In a modern day world with infinite possibilities, why did I choose to work with couples?
It has a lot to do with…baseball.
I’ve been interested in baseball for my entire life. As a young boy I had a great affinity for creating my own All-Star baseball teams. As a seven year old, I would grab the Sports Section and cogitate on the top performers in both the National and American Leagues. And it would both impress and irritate my Dad when I corrected him on the batting averages of local All-Stars. My dad would smile at me, as if to say, this little man after my own heart. Along with tracking baseball statistics, I began to collect baseball cards and formed my own All Star team. You might be wondering, what does this have to do with relationships? Everything. Because baseball is, first and foremost, a team sport. And I like to think that relationships are a team sport too.
Baseball requires a team of strong individuals with different skills and abilities. A team is only great if individuals have strengths that combine well together. A team needs communication, respect and diverse perspectives.
Growing up, I loved assessing a player’s strengths and seeing how they fit with the others as a team. It fascinated me. Why are some teams successful, and some are not? When you begin to assess a sports team as one big sum of individuals with layered strengths and experiences, the game becomes a richer experience.
It may seem like a bit of stretch to connect sports to couples work, but what is a couple but a team with a shared goal of being better than the sum of their parts? And I love cheering on a team!
A whole metaphor of sports analogies applies when considering a romantic relationship. In therapy, it is my goal to learn each person’s unique way of holding their metaphorical “bat”. It thrills me to watch interactions and notice how, when an individual is in the practice of studying the ways of the other, they more easily receive what the other is “throwing” at them.
Is this couple going to learn how to play together, to leverage their unique talents and capacities to move towards a desired outcome? Or are they going to collapse into the trap of blame and give up on learning how to collaborate? Regardless of where they are in the process, it is my joy to root for them every step of the way. My job is to determine their unique strengths and support them as they come to terms with their own deficiencies and blindspots.
So for me, couples work and baseball are similar. Both are about collaboration, growth and mindset. But more than anything, I love couples therapy because I like people. I believe in the indomitable human spirit. I find that people in relationships have a unique opportunity to develop their strengths. When two people are put in the crucible of a committed partnership with a shared vision, trouble arises when couples aren’t clear on the other’s strengths and value. It’s make-it-or-break-it time. And this opportunity excites me. When a relationship is not working, sometimes it is because the partners – one or both- tend to see the other as a means to their own personal fulfillment, to serve their unconscious drives and desires. That is where the work often begins. Who is this other person? What do you see in them?
When a well-oiled, well-trained team of baseball players hit the field, you can feel the camaraderie, the trust they have in each other. With that trust comes a relaxed way of being. Their truest individual selves can come out and shine. A team is not in competition with one another. They have a shared goal. A couple is the smallest team there is and the feedback cycle is rapid and unforgiving at times.
Coupling presents a powerful opportunity for an individual to wake up to the significance of life and develop their own gifts to the fullest. If they are stuck in the mindset of continually blaming either themselves or the other, the play between the two is predictable (and actually quite boring and irritating) as a spectator. Blame gets old. Drama is a vicious cycle and everyone grows tired of it eventually. If the mindset shifts to the question of “how do we leverage our collective strengths and put together an All-Star performance for ourselves, our children and our world?”
Well, then we’ve got a different ballgame.