Relationships are complex issues with many different dynamics existing between a couple that have chosen to ‘partner up’ and share their lives. The modern world has brought many changes to the domain of personal relationships, people are less likely to stay in the relationship if is not fulfilling their values, people enter new relationships in middle age and older age and bring with them their previous history. Gay relationships are no longer a taboo, however certain gay couples may feel pressure from homophobic people in the same way mixed race couples may feel the pressure of conscious and unconscious racism. So it seems relationships from social system perspective are evolving but what about the way we relate to each other regardless of age, sexuality or race. In this article, I will explore the relationship spectrum from an NLP perspective with a particular focus on what is known in NLP as a nominalisation.
Relationship is a nominalisation for the verb ‘to relate’. When a verb is nominalised it transforms the verb to a noun, in other words the process becomes a thing. Nominalising takes the dynamic interaction out of the process and what emerges is a static entity. You will hear people describe this ‘thing’ they have called my/our relationship. Nominalisations are of course not nouns that you can touch and feel like, table, chair, wardrobe etc. If you think of about an object such as a specific table in your house, it will always have the same form, you can modify it with paint or varnish if it gets stained, you can cover it with a cloth so it takes on a different look on the surface, but it is always the same table, it doesn’t change. You can even move the table to different places and use it for different functions, but it remains the same table regardless of location or function. One day you may decide this 20 year old table no longer fits with your style; it’s a bit worn, so you decide to break it up and throw it out. Sadly, many people treat their relationship in the same way as the table above, painting over the cracks from time to time, brightening it up with a table cloth and taking it to different locations. However, like the table, the relationship remains the same underneath regardless of paint or surface level decoration.
So what would happen for you if you explored the dynamic processes in your relationship that bring happiness to you and your partner? What would happen if you transformed your relationship to a process, so you and your loved one’s attention is on how you relate with each other? Relate is an unspecified verb, there are many ways of relating including loving, enjoying, listening, singing, dancing, shagging, walking, massaging, all processes that form part of how you relate. When you use verbs to describe how you relate your attention is on your actions and it’s actions that fulfil both peoples’ wants for being together. Sometimes we forget the early actions that brought happiness to our partner when the bond was first being formed. In addition it’s important to realise that different and newer actions will come into the dynamic as you grow together. So, unlike the table, your relationship takes on a new form as it evolves to ensure the both people are happy and fulfilled.
The processes of attraction (another nominalisation) are present in the early stages in a relationship and in a good relationship attraction will remain present as the relationship matures. However in a lot of relationships this is not the case and the attraction subsides for many reasons. De-nominalised attraction becomes the verb ‘to attract’. So when you begin a relationship you attract your partner to you and vice versa. How did you do this? What processes were present when you were attracting your partner? How did you dress, how did you speak, what type of words did you say, how did you use touch, how did you smell? These are sensory processes (visual, auditory and kinaesthetic, olfactory) that form our internal maps of the world. The sensory processes are then coded in language and interpreted as being intimate, charming, understanding, loving, listening, being funny, all essential ingredients for taking attraction to falling in love. The next stage after falling in love is building on that love and then staying in love. Again these processes will be dynamic and changing as you and your loved one evolve with each other.
When you next get a chance, take a long look at your dining room table, study its form. Then take a long look at how you and your partner experience each other, and study the form in the dynamic. Look at the processes that were present when you both attracted each other, how you fell in love and how now new processes will help build the love, this process of loving is too beautiful to be treated in the same way as you do a table.