“The top of the stool is your love for each other…The relationship”
One of the most healing thought process’s I learned from one of my past teachers (a very evolved and super successful relationship coach) was something called the “3- legged stool” paradigm. Not only was this woman a very effective coach, but she had maintained the most amazing relationship with her spouse year after year. She is excellent at using the ” Healthy Detachment from Your Relationship Drama” paradigm.
If you were to google “3 legged stool” you would find numerous definitions both in business and in relationship subjects. The particular one that I learned has stayed with me, and helped me immensely in my relationship and as a human being. Working through this thought process when needed has taken a huge amount of stress off my heart, my emotions, and my nervous system.
I was inspired to write about the 3-legged stool paradigm now, because I am going through something at this particular moment myself in my own long-term relationship . Because I am so passionate about sharing this thought process…it has been on my “to do” list to write about it for months now. I now know why I hadn’t found the time…It’s meant to be that I write about it WHILE I am going through it myself. When I was a lot younger, and used to be in a relationship with what I didn’t know at the time was a full -fledged narcissist. This paradigm would have been a life saver for my young inexperienced soul.
The first leg is you.The second leg is your partner,
and the third leg is the issue you are fighting about
The 3- legged stool paradigm is so simple and you need to keep it simple.There is nothing deep and complicated about it, and don’t be tempted to complicate it for yourself.
- The top of the stool…the round part… is the relationship…the love between the 2 of you…the relationship is it’s own entity.
- One of the legs is you (a singular entity)
- One of the legs is your partner (a singular entity)
- The 3rd leg is the current “hurtful issue or love drama.” It is a separate entity entirely from your love for each other… a separate entity from YOU (one leg), and a separate entity from your partner as a whole being (the other leg).
If you can separate the issue at hand with your true love for each other, and also separate it from HOW you view your partner as a WHOLE person it will be a lot easier and less emotional to get through it. You can consciously NOT take this on as a problem with you, or a problem with your partner, but more like a 3rd leg that needs to be talked about or worked through with a coach.
Think about it as if you were two lovers going for a hike. You are walking a path together side by side and you each have heavy backpacks. Eventually one of you gets an irritating blister that no one expected. This wasn’t how the day was supposed to go in either of your minds. Even though you are not at that campsite yet …your partner has to sit down and then proclaims “That’s it! I’m not going a step further until you give me the pack of band- aids!” You each were responsible to bring different things in your backpack for BOTH of you to use. Your partner had asked you to bring the band- aids since they had just bought new hiking shoes. Oh Shit… You realize you forgot to put them in your pack.
Now you can start thinking about all of the ways this could turn out. Depending on the type of relationship you have right now this could get ugly. Will the blistered hiker get angry and upset and say “You don’t love me! You always forget the important things I ask for! You are so lazy and forgetful and now look!” If you really cared for me deeply you wouldn’t have forgotten the band aids!” The blistered hiker could interpret this mistake for not being loved properly.
And then there is the band -aid forgetter… the partner who made the mistake. What will their reaction be to what their lover has just said to them? Most likely band-aid forgetter already felt super guilty inside and probably ashamed. Will band-aid forgetter become defensive and mean back? Will he/she take on emotionally what their partner has just said about them? Or can these two lovers quickly separate themselves from the emotions and heart hurts and start using the 3 legged stool paradigm?
In this hiker scenario the top of the stool is the love between them that made them want to spend the day together in the first place. One leg is the blistered hiker, and the other leg is the hiker who forgot the band-aids. If these 2 hikers can separate their love for each other from the issue of the band aids, and then separate who the band aid forgetter is as a WHOLE person from the mistake, then no one has to take on hurt and pain that can slowly deteriorate the relationship. The band- aid forgetter also needs to separate what their partner has just said about them and deposit that into the 3rd leg… ie “the issue leg”.
NOW is when that 3rd leg can be discussed between the relationship coach and the two hiking lovers. The 3rd leg being the derogatory comments made to each other that can cause long term hurt and resentment… The 3rd leg being a separate entity from the 2 people that love each other.
Examples of just a couple of questions a good relationship coach could start by asking the blistered hiker in the presence of their partner could be:
- I heard you say to your lover “You always forget the important things I ask for!” What does always mean? Does it mean every time? Half the time? Sometimes?
- What comes up for you when your partner forgets a task that you asked him/her to do ? What does it make you think? Do you feel it in your body as well as your brain? If so where?
It doesn’t matter how small or trivial the drama is, or how extremely serious and hurtful this drama could potentially be. Use it and you will not only mature and evolve as a person, but it can save yourself a ton of unnecessary extra inner emotional turmoil and hurt or anger.
When coaching, I eventually get to the place with the couple where in we can look at that 3rd leg as a completely separate thing from “their love” and a completely separate thing from who each partner is as a human. Then, it is much easier without emotions flying to look at and WORK THROUGH the 3rd leg as being separate from the couple itself.
Here are examples of a 3rd leg that are NOT a reflection of you or anything you have done, but simply a 3rd leg. They are also not a reflection of the totality of your partner (2nd leg), nor the totality of the “love relationship” (the top of the stool.) Before reading the examples list below it’s important that I am clear that I am not saying the issues (3rd leg) shouldn’t be dealt with. They do need to be discussed and worked through with a trained relationship coach or counselor, but instead of taking these issues personally or judging your partner to be a total jerk, they are worked out as something separate from you two as whole human beings.
- Your partner has been moody and short with you.
- Your partner hasn’t been paying attention to you as much as usual.
- Your partner chose to go out with buddies instead of having a date with you.
- Your partner isn’t interested in some of your passions (art, movies, plays, golf, football, yoga, meditation, travel etc…)
- Your partner forgot to take the garbage out or pickup your dry cleaning.
- Your partner didn’t follow your exact expectations regarding the time and way he should be putting the kids to bed.
- Your partner doesn’t want to move in with you yet.
- Your partner isn’t ready for marriage yet.
- Your partner doesn’t really want to go visit your mother in law.
- Etc, Etc, Etc…..
Once you are capable and willing to look at each “issue” that comes up throughout the relationship as a 3rd leg and not a reflection of whether your partner loves you or not, then working through the upset becomes a lot easier and freeing.
If you have a 3rd leg issue in your relationship causing hurt and resentment that needs working through in a productive, safe environment book a consult with Ann Munroe