John E. Porting on relationships and working with Couples

By John Ewan Porting


The important and vulnerable relationships

A couples relationship is a key relationship. It is crucial for us, and yet it is quite common that we do not look after the relationship properly. We take it for granted and do not see how it is being challenged by changes and developments along the way. Slowly love and the joy are replaced by seeing each other in routines and unspoken interpretations. We begin to blame each other for it not going as good anymore.

Everyday life places demands on us, and we are often ambitious in our efforts to meet these demands. We may have children, and the role of parents is important. Perhaps at the same time we are on a career path, and it is often of great importance to us. What we did not realise is how the big changes in life affect us – to have children, to be on a career path, or perhaps vice versa, the children leave home, the work loses fullness.

When we have children, it is quite natural that we focus our empathy and love on them. Our empathy imperceptibly slowly fades for each other in the relationship. We take each other for granted in everyday routines and in bed. And we have our attention and care on the children and on the job. But to a declining degree on each other. The care for each other comes in last place.

So we may start to feel lonely in the relationship. We miss each other, but cannot figure out how to contact each other. Instead, we maybe think that all the time the other person prevents the relationship from being good. We are heading into a conflict, because we cannot talk to each other. Perhaps we begin to discuss, argue, smash things. Or maybe we feel just a massive and painful loneliness in the relationship and begin to search for closeness and contact outside the relationship. The silence has replaced conversation.

Our experience: A wounded relationship can often heal again
Our work with couples is about rediscovering contact with each other. To rediscover each other, to find the spark again. And to teach us how we can keep the relationship alive.
Our courses can run for up to seven days. This is needed if two people should be able to rediscover each other and have the tools to move forward after the course. We aim to restore dialogue between the two, to rediscover the closeness and confidence, and that the two can again feel the spark that originally brought them together as a couple. We do not see it as a repetition of the relationship, but as a rediscovery of each other. And a new awareness of how it is necessary to keep a relationship alive.

There is often three sessions in a course day. In the first and the third the group are gathered, and there is work in couples. In the middle session we divide into two groups, where the couples are separated. A common theme is to train our ability to engage in dialogue and to resolve a conflict instead of letting it grow.

Our Gestalt methodology means that we have our attention on what is happening in the present. Right now between couples, right now in the group, right now between the individual and the course leader. We capture and look at those moments and we get better at being in the moment without all our preconceptions. To experience and feel a smile as a smile, and not as something else entirely. The fact is that we again need to see each other in the relationship, without filters.
Our method also circles the existential, that which is important for us in our lives. And we discover that we can develop ourselves, but we cannot develop our partner. Instead we can inspire her or him. We can only open the door to change ourselves.

The experience is positive
More than 40 years experience of working with couples and other close relationship is very positive. Many find each other again and discover and learn how they can continue to keep relationship warm and open. However, some cannot find each other again. Maybe one has found another. For the couple who are to be separated from each other, it is equally important to be able to say goodbye properly, as it is for the others to rediscover each other. The happy divorce does not exist, but we can say a proper goodbye, so we can get on with our lives without the lost relationship taking up the rest of our days.

Gestalt methodology is ideal for strengthening relations between people. And therefore it is so effective in working with relationships – whether there is a deep crisis or the relationship just needs to be awakened.