Ask a couple you know casually how they met, you’ll get a story. Most couples, by the time they’ve moved in together have a tale they share with outsiders – their origin story. These stories can be serious or funny, unique or so stereotypical the listener is sure they’re either lying or being ironic. What’s interesting is how that story follows the couple, often setting the tone for the relationship and if there is conflict, into the therapy room.
A young housekeeper longs for a better life, meets a great guy through a motherly figure – the guy thinks she’s exactly who he’s been searching for and asks her to spend eternity with him.
The story might sound like this: ‘Oh I was bereft when my father died, his new wife and her daughters hated me. When my godmother heard how sad I was, she found a way to introduce me to a fantastic man and luckily, we hit it off!’ Cinderella and her Charming probably told a version of that story to everyone they knew. A few years go by, and perhaps, happily ever after feels a little strained.
A therapist who asks ‘how did you two meet’ would probably hear that version of the story. Like answering a question about one’s job or where one grew up, those answers usually get locked down, answered habitually. Let’s say though that the couple has been together a while – Cinderella has been living in the castle, has learned how to navigate royal life, perhaps she’s got a charity she runs helping orphans (and mice). She’s learned her prince has battles to go fight, hunts to go on, dragons to kill and she’s had some time to think – when am I the priority? Am I always supposed to be the rescued grateful rags-to-riches princess?
The questions we’re hoping to answer are ‘is that story still true? Do they still see their origins through the same eyes now that they’ve been together a while, grown into their adult lives?'
Congruence – the story you’ve locked down as truth compared to how you feel now isn’t the only solution to happy relationships, but it’s a beginning. Like Happily Ever After 2.0.