Perhaps it seems odd to you to even think of emotions having an intrinsic value, isn’t it all rather cold and controlling. However, alongside purchasing a house, a car or other valuable object our relationships will need energy and investment of time to make them work well.
So in the next twelve months, wherever you are in the partnership process, there will be things to consider that will require the investment of emotional energy. If you are single you maybe considering looking for a partner or hoping love comes along, whichever way you approach this, a life-long partner will be one of the most important emotional investments you make.
Un-yet many of us go about this in a haphazard way, without giving sufficient thought to what we need to make a commitment to another person. Often we are under pressure from parents or peer group and the ever-present biological clock to get on and find someone or consolidate an existing relationship.
Some of us who are members of a religion will have priests or clergy to go to for advice and preparation before entering into a full commitment. However, this usually occurs after the couple have met and decided to enter into a long-term relationship. At this point the intention has been shared with family and friends, when it is more difficult withdraw, if the preparation phase uncovers areas of incompatibility in the relationship.
I have wondered, through working with couples, whether this should be done earlier in the relationship as soon as couples find they are talking about their future together.
Falling in love is an intense emotional, biological and physical experience, at times expressed as akin to madness. Delightful though this period of time is, it does hinder good decision-making.
Couples will come after a crisis, wanting help to mend a relationship after an event or betrayal has injured the mutual trust in the relationship. Or they come when a life event, such as the birth of the first child, loss of a job, children leaving home, retirement, illness or bereavement. All of these events put demands on the relationship, and people handle them in different ways. It helps to have a supportive family or friendship network around to contain and hold the couple as they navigate their way through these life-changing processes. All require the expenditure of emotional energy to maintain the relationship on an even keel.
So ideally we could envision a couple coming to relationship counseling before they finally decide this is the person they feel able and want to make this commitment to for the rest of their lives.
Dorothea Beech is a UKCP-registered Group Analyst, full member of the Institute of Group Analysis and a Training Group Analyst providing long and short-term psychotherapy to both couples and groups in Hove and Lewes.