If only we could follow Emmaunel Levinas’ belief in the extraordinary everydayness of my responsibility for other people, then maybe we could all be loved equally and no one would be left behind in an ethical sense. We would ceaselessly sacrifice our own emotional needs for the other and maybe the best, and, the worst of relationships, survive because of this dynamic.
Of course, that rarely happens and we all struggle in our relationships, whether that be between man and woman, woman and woman, man and man, friend and friend, parent and child. My experience as a therapist tells me that struggle is founded on, not a disparity in the scales of vulnerability, but when high levels of vulnerability are equally weighted between a couple. This high level of vulnerability leads to a cycle of hurt, blame, defensiveness, the need for control and the inability to look after the other.
I rarely work directly with couples as it requires a specific form of training, except for on some occasions when a partner of my client attends for a few sessions. So my focus with my individual clients is to help them see that the only way out of the above dynamic is for each person, outside of their current relationship, to understand his/her own specific areas of vulnerability. To see if this can be tolerated or lessened, to be able to explain and show this vulnerability to their partner, and then finally to determine whether they can ever feel as if they will be looked after in their relationship and whether they can also look after their partner.