Posted on October 22nd, 2012
Raising The Relationship Ceiling
Imagine growing up in a house with very low ceilings. The taller you grew, the more you would have to adjust your posture to fit under the ceiling. Everyone in your family would do this, it would be normal, not even discussed. By the time you left home, you would have accommodated yourself in many ways to these low ceilings.
This is actually how we all do grow up, except that the ceiling is emotional rather than physical. In our families of origin, we learn the limits of safety—how happy, successful, open, loving, connected, engaged in the world, and/or aware of ourselves we can be and still be safe. When we try to move beyond these ceilings, our families bring us back down, through punishment, or shaming, or rejection, or neglect, or by creating so much chaos that we lose track of where we were headed. The results of yielding to this pressure are both safety and unseen limitation.
When it comes time to choose a mate, without necessarily even realizing it, we usually choose someone with similarly low ceilings. After all, higher ceilings would seem uncomfortable, even unsafe. Sometimes the lowering of the ceiling in the relationship happens at the start of a marriage, sometimes it happens with the beginning of parenting. But it almost always happens.
The choice then becomes whether to live with these low ceilings, or to take the risk of raising the ceiling.
Raising the ceiling in a relationship is not something one can do without the participation of his/her partner. The relationship ceiling is enforced by the relationship, just as it was in the families we came from. If one partner pushes through the ceiling, becomes for example noticeably happier, this is a challenge to the relationship, and the other partner will work—directly or indirectly, such as by creating a crisis—to bring the relationship back down below the ceiling. Relationships where this happens a lot are full of struggle, which cannot be resolved by working only on the apparent issues. The ceiling itself has to be addressed, and raising it requires the active participation of both partners.
Couples counseling can be an effective way to raise the ceiling. Because this is a collaborative process, it is possible to raise the ceiling together, and to work together to get used to this new level of living. By being conscious of where the ceiling is for the two of you and of where you would like it to be, you can create a more expansive life for yourselves which still feels secure.
Posted in Marriage and Couples