Your Story and Your Relationships, Dr. Jo Ann Atkins

Relationship is rooted in relating, a verb which means to make a connection, feel empathy with, to identify with, speak the same language, to be in tune with, and to understand. A relationship is a moving entity “making, feeling, speaking, tuning, understanding” active as we intertwine our lives creating.

As a therapist, I am interested to learn about each partner’s past relationships. But for some reason those relationships ended with negative feelings and situations perhaps that of neglect, abandonment, abuse, shame, violence and fear. We also bring positive capabilities into relationships such as love, compassion, insights, finances, shared interest and dreams. And with all of these we also bring “your story,” personalities, habits and perceptions and uses of various powers. Such as the use and power of money, sex and knowledge. When we experience pain and negative emotions in a relationship, we are defined by what was positive and that which was negative and use this as a framework for future relationships. If physically abused in a relationship in the past, a woman is triggered by similar behavior that can lead to the physical abuse (i.e. verbal altercations can cause fear and flight).  Therefore, if we bring shame, fear, anger, unforgiveness, violence, and criticism from past relationships, future relationships will be colored by these difficulties. The only new thing about a new relationship is the other person, “you” are not. We can only bring into a “new relationship” what we know and experienced.

We also learn to cope from our past experiences.  We may withdraw, be open or closed, get angry, blame, become self-righteous, soft or hard, distrusting or trusting, self-protective, arrogant, criticizing whatever has become habituated. If hurt, then this…I leave, I lash out, I go silent. We choose the road whenever necessary, justifying our responses rather than becoming the peacemaker.

Mark 7:20-21, what comes out of a person is what defiles them.  For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come. So, as I tell my couples, the work toward wholeness in a marriage begins individually.  Look in the mirror and ask “am I the kind of person that I would marry? Am I loving? Am I considerate? Am I compassionate?  Am I attentive? Am I affectionate? Am I all that I expect from my partner?

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