One of the simplest yet most effective exercises in couples therapy is one that you can easily do at home. It will immediately improve your relationship, but you will need to practice it more than one time. Here's how to do it:
The exercise is simple but it requires discipline, concentration and patience. It goes like this:
Focus on yourself while somebody else (e.g. your partner) is focussing on you.
For example, you could sit down with your partner and sit opposite one another. Let your partner explain something to you that is important for him. Or let him ask you to do something for him. Or simply let him look at you, without talking. You will probably quickly notice that you will have difficulties focussing on yourself, because your focus is drawn to the expectations and needs of your partner, even if he or she is not talking.
Why is this exercise so important?
Being in a relationship can be wonderful: Sharing your life with another person is a huge part of what life is about. But more important than that is keeping your own, independent identity within the relationship. Early in a relationship, you may not know or even care about where you end and where your partner begins. However, when two become one, it can quickly feel like you are losing your identity. Many couples give up vital parts of themselves because they feel that this is expected or demanded by their partner. The exercise of focussing on yourself while someone else is focussing on you will train you back into knowing who you really are. It will make you happier, healthier and more positive.
"How do I focus on myself?"
This is a question I very often hear in my couples sessions. Focussing on yourself means flowing your attention towards yourself. You can do this for example by asking yourself if you really want to do what your partner is wanting you to do for him right now. This sounds easy, but in practice it is not, because this is one of the most difficult things in life: To stay focussed on your own needs and desires, while someone else needs or wants something from you. Most people quickly jump to fulfill their partner's needs, and by doing this, they forget about their own needs and desires.
10 questions to help you focus on yourself:
You can ask yourself these questions while you are interacting with your partner, or if this is too difficult for you, then start by answering these questions while you are on your own. It will gradually get you into a place where it will be easier for you to focus on yourself while your partner is around:
- "Is this really what I want to be doing?"
- "What do I want from life?"
- "Which areas in my life need improvement?"
- "What could I do right now to make myself feel good?"
- "Am I achieving my goals?"
- "Do I spend enough time with people who are important to me?"
- "What makes me feel inspired?"
- "Do I have a clear vision of my life?"
- "Is my life interesting?"
- "What am I passionate about?"
By asking yourself these questions, you will automatically be focussing on yourself. Instead of asking yourself what your partner wants, needs or desires, you will learn more about yourself and who you really are.
I'm Natalie Marby, an English speaking therapist in Hamburg, Germany. I am half German and half British and I offer couples therapy in English, especially for expats living in Hamburg. To contact me, you can send me an email or call me: +49040 46090233. (Please don't forget to send me your phone number and the times I can reach you). I look forward to hearing from you!