How to turn your symbiotic relationship to a healthy relationship? There are several ways you can do.
The first, of course, you should know yourself. Get to know your thoughts-feeling-needs-desires. Do it by asking questions and ponder. The other way to identify is to scrutinize what your partner complains about you, because beneath his/her complaint lays the truth. You can start from there.
Another way to identify yourself is to examine your complaints to your partner. Often they are your unmet needs. Saying “You are really selfish” or “You never pay attention” often actually refers to your own weaknesses, not your partner’s.
The second, in addition to recognizing yourself, get to know your partner. Observe, question, debate, recognize. Recognizing your partner would help you to know his/her thoughts-feeling-desire-needs, not you in him/her.
The next way to escape from the symbiosis is by improving the way you engage in dialogue, especially during negative and emotional situation. Begin with the words “I…” when you express your frustration/anger/sadness/feedback. Do not start with “You…” because it will turn into accusation. Say ” I feel/think/do… when you… therefore…. ” Convey concrete behaviors and consequences.
Now, if you were in symbiotic relationship, you could have been angry with your partner “Why do you feel like that? Shouldn’t you … “
Don’t do that!! Try to have a conversation with this pattern: Repeat-Understand-Empathy. Once again: Repeat – Understand – Empathy.
- Repeat. Repeat what your partner said, without giving any additional assessments. “You are mad because I did not call you all day, aren’t you?” Repeating provides satisfaction to the couple knowing that he/she is heard, his/her thought-feeling-opinion is valued.
- Understand. Seek out the logical reason behind his/her thought/ feeling/behavior, and make it clear that you understand. You might disagree, but remember disagreeing is allowed in a healthy relationship. Understand that happened to your partner, not to you. “Oh, I understand why you’re mad I did not call. You’re just worried that something bad might happen to me.” This is contradictory with the following response “You are such a wiener!” To understand your couple would make him/her feel being understood, of course. But you will have the benefit of understanding what happened to him/her.
- The third is more challenging and requires a lot of practice: EMPATHY. Understand the feelings/fears/struggles beneath the statement, and response to it. Empathy is the highest ability to understand that you and I are different, but I can understand what you experience although I am not involved in it. “You are worried about losing me and it makes you angry at me. I ‘m sorry. Next time….” follow it up with the deal discussion.
Repeat – Understand – Empathy guideline must be practiced under mutual agreement. It may be awkward at first, but you will be used to it. Discomfort for improvement is much better than the comfort to extend the inconvenience.
The other methods to get rid of symbiosis are Intimacy Exercise and Surprise Exercise.
- Intimacy Exercise. Each of you should write down what you want your partner do to you. Then you exchange the lists and your job is to perform two to four things from that list every day. Easy right? The intimacy list should be a simple but meaningful to the person, such as dinner with me and writing “I love you”.
- Surprise Exercise. This is where you are asked to give a little surprise to your spouse based on your observations of what he/she wants or needs. For an example you can get your partner a book that might have been mentioned during conversation but your partner has not had time to buy it.
Why the two exercises are important? Because they show that what you want and what your partner wants can be totally DIFFERENT and you are able to fulfill them because you love your partner.
Hopefully, understanding and guidance to transform dysfunctional symbiosis into functional in your relationship can help you in becoming healthy couples, not just physically, but also psychologically healthy. Remember, ME – YOU as the basis for a healthy relationship.
Fredrick Dermawan Purba
The writer is a lecturer at the Faculty of Psychology, Universitas Padjadjaran with a personal and professional interest in the intimate relationship issues (intimate relationship) . He can be reached on the campus of Faculty of Psychology, Universitas Padjadjaran, also at +628122318534 or email@example.com as well busy tweeting on his twitter account @bangjeki
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