Richard Hyams is Erickson’s Faculty Lead and Senior Instructor. An ICF Professional Certified Coach, Richard has over 1,500 hours of facilitation of human development and communication programs such as The Art & Science of Coaching and Neuro-Linguistic Programming.
Why Hire a Relationship Coach?
If you know anything about coaching you might know that a coach generally assists clients to articulate and define their most important goals and further assists them to design action plans in order to achieve those very goals. It would seem to follow then that a relationship coach (a coach whose specialty is relationships) would assist their clients to define their relationship goals and elicit their values and design actions plan to achieve a higher quality of relationships whether romantic, familial and/or professional.
Relationship coaching can and should be, in my opinion, much more than that. A coach can certainly help you come up with an action plan of how to behave differently with another person or assist you in outlining a list of attributes for your ideal lover and again, a plan to find him or her. I call this the “outer game” of relating — focusing on actions and behaviors we take to gain a result. Coaching, especially relationship coaching, can go much deeper than that.
A good relationship coach will assist you with the “inner game” of relating. I have determined that the one thing that stops us from having good and glorious relationships with anyone and everyone is the un-examined, unquestioned beliefs we hold onto concerning what it means to relate to one another. In other words, the “inner game” means being willing to examine and change any of the thought patterns and beliefs about yourself and others that prevent you from having the relationship experiences you want. A coach can act as a valuable asset in this process.
We Didn’t Need Relationship Coaching Before... Why Now?
A lot has happened to us recently on the level of relationships.
First, having culturally emphasized the values of equality and diversity, we no longer take on roles in relationships as our parents might have done: breadwinner, homemaker, etc.
Second, many of us are professionals and regardless of being male or female, have chosen to emphasize our career development and establish our autonomy before seriously focusing on relationships. For example, most adults today do not live in the same city as their parents do, having made career choices that outweigh family. I am now in my third city.
Whether we emphasized our careers early or late, our career-oriented mindset has filtered over into other areas of our lives. We learned to make our own money, live on our own, take care of ourselves and so on. So we have developed habits of self-reliance. On a daily basis we make micro-decisions, self-initiate, lead, organize and control our little empires at work and at home.
Today, many of us are professionals who are used to making decisions often, having it our way, perhaps having had an apartment of our own, carving out our own lives, overseeing our domains and our schedules and thus, getting used to controlling our time and our spaces.
We assert our independence when ordering our ‘special-to-me-designed-by-me coffees’ at Starbucks while checking and organizing our calendars, independently controlling our laptops and mastering our own little universes.
We are no longer in the shared collective experience of days gone past. 100 years ago living alone would be considered eccentric. Putting off marriage to pursue a career would be considered odd. Moving away from your family was considered outrageous unless you were off to war. My mother had to ask the police in her city of London, England if it was legal for her to have her own apartment as a single woman. She was 18 and that was 1955. When Howard Hughes was discovered in his home watching movies alone, it was considered bizarre. That was 1976.
And so, we find ourselves in control of our own lives AND wishing to be involved with another.... a separate entity who has enjoyed a certain level of freedom and personal power. A person with thoughts, needs, and emotions of their very own. Love is something we yearn for. We know we are better for it. We want closeness, intimacy, companionship, communion, and great friendships BUT without giving up the freedoms we have earned and learned to enjoy.
Love, Freedom and Power
It comes down to this: “How can I still have it my way, still have my freedom, and enjoy the benefits of love? How can I have my cake and eat it too?”
This brings us right back to the inner game of relating and why getting a coach is so invaluable. The greatest flawed premise of them all, the one from which all other limiting beliefs flow, can be stated as follows: “It is the behaviour of others that can cause my happiness and my unhappiness.”
This is intolerable in the face of the power and freedom we get to exercise in other areas of our lives. From there we believe we must sacrifice something of our power and freedom in order to have the love we want. And so we are conflicted.
Entering into relationships with compromise, or choosing instead to distance ourselves from relating to maintain our independence but ending up alone and self-contained. This is what I did. And so my evenings were: choosing a movie to watch, a couple of glasses of wine and just me and the cat.
If we do end up in a relationship we may employ compensating strategies of manipulating, controlling, game-playing and passive-aggressive behaviors, of which there are too many to mention here, and I am sure I have done them all. All these behaviors are rooted in a set of flawed assumptions that “others have what I need and I must control them or change my own behaviors to get my needs met.”
If we take actions to compensate for the lack of inner security those very behaviors actually reinforce that inner powerlessness. And we all know a difficult relationship of any kind can suck the life force out of us.
A good relationship coach will agree to listen for, and challenge you on, the limiting beliefs and flawed assumptions impeding the experience of deeply satisfying relationships. A coach will assist you to develop more empowering and future-forward mental habits of focus. We are so immersed in these flawed assumptions I’ve mentioned - it is like a collective trance. A coach can help you to break that trance.
Imagine, if you knew that no one, not a single person, could unnerve, trigger, upset, intimidate, threaten, manipulate, or control you ever again? Perhaps you think this is impossible, but to me, it is the one worthy aim of all humans today in a world that is a now an integrated global village impossible to disconnect from. Gone are the days of running off to India or backpacking through Europe to find ourselves. We find ourselves in those exquisite loving moments of appreciating others just as they are. We find ourselves when we can experience the freedom to be ourselves and let go of the control. Then we are an expression of love, not a receiver but an outflow. Then we are truly who we are and we know it. We feel it.
Much has been written about Emotional Intelligence. I will assert that to be Emotionally Intelligent means knowing that emotions are designed to guide us to greater and greater well-being. This includes the capacity to notice the negative emotions associated with outmoded and unhelpful beliefs and then to choose to practice better feeling thoughts until they become habitual. Nothing is sweeter than allowing others the freedom to be who they are. It is the supreme relief — one that allows us to tap into our true Emotional Intelligence.
So it really comes down to power, love and freedom, experienced deliciously together, a three-course meal that always satisfies. These three qualities together I consider the trinity of exceptional relating. And it is possible to experience them together. I cannot claim to experience them 24/7, but in my experience, it is an ongoing worthwhile journey that just keeps getting better and better.
If you want this then get a coach. Get a coach that will agree to challenge your outmoded ideas about love and power and freedom. The one defining moment in my relationship life was when a longstanding limiting belief dropped as a result of my thoughts challenged by an authority I trusted.
Following that, I quickly dismantled many other flawed assumptions and that created the space for the loving relationship I now have, as well as the ease to which I can relate to all others, professionally and personally. I now know that it is within my power to experience day after day a sweet euphoric freedom with the love of my life. And I get to enjoy the space and openness of two persons allowing each other to be as they are. Incomparable. I also know that it is possible to experience ease with everyone and anyone I choose to interact with. I have the tools.
Relationships are supposed to feel good to us. A coach can be the beginning of a fascinating journey into greater and greater relationship fulfilment and increased Emotional Intelligence.