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  • Tara Palmer

Who is in Your Bed?

Updated: Apr 13, 2020

Mind-body memory is fascinating. It is amazing how we access the ‘voices’ of earlier times as we transition into new seasons of our lives. Sometimes we notice the voices. Sometimes we don’t.

The 1999 film, ‘The Story of Us,’ came out the year my oldest was born. The challenges in my own marriage of adjusting to parenting created a powerful resonance with certain aspects of the film. A stand-out scene where Ben (Bruce Willis) and Katie (Michelle Pfeiffer) are chatting in bed is a lovely reminder of the humor, absurdity and complexity of building and maintaining intimate relationships. Check it out.

How many people are in your bed? Who are they?

I imagine Ben and Katie may have quickly come to recognize some of the layers getting in their way if they could have stepped back from their own experience and watched the scene of themselves in bed with their parents. Perhaps the peeing therapist was trying to get them there. 😊

I wonder what might have happened if they could have each observed how their conversation was being impacted by voices that were not their own. What might they each have said to their parents? Would they have asked their parents to leave the room? I imagine so. What might then have unfolded naturally in the conversation between the two of them?

What would they have better noticed and responded to in each other? Might they have had greater ease in remaining emotionally connected, caring and compassionate?

A new perspective

Who is in the bed of your relationship? Your parents? Past partners? Friends? Siblings?

Next time you get into a disagreement or find yourself feeling critical of your partner, consider stepping back. Look at your situation from the outside as a third party.

  • What do you notice about yourself? Your non-verbals? The tones of your voice?

  • What do you notice about how your approach is impacting your partner?

  • Do you like this version of yourself? Is this the you that you want to be?

  • What might you notice about the voices in your head?

  • Are the thoughts stirring in your mind or the words coming out of your mouth your own? Or are you embarrassed to notice the influence of other ‘voices’ overtaking you? Do you sound like the less delightful parts of your mother? Father? Sibling?

  • Would you need to ask any of the ‘voices’ to leave?

It is not uncommon to discover that we are not coming from our truest and best selves in our relationship. If you are not engaging your relationship from your best self, you do not want to continue justifying your position. Instead, consider where you are getting stuck.

With self-compassion, reflect on where you may have previously observed these ‘stuck’ approaches, behaviors, or attitudes in others.

  • Are they familiar?

  • Were these patterns ‘normal’ or acceptable during your childhood years?

  • Did you witness your parents treating each other in these ways?

  • Were you treated this way by someone else? In childhood, or at a later season?

  • How did you feel about these experiences then? How do you feel about remembering them now?

  • If you could have influenced the person or people interacting in these ‘stuck’ ways, what would you have suggested they do instead? What would you have wanted them to see about how they were impacting you or others?

  • What does this help you know about what you want from yourself now?

Be a person you like

If you feel you have become someone you don’t like in your partnership, it’s time to move toward change. It is easy to fall into the ‘if they’d’ pothole of a relationship. If they’d do this, or if they’d do that, then I would or could… be a better me.

Instead, consider what it will take to get yourself back to or move toward the person you desire to be?

  • Who do you need to kick out of your head?

  • What new thinking, feeling, believing, behaving patterns do you want inside your head instead?

  • How will you get there?

  • Do you have the skills, and the know-how to get where you want to go independently?

  • If so, what practices will help you continue moving toward that desired change? (mindfulness, journaling)

  • If not, what form of support will help? Reading material/ workbooks, journals, a group, a therapist, a coach?

Regardless of where this work takes you in your relationship, you will be glad you found your way to your best self. You’ll never regret that work.

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