Do you know the classic parental statement:
“Eat your peas, there are children starving in….?”
There is a concept called the ‘parental discount’ which goes like this. “There are children starving in….(fill in the blank), so eat your peas!” This message, recounted by parents to their children for eons, is intended to have us go quiet, be grateful, and uncomplaining; make do with what we have. The problem with this method of ‘making do’ and repressing our desires and yearning is that it invites us to feel resentful and guilty. It does not allow us the inner space to reflect on what we like or dislike. In essence, to know and honor ourselves.
When we internalize this messaging, it translates to "accept your fate and be grateful for what you have" and interferes with our freedom to choose to demand more or different. If, on the other hand, we offer ourselves the opportunity to quiet the voice (while, of course, not ignoring the needs of others who have less), we can grow. Honoring yourself opens up the space to listen more deeply, respect our own minds, likes, needs, desires, and perspectives.
How does this relate to your relationship? If you are practiced at not listening deeply to your inner self, and you have internalized an acceptance of what is, and a ‘don’t ask for more’ attitude, you are far less likely to turn towards your relationship and ask for more of it. Lethargy, complacency, and the messages of our inner critic all conspire to keep us stuck. Loyalty and obligation also play a role.
A Tipping Point Occurs When The Way You've Always Been Doing Things No Longer Works For You
We tend to adapt by accepting things as they are until we gradually (or suddenly) notice that they are no longer acceptable. Typically, people come to therapy or a workshop when a 'tipping point' occurs; that is, when the negativity or the suffering in a relationship outweighs the positive connection. We are so accustomed to feeling disconnected and dissatisfied that this phenomenon can take a surprisingly long time.
Relationship experts understand that there is a whole other world of connection and love available, deeper and more fulfilling. And the real kicker is that it is usually available within the same relationship, with the same two individuals. It is possible to have an exciting new connection within the same tired relationship.
The Hard Work of Repeating Painful Patterns Can be Traded in For The More Rewarding Work of Rebuilding And Reconnecting
Once we acknowledge that a conscious loving relationship requires hard work, and we reset our understanding that it is this same hard work that pays off in spades, we can embark on a new path with enthusiasm and hope. Most likely, we are quite practiced at getting stuck in a 'theme' fight over and over again, feeling profoundly alone or disconnected at times, living parallel lives while rarely landing in a moment of caring connection. This is the hard work of a whole other flavor, both painful and demoralizing.
Asking for help to address this hard work may seem counter-intuitive. Yet, to really understand how to 'mine' a relationship for the sometimes deeply hidden gems, deepening compassion, connection, and empathy typically requires guidance.
Many of us don’t like to ask for directions to the restaurant we are trying to find, let alone ask a stranger to support us in creating increased emotional intimacy at home. Asking increases vulnerability. And then there is that interfering ‘parental discount’ that tops it all off, remember, with messages of repression.
How Do You Know When It's Time To Ask For Help?
If the established patterns of interaction in your relationship are resulting in challenges
If you no longer know what to try to reach one another and reach across the divide
If loneliness and irritation take up more space than intimacy, positivity, and connection
If you want to avoid the possibility that all of the above will inevitably happen
When we learn how to manage the internalized discount of settling for less and instead reap the benefits of a conscious, loving, and growing relationship, real love has the space to grow.
If you can relate to any of these statements, then deciding to work with a professional is an opportunity for you, your partner, and your relationship to grow. When you are ready to set aside the time to prioritize your relationship to learn a new way to connect on a deeper, more empathetic level, we are here to help. IMAGO therapists are trained to guide you on the path of connecting in a curious, non-judgmental manner to remove the stopping blocks of blame, shame, and criticism that often erode even the most enduring love.
Our life's work is to help couples build healthy and loving relationships. We'd love to help you too! Check out our Imago Relationship workshops and therapy. If you've already attended a workshop, contact me about our 'getting even more love...' workshop. We have online therapy and workshops too!
This Blog was written by Anna Gold, M.S.W., R.S.W.
Anna Gold earned her Master’s in Social Work in 1988 from Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario. Prior to that, her first degree, from York University, was in English Literature, with a love of language and stories drawing her more deeply into understanding how we make sense of our lives. The way we perceive and understand our own ‘stories’ became of critical importance to Anna in personal and relational growth. Her combined passion for both clinical work and literature has greatly influenced her work as a therapist.
After her graduate studies, she continued her accreditation in Transactional Analysis, Trauma therapy, and Relationship Therapy. Anna works with the belief that it is in the depth of human connection that real understanding and healing can occur. Discovering a passion for working with couples and deeply appreciating the theory that connected her passion for inner work and relational work, Anna became a certified IMAGO therapist and invited Tim to join her in becoming an Imago Workshop Presenter.
Additionally, Anna has enjoyed teaching clinical skills in social work, managing a university counseling services department, and working in the child welfare system in protection, adoption, and fostering. Anna also provides consulting support to small business owners and not for profit organizations to support the improvement of communication skills and business practices. Anna is a clinical supervisor for therapists who are committed to the understanding that increased self-awareness, personal growth, and self-reflection are critical components of clinical competency.
Anna has appeared on TV in her professional capacity as a therapist. She is also the author of articles published in various journals and online forums, and blogs. You can find Anna’s reflections in her newsletter and on her website at Southern Ontario Counselling Centre, as well as in her upcoming website, Replenish Relationships and through Imago Relationships North America.
While Anna is passionate about travel and exploring the world, she has devoted her practice to this region as a lifelong resident of Waterloo Region. For over three decades, Anna has maintained her passion for her private practice at Southern Ontario Counselling Centre. Replenish Relationships is the home for all things related to relationship work and communications & compassion training. Check out her website too!