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Most people describe a committed love relationship as consisting of two people. But we define a love relationship as “two people, plus the Space-Between them.” This Space-Between is a core theme in our work with couples. But what is it and how does it help guide you and your partner to create a conscious, thriving relationship?
It may look like there isn’t anything between you and your partner. But there is. Consider outer space. Our universe is filled with stars, planets, meteors, and comets. We used to think the space between these celestial objects was empty. But astronomers have proven that the dark space isn’t empty at all. It is filled with gravitational pull and energy fields that actually hold the planets in their orbits. Just because something is not visible with the naked eye doesn’t mean it’s not there. The intangibles, in fact, are often the invisible glue that holds it all together.
In relationships, the Space-Between includes all intangibles between partners. Every spoken word, tone of voice, every glance contributes to this energy field. It also includes the unspoken communication of body language (called nonverbal cues). It’s these interactions in the Space-Between that directly determine the experiences inside and the condition of the relationship.
For example, there are times when you and your partner feel connected to each other. The air is safe to breathe. These are the times when the Between is filled with loving behaviors. Conversely, there are times when things are strained. The air is thick with judgment and tension. These are the times when the Between is filled with conflict and disconnecting behaviors.
While it is easier said than being done, our first mantra for couples is: remove all negativity from the Space-Between. Criticism, blame and shame are like toxins. They act as acid, corroding your message to your partner. The Space-Between you and your partner is like a river that runs between you. You both drink from the river and bathe in it. So it’s important that it be free from garbage and toxins. To keep the water running clean and pure, you must stop filling it with criticisms and hurtful comments. You must move from self-care to relationship-care. You must infuse the Space-Between with affirming, positive, loving behaviors.
The Between may look like ordinary air. But don’t ever treat it in an ordinary way. Your relationship needs to be the most important thing in the world to you. Truly think of it as holy ground. It is then that your relationship (you, your partner, and the Space-Between) becomes sacred.
Harville Hendrix Ph.D. and Helen LaKelly Hunt Ph.D. are internationally-respected couple's therapists, educators, speakers, and New York Times bestselling authors. Together, they have written over 10 books with more than 4 million copies sold, including the timeless classic, Getting the Love You Want: A Guide for Couples. In addition, Harville has appeared on the Oprah Winfrey television program 17 times!
However, marriage—even for marriage experts—is never easy. Just like any other couple, Harville and Helen experienced a power struggle where they attempted to change, coerce, and threaten each other to be “more like me.” A critical comment would degenerate into loud arguments. Blaming each other was a common focus of conversation.
Harville and Helen co-created Imago Relationship Therapy to promote the transformation of couples and families by a creating relational culture that support universal equality. In addition, they've developed resources that help couples, families, and educators strengthen their relationship knowledge and skills. They are the co-founders of Imago Relationships International, a non-profit organization that has trained over 2,000 therapists and educators in 51 countries around the world.