By Jerry Sander, LCSW
If a therapist is well-trained and talented, why would you ever need two of them at once?
Therapeutic and educational experiences can be enhanced by the presence of two people who have similar levels of training and expertise but are not the same.
For the past two years Kristy Gaisford and I have been running Essential Relational Skills Boot Camp weekends and have worked together with couples and individuals to show them there are better ways of doing relationships and marriage. Each time we do it we rediscover our similarities and our differences.
We are different because we are male and female and were raised in a society that still treats emerging young men and women differently. We lived in different parts of the country (several, actually), were raised in different religions, had very different family-of-origin stories and had different stories about our adjustments to early relationships. We have different personalities. As a man, I was raised in an entitled way just as Kristy was raised to always think about others’ needs. Early attempts at relationships, on both of our parts, went according to the scripts we believed we were supposed to enact and led to failure, for both of us.
But both of us relate to the reality that becoming relationally healthy is a “second language” learned later in life. The failures of early marriages spurred us both on to actually think, and learn about, what we might have been doing wrong. Both of us had four children from our first marriages. Both of us navigated the rough waters of divorce. And both of us were blessed to find someone new to love and to work with; a chance to do better.
When I work with Kristy as my work partner, I hear stories from her point of view as a woman that I would have never encountered or thought about. She hears perspectives from me that were alien to her.
And those are the moments that someone in our gathered crowd of learners nods their head up and down, or laughs with recognition. People are able to pull from both of our stories; men can hear things from her that resonate with regard to the woman they love, who may be sitting right next to them. Women can suddenly hear, and see things from a man’s perspective and feel a bit more understanding of the man they are so deeply involved with.
And that is where we discover the power of the things we have in common. The need to feel seen and appreciated. Our underlying need for love and recognition.
What a beautiful way to learn skills.