If you're here, you care deeply about your personal growth and your romantic relationship. When we begin to understand the ways that we show up in our relationships and how this limits our growth and our capacity to accept love, we can get out of our own way when it comes to love.
Your unique relationship signature determines everything about how you show up in your relationship: from when you feel connected and grounded to when you're triggered and dysregulated.
Knowing this about ourselves gives us easy to reach for tools to keep us from repeating patterns that foster disconnection and loneliness, and knowing our partners' relationship signature can help us keep from assigning stories to their behavior and rebuild connection as needed.
Take, for example, the anxious-avoidant couple. When we know that our partner is avoidant, we can expect that they'll need space in order to feel safe, especially after intense emotional intimacy. Instead of reeling in anxiety, we can allow them to regulate the way they need to, thereby breaking the trigger cycle these couples so frequently find themselves in.
The relationship signature of each person is made up of the following components:
Persona and Shadow
What you'll notice is that in most of these components, it is fear that is in the driver's seat. Before you say, "Ok, Coach Rachel, I'm going to be fearless then!"...
I've tried that. It doesn't work. It is not enough to address the symptoms of fear or to pretend like we don't feel fear. We need to address the root cause of fear by going deeper, into the unconscious.
This is probably the most popular way to talk about relationship dynamics. There is a huge amount of information out there on attachment theory, so I won't dive too deeply into it. Suffice it to say that attachment style is created in infancy and develops throughout childhood.
Here are the types of insecure attachment:
Anxious - this type of attachment craves closeness and fears space. Lack of closeness feels like not being.
Avoidant - this type of attachment craves independence and fears engulfment. Lack of space feels like not being.
Disorganized - this type of attachment craves intimacy and also fears it. They oscillate between anxious and avoidant.
Secure attachment accepts the natural cadence between closeness and space. It is comfort with intimacy and independence.
When we know our attachment type, we can guide ourselves to regulating when we are triggered.
When anxious attachment is triggered (this feels like preoccupation with the relationship, fear of boundaries, and craving intimacy in specific ways), it's important to learn to re-focus on ourselves. What needs of mine do I need to meet?
When avoidant attachment is triggered (this feels like a desire to get away or to numb feelings, fear of closeness, and craving space), it's important to listen to those desires and learn how to meet that need. How much time do I need to myself to be able to come back to my person wholeheartedly?
Attachment style is the most popular way to "work on" relationships, and secure attachment is a worthy goal. Yet, there are so many other ways that we show up in our relationships.
persona and shadow
When we are children, we learn from watching our caregivers, and we make some early decisions about what seems to be "good" and what seems to be "bad," what leads to us receiving attention and love and what doesn't.
Whatever is deemed "good" is put into the persona - it's an outward expression of who we want to be seen as. Whatever is deemed "bad" is put into the shadow. It's suppressed into the unconscious as unacceptable. "Nice girl" programming and "man's man" programming are great examples.
Man's Man Persona:
Always interested in sex.
Using drugs and alcohol.
Man's Man Shadow:
Not feeling up for sex.
Abstaining from drugs and alcohol.
Nice Girl Persona:
Doesn't hurt anyone's feelings.
Always attentive to others' needs.
Nice Girl Shadow:
Focusing on themselves.
We can see how traditional gender roles fall under personas (and therefore shadow) that we're expected to adopt, and how they do not serve our longterm growth or mental health.
We can also see how some of these feed insecure attachment styles, like the Man's Man who can't show emotion (who would be considered "avoidant"). Developing a secure attachment style will not open him up to expressing emotion freely. He has to integrate the Man's Man Persona/Shadow in order to do that.
There are many more types of Persona/Shadow that impact our relationships. The way we discover these unconscious biases is by examining and integrating our triggers with a 3rd party (and this is why it's a major focus of the Relationship Clarity Blueprint). What annoys, angers, or inspires fear in us is because of something in our shadow.
Because a relationship is the perfect container for individuation, or becoming our true selves, developing understanding of our persona and shadow in the relationship dynamics we have not only strengthens our relationship, it makes it possible for us to individuate!
