There are 4 people in every relationship. You, your partner, your partner’s inner child, and your inner child. That’s one reason why having kids can be so stressful sometimes. It doesn’t seem like there is any room for you or your partner’s inner child anymore. All the care and comforting and play can be going into the actual children. But even in a partnership of two, it is hard to let the inner children out to feel and play and express.
One of the coaching tools I use with couples is getting the couple to play with each other’s inner children. I did this with my husband last summer. It was astonishing what came out. We wondered why we don’t play with each other like that more often.
My inner child wanted to play badminton in the backyard. Even though we have ratty rackets and a somewhat lumpy yard with not much width. Yep, she wanted to play badminton.
My husband’s inner child wanted to set up the camping tent in the backyard. We set it up that night and ended up leaving it up for the whole summer. We put a nice thick foamy and comfy blankets and had a little backyard retreat in the middle of the suburbs all summer long.
Our inner adults may have poo poo’ed these ideas. But inner children didn’t care about perfection or rules or political correctness. They just want to have fun and be creative!
It can be difficult to let out the child to play. But it can be even more difficult to let out some of the emotions that we deem as “childish” once we become adults. The fact of the matter is, we all get disappointed. We all get angry and hurt and scared. And what do we do when these feelings arise?
Every couple is actually 4 people. Sometimes it is two adults interacting, sometimes one adult and one inner child, sometimes the other adult and the other inner child, and sometimes both inner children. It’s all fine and dandy when both inner children are playing. But how about when both inner children are present and unhappy?
These are the hardest moments in relationship. One person essentially has to step into being the adult in the situation first. This means self-soothing or parenting one’s own inner child for the moment and focusing on the pain, triggers, fear of the other. It takes patience and practice and is sometimes just too hard.
The trick is to start by stopping trying to be an adult all the time. And to flow intentionally as much as possible between your two selves. Your inner adult and your inner child. The more you can care for and be there for your own inner child, the more you can also do it for another. Then a relationship becomes a creative dance between different states of being human.
We all get triggered. We all have wounds to heal. We all have a past, a history, a background. Rather than trying to buck it up and be strong all the time, how about being able to identify who is in the room at any time? Is it 2 adults, 2 children or a mix? If it is 2 children and everyone is upset, sometimes it is best to take a breather until one or both adults can return. But don’t hold in or fake your feelings. It is your inner child. And she/he belongs in the relationship just as much as you do!
Love is your nature,