WHEN THE BOAT STARTS TO ROCK
by Brian Ragsdale, Ph.D.
When couples have problems in their relationship it is like being on a shaking raft that is weaving down lots of moving rapids. Imagine two people in a small rubber raft going down choppy waters.
Can you see them facing each other, each one holding onto the raft with all their might and hoping that their partner doesn't fall out? You don't want to lose your partner but you certainly don't want to lose yourself.
Now let's relate this scenario to the real problems some couples have with intimacy, trust, finances, emotional support, and other problems. They both enter the boat (e.g., their relationship) with fear, excitement, hope, and confidence.
Then the boat starts to move fast and shake because of the rapid moving water (e.g., problems that come up in life, like a tough boss, the passing away of a loved one, or a personal health challenge). In order to ride across these waters, both people in the raft must be in sync, for example, they have to stay still, balance their weight, and know how to use the oar to steer the raft.
To complicate things just a little bit further, many couples experience the shaking raft from their own perception of safety and danger. Some couples, for example, agree to deny the circumstances they are in, “the raft is fine and we will be fine, or “let's just put on a good face and keep going”.
In another couple, one person may automatically take the lead and start telling the other person what to do. In yet another couple, one person may just simply shut down in fear. As you can see, the scenarios and combinations of how people cope with navigating problems in their relationships are many.
HOW CAN HELP THE BOAT FROM ROCKING
We think of our work as couple's therapists as a rapid water guide. We have spent many years building our knowledge about how the currents of rapid rivers flow (e.g., problems people encounter in daily living and having a relationship).
Through listening and talking -- our goal is to understand how both of you see the boat (your relationship), your experience with rapid water, and how you envision the best way to get through troubled times.
We have seen lots of different scenarios; people whose boat have just capsized, couples who have just started to feel a big wave, and couples coasting on still waters after coming off a wave.
We are active and engaged throughout the therapeutic process. We share our honest viewpoint, particularly when we think that your thoughts, feelings, or actions, might be contributing to making the boat rock more than it has to.
We help couples change by building on their positive feelings, and teaching you techniques on how to reduce arguments, and reduce other negative feelings that often lead couples into stuck and frustrating relationship.