Integrating our shadow doesn't mean we have to "be it." It simply means we'll learn to choose consciously instead of reacting out of fear and outdated programming.
The Five Love Languages was a groundbreaking book published in the 90's that explained how people prefer to receive love and show love in their relationships.
When we understand our own love language preferences, we know how to ask for what we need from our partner when they want to show us love. We also know how to show our partners love in a way they can receive.
The five love languages are:
Words of affirmation
Acts of service
Love languages change over time. A sign that we're individuating is that we're able to receive more love freely, growing more comfortable with and able to receive other types of love.
When we're upset in our relationship, either in a conflict or triggered, we tend to either see ourselves as "small"/"wrong" or "big"/"right." Our partner takes the opposite position in our minds.
Power dynamics are rooted in placing our focus outward, on our partner, rather than inward, towards ourselves. Many of us play out both sides, sometimes within the same conflict, but we usually have a tendency towards one side over the other.
Being Small Being small or wrong in our romantic relationship is a replay of the power dynamics of childhood.
Many of us grew up with caregivers who parented to control rather than understand. They may have prioritized compliance, obedience, or conformity over accepting and celebrating our unique expression, our emotional ups and downs, and our learning process.
When we see ourselves as small, we put others' needs and desires before our own. We may mistrust our own judgment and/or intuition, choosing to trust what others say instead. We may make ourselves small, literally, by hunching over, not making eye contact, or withdrawing.
What this leads to down the line is resentment, a life that we didn't feel like we chose, and a deep sense of dissatisfaction. When we act out being small, we give our power away, choosing to make the other person bigger and more right than we are.
Sometimes our reaction to our caregivers' control is not to conform in order to be accepted, but to do the opposite! We take on the mantle of being "always right" and may expect our partner to conform to our wishes...the same way our caregivers expected us to conform to theirs.
This leads to us judging our partner, rather than being curious about and examining our own inner experience. We may find ourselves trying to control our partner's behavior through disapproval or nagging so that we feel safe. We can also cross the line into manipulation and abuse.
This is also a common pattern in people who have gotten out of abusive relationships. It's an overcorrection from feeling helpless, worthless, and small and stems just as much from insecurity.
We are constantly seeking growth. Within our unconscious is a desire to be our true selves, to fully express our unique purpose and passion in the world. Our romantic relationships are the ideal container for this growth, or individuation.
Growth happens when we get to practice, and our greatest practice opportunities are when we're confronted with a familiar pattern or situation from our young life. The sort-of joke that we all end up marrying our fathers or mothers is a very real phenomenon.
When we were young, we couldn't choose how we reacted to our father's anger or to our mother's habit of nagging at us. We likely acquiesced to whatever they wanted. When we were children and our parents were irresponsible, we may have learned to be the parent, to be the caregiver, and we didn't feel we had a choice. It was that, or not survive.
When we become adults, our psyche's feel an unresolved ache at these hurts, and they seek out partners that help us practice our way out of the patterns of fear we developed. The thing is, this is completely unconscious. The way they show up is through triggers.
This is why Jungian coaching is such an incredible experience. By focusing on pulling what is unconscious to consciousness, we unlock the energy behind our triggers and get to use it creatively, rather than keeping it stagnant within us, where it creates illness, injury, and disconnection.
This is the most nuanced and unique part of your relationship signature. There are common patterns we see, and yet the makeup and depth of them is completely different in each human being.
We can see that our unique relationship signatures are mostly centered around how our fear shows up. Fear of not existing or being important, fear of not being lovable or good enough, fear of being truly open to another person, fear of dying alone.
It's not enough to develop a secure attachment style. It's not enough to address the power dynamics within our relationships. It's not enough to sync up our love languages. These are symptoms of the larger issue of unconscious material from our past impacting our conscious lives.
Are you ready to find your unique relationship signature and build the healthy, loving relationship you're dreaming of?
Click below to find out if the Relationship Clarity Blueprint is for you!