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The Multi-Lingual Relationship

Are you aware of the three parts of any relationship? There is “you”, “I”, and “we”. For many couples struggling to find fulfillment in their relationship, the focus often shifts to one of the three or the couple is focusing on just the “you” and “I”, expecting that to take care of the “we”. For a balanced relationship, attention must be paid to each part of the whole.  If not, the relationship is thrown out of balance.

As individuals, each of us brings a unique set of experiences, beliefs, and understandings to the relationship. That’s the “I”. The same can be said of our partner/spouse. That’s the “you”. Those life experiences have shaped each of us in a way that is exclusive to ourselves. We form our own belief systems, boundaries, self-protections, and rules for how to live in the world with others based on our experiences of the other throughout our lifetime. Likewise, we internalize beliefs about ourselves, both positive and negative, based on these same life events. Our partners have done the same.

These beliefs, rules, etc. form a life-language that is a way we speak to ourselves and about ourselves. It is the way we process and understand the world outside of us. I speak “I” language. My partner speaks “you” language. The struggle for most couples is to learn to speak a “we” language.

Imagine, for example, that you speak Spanish and your partner speaks Greek. When you come together, you are being asked to speak a combination of both, forming a new Spanish-Greek language, a language foreign and new to each of you. This is what it looks like to blend individual life experiences into “we”. When couples become aware that speaking “I” language can make it difficult to understand “you” language, they begin to focus on the “we”. That “we” language is the unique combination of two life-languages being brought together, allowing two people to understand each other’s needs, desires, hurts, and goals.

As an example, a childhood incident for one person may have profoundly impacted the way s/he experiences trust. For the other, who did not have a similar experience, trust may be easily given and expected. When they two come together, one speaks a language of mistrust, while the other speaks a trust language. That makes forming a “we” language challenging. Yet, when there is recognition that each understands the meaning of trust to be different, they can begin to form a language that appreciates and supports the language of both.

Challenging? Yes. But, it is not impossible. In fact, this blending can be quite fulfilling. It allows one to learn to trust another, to share life experiences, but to still hold onto their “I” language, or individuality. In our example, you will always understand Spanish, and may even learn a bit of Greek. Together with your spouse, you’ll hopefully come to appreciate a blended approach to communication. This blending is the place “I” and “you” meet to become “we”. It is where you begin to speak a language that is the combination of life events, fears, joys, and where you learn to understand and support one another.

So, remember, in any relationship, there is “I”, “you”, and “we” and learn to appreciate the voice that each brings to the relationship.  Let the “I” and “you” begin to enjoy the “we”.

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