Communication as a "Blended Family"
Today, this counselor got to witness the role of Equus in the enhancement of communication skills for a newly-wed couple, who are both bringing children into their union.
Newlyweds speak their own language anyway, but when that union is combined with that of children from previous relationships, the language can oftentimes get garbled and out of focus. I mean let's admit it, when we are a couple, we speak to ourselves in ways that only the two can understand, but that language development does not occur when we are blending a family. We don't start off every marriage with "honey did little johnny get all he needed for school today?"
So, this couple came to me and wanted to make sure that as they combine their households, they are able to speak a language of love, compassion, grace and giving, not just to each other, but also to their kids.
So what did this counselor do? Of course, I put them out in the pasture with the horses to see just how they do communicate with one another. Aha, you say, that is too easy... well hold your horses, or mine... one half of the couple was blindfolded, and had to be talked to while going to each member of the "healing herd". Some of you might think that is an easy task, but alas, don't be fooled by what you think is easy. This couple had to first, TRUST that the other person was not going to walk them through the land mines of horsedom. The couple had to TRUST that the language used was going to be understood by the other. The couple had to TRUST that the words selected would convey correct directions without bringing harm. In case you haven't guessed it....TRUST was a key factor to the exercise.
This couple discovered that the words they used to describe directions were oftentimes opposite of what they meant. Well, guess what, that can create real chaos in a relationship. Honey go right, oh I mean left, oh I mean in circles. It was amusing to watch, but as the participants expressed later, it was a challenge and it continually effected the TRUST factor. Amazingly, once the lingo of the pasture was understood by the couple, the two began to function as one rather quickly and each horse respected the touch of the person who was blindfolded.
What was quite interesting throughout this exercise, was one horse, the one we shall identify as the adolescent of the healing herd, took it upon itself to try to undo the blindfold and to interact with the couple when they were not moving in that particular horses direction. The couple came back and said that this is oftentimes how they feel their children behave with their relationship. When I asked them to explain that more, they both said almost simultaneously, "our kids try to divert our attention away from each other and the tasks at hand, and oftentimes try to get between us and the others." BOMBSHELL. They were awakened to the role of children in blended families! Silly horse showed the way by trying to chew off a blindfold.
When the roles were reversed with the couple and the second party was blindfolded, the task was changed. The blindfolded partner was to listen to his/her mate and walk through the pasture and attach a lead rope to the horse they felt a kindred spirit with in their earlier greeting session. Again, what happened surprised this couple to the core.
Before one step into the pasture was made, ground rules of understanding of language was set. Additional rules were established between them so that clear instructions would be used in a common language. The task was completed rapidly, up to the point of putting the lead rope on the identified horse and bringing the horse back to the mental health/equine specialist team. The rope went on perfectly, the leading back took lots of turns, circles, stops and goes. The couple finally returned and came back saying that they felt the horse was taking them off task and in circles. When asked how they used the lead rope, it wasn't until the couple identified that the lead rope had to be held tighter and shorter for that particular horse to follow direction. All of sudden..... they got the message. MIND BLOWING EVENT....
The couple looked at their team, and said, "our kids are like that, we need to either shorten or lengthen the lead rope to get them to move in the proper directions." It was like watching the light bulb go off in each of their heads, and when it shone, it was brilliant.
This couple recognized that they could navigate anything together, but that they had to have agreed upon terms of engagement and they had to lead with proper strength in regards to each individual child. When the couple returned with the horse in tow, on a shorter, tighter rope, the horse was responding to them as a couple and respecting them as a couple. When the horse was let out on a looser lead, the horse turned them in circles.
Two simple exercises with equine partners opened up an entire new level of understanding regarding how this couple communicates and what they need to do together for their new family. Amazingly, no judgement, no shame, no putting one person in front of the other, but honesty from Equus!
At Acres of Hope Equine Therapy Services, LLC in Asheboro, NC these types of sessions take place often. The horse reflects so much back to a person that is simple and oftentimes the fact that is omitted because of its simplicity, in traditional talk therapy. Yet, for this young couple, the simple, blaring truths, are what they needed to reinforce their efforts to make their union one of love, compassion, grace and giving. Equine Assisted Psychotherapy does it again!