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What usually couples, consulting with me, share in therapy sessions is about their concerns for their partners and/or themselves in intimate relationships; for instance, one party sees a drastic change in another party; or one party sees disconnection and lack of participation of one party in relationship; or one party realizes their relationship has gone off- track and etc.

What causes couples to experience ‘disconnection’ in their intimate relationships varies and depends on their understanding and agreement on relational principles; the principles that made them connected and related to each other once.

A couple relationship is a relationship between two persons who agree on certain principles, usually based on relational values/ethics, to stay and possibly live together to form a family. This is a mutual contract and is valid as long as two parties are committed to supporting and maintaining their agreement.

Couples, who plan to live together or have lived together for a long period of time, sometimes face difficulties in sticking to their relational principles for many various reasons. Difficulty in internalizing relational principles goes back to what parents, educators and society as a whole has taught both parties when they are very young.

The relational principles may vary from one relationship to another and they may be introduced to every relationship differently. However, the core principles seem to be the same in every relationship; everyone wants to be treated fairly and respectfully; and everyone wants for his/her relational life what brings comfort, joy, connection and closeness to intimate relationships.

Every person walks into an intimate relationship with her/his own life experiences. No one requires having any particular education or a degree before entering into intimate relationships. We learn and understand more about our own personal ethics and our relational principles as we experience relationships/ life. It seems that the richness of life depends on the quality of relationships we are in. Relationships have significant impact on our identities.

Couples are, sometimes, caught into the pattern of “I–It” (Martin Buber, 1979) relationship and connect with one another as objects. Couples may be convinced through external forces to shape their intimate relationships based on viewing each other as ‘It’ and relating to each other as a means to their own personal ends. When individuals are objectified in intimate relationships, the quality of relationship is reduced due to the objectification of persons. The major problem with this pattern of connection is the absence of “You”; the absence of the other party as a person, as a being.

At a different state, couples realize that their relationship is not fulfilling; they are not seen as valued beings; they feel loss even though they are, physically, present in relationships; they become insensitive and indifferent to each other’s presence; and their worlds become apart and disconnected. When one is not cared or loved for who he/she is but for means that brings to relationship, when his/her beings is not valued as a person but for means that provides in relationship, an intimate relationship is about to go sour and collapse.

Relationships collapse when couples are trapped into the pattern of “I-It”. “I- It” based relationships don’t have a capacity to last and fulfill relational needs of parties; it serves couples temporarily. When couples are not satisfied, they tend to search for another It. Affair, abuse, addictions, etc are signs of disconnection from one’s own values/principles.

The pattern of “I-It” perpetuates and maintains itself in people’s life by convincing couples to replace one “It” with another one; it prevents couples from taking initiatives to dismantle the pattern of “I- It”. Becoming free from the pattern of “I-It” is not easy due to its history in one’s life; it requires reconnecting to one’s ethics, revising relational ethics and adapting a broader perspective that includes ‘the other’ as a being in one’s life.

In my sessions with couples, I engage couples to think and talk about their relational principles and support them to form patterns of “I-You” in intimate relationships. We explore what constitutes and supports the pattern of “I-It” in their lives and discover ways of reconnecting with personal ethics to build a foundation for relational principles in intimate relationships.

If you know couples who want to unwrap themselves from the pattern of “I-It”, please feel free to pass them on my information. For further information visit my website: http://www.taherehbarati.com

Happy possibilities!

Tahereh Barati

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