know how to use this to replenish your relationship when one or both of you are feeling down or depleted?

  • Without judgment, just notice.

 

 

8:20 Jason: Other times it will be a shared obstacle like an illness or a challenging family member.  Regardless, with secure functioning as our goal we need to find ways to see ourselves as looking out for your most powerful resource- the couple.  When the couple relationship is seen as the top priority and and central to survival and enjoyment, we can see how anything outside the couple bubble needs to be thoroughly vetted and agreed upon by the couple. We can also see where we are challenged by thirds as an opportunity to think about the needs of our partner and to think about the need for balance.

 

EXERCISE: [JASON] Now as you sit together, think of something difficult that the two of your struggle to manage TOGETHER. This may be something outside of your relationship that is very important to one of you, but comes at a cost to the other. Or something that causes significant strife. So think of this thing.

 

The goal here is not to “solve” this today it is to build your capacity to remain connected when there is struggle.  It is a practice.

 

  • Feel how it feels together. 

  • Can you support your partner here?

  • Can you watch if the waves of upset come while supporting your partner?

  • What do you feel in your bodies as you think of it? 

  • Is this something that you have tried to build structure around?  

  • If you have tried all of these things can you set this as a place to approach with fresh eyes and ears?

  • If you haven’t tried these things can you hold hope that one will open up a new possibilities for figuring out the management of this outside influence.

 

 

[Carolyn]

Can you notice the differences in your body as you have thought of these different things? Can you think of one thing YOU (not your partner) can do to improve your process around the thirds to make it easier for the two of you to work together around these. Hold onto this thought. 

 

Discussion: 8:25 [JASON Starts] A few metaphors might help: like the couple as the mother duck with her baby ducks following behind or the flag ship of the fleet that has the other ships organized in a row, or the roof of the house and everything else below. We, as the couple come together to allocate resources, protect what we have deemed as important and set the course of our lives.  There can of course be disagreements between couples (there should be when it comes to vetting tough decisions) but at the end of the day we see that our power lies in the strength of our connection which requires us both to feel good about the decisions that we make in our lives.

 

[Carolyn]  In a secure functioning relationship you see the relationship as your first priority. In doing so, as the commander of the fleet you are protecting it first against all the outside influences-demands on your time and energy and attention. To do so, you are working to understand your partner’s needs and take care of them so that their energy and resources are high. This may mean making sure they have time and freedom to spend on the things they love (inside or outside the relationship) and the support from you to do so. 

 

Now maybe as you thought of the good third, you remembered this. Or maybe as you thought of the difficult third, you thought of ways you could do this better. The good news is that we can always develop new ways of supporting each other and being in balance. 

 

Work, hobbies, outside relationships are obviously not bad, and properly managed by the two of you, they bring energy, vitality and even mystery to the relationship. Having a happy, fulfilled partner who feels connected to their community will create richness in the relationship. Learning how to do this helps create the best system of care for managing those outside influences,

 

Managing these outside influences is best done with a structure that forms positive habits around this. Structure can be formal agreements (we have a class about that), it can be formal check-ins about each other’s needs and how you are doing, or it can be a process of solid observation so you are watching and responding to how your partner is doing with shared understanding about what they need when they are depleted/down/lonely. Understanding how you respond currently and what needs you may have and what skills you already have will help you understand this.

 

Now, you have hopefully taken the exercises today and seen how you each look in response to the neutral, the good and the challenging of the thirds in your life. You hopefully noticed with focused attention how you feel thinking about them, and how your partner feels. You all have incredibly busy and stressful lives right now and there are always opportunities to lead the fleet back on course where you are at the helm. We are going to leave you in an exercise in connection with hope that you will continue to focus your energy on doing more, doing better to support your partner and your relationship toward support and connection. 

 

Preview of next class (5 minutes) 8:32 [Jason]

  • Thank you for your continued participation.  There are repeat classes that we encourage you take.

  • We are going to leave you in final exercise with each other.  Keep focus on each other.

  • When we are done we will exit and we want you to remain for 5-10 minutes with any take ways.

Closing connecting experience (10 minutes) 8:35 [Jason]

As we prepare to close, return to each other’s eyes. How does your partner’s eyes look now? More tired. Overwhelmed? Happy? Relieved? Can you offer something to your partner with your eyes to lighten or brighten their eyes. 

 

You two are the leaders of your life. You command the fleet. You drive the bus. It is here between the two of you that your power and strength lies. It is always here. We have talked about lots of things that could come between you, and may, but you can always come back here, reconnect and recommit to reorienting. In the last few minutes, each think of the thing you each thought of that you could offer your partner to help MORE successfully work together with any third. And offer this to each other as commitments to one another. Take these in with gratitude. And let that sink in. Your partner’s commitment to you to co-manage your life together and your commitment to your partner to work together toward a shared process.

 

************************END REDUX**************************