By Katie & Gay Hendricks
Do you have the sneaking suspicion that there’s something wrong with your relationship?
That you’re not as happy as you could be?
That there must be something better than this?
You’re probably right.
If you’re feeling these things, it’s likely that you’re not in a relationship at all – but rather what we call an “entanglement.”
When you’re enmeshed in an entanglement, you are never “at home” with your partner. You don’t feel as if you can truly relax into the relationship or that you can be fully yourself.
Even though you’re “with” someone, you feel lonely and unhappy. Your partner may be physically there, but there is a longing within you – for more closeness, more connection. More love and ease.
Entanglements may look like relationships on the surface – you spend a lot of time with your partner, maybe you even live together. You plan vacations and have met each other’s friends and family. You may have even been a couple for years.
But underneath all of this is a painful reality: the entanglement is not a real relationship. Instead, it’s characterized by discord, pain, and disconnection.
And it will continue that way unless you turn it around.
All of us have been in entanglements at one point or another – often multiple times. Sometimes, it can feel like you’ll never get a relationship right.
But you absolutely can attract a truly loving relationship – or turn your current entanglement into a harmonious one. The first step is recognizing when you’re in an entanglement in the first place.
And one of the most overlooked but powerful ways to do that is to pay attention to the nonverbal aspects of troubled relationship patterns.
Our bodies have an intelligence all their own. If we learn to listen to them, they can tell us a great deal about what is going on at deeper levels of our being.
Entanglement patterns appear in the way we carry our bodies, the way we move, the way we breathe, and how we hold ourselves as we interact with others.
Let’s look at some of these now.
Entanglements are characterized by the need to control. This may show up in several ways:
Harmonious partners can openly speak the truth to one another, but if you’re in an entanglement, expressing your feelings doesn’t feel safe. This can manifest in difficulty making eye contact, tilting the head, looking out from under the eyebrows, and holding the breath.
A woman who doesn’t really want to go on vacation with her husband strains her back the night before they’re to leave. A man gets a headache the afternoon of their regular dance club evening. A head is banged on a shelf a few minutes after some anger is repressed during an argument. Bodily complaints, accidents, and illnesses like these are not uncommon for partners enmeshed in entanglements.
Each of us has a natural preference for moving through life. Some of us buzz like bees through life, others saunter. In entanglements, we often are made to feel wrong for our particular rhythm. “Hurry up! We haven’t got all day,” says one partner to another. “Do you always have to rush through everything?” the other replies. When people ignore or deny their natural rhythms, or try to impose their rhythms on their partner, problems can emerge.
Turning an entanglement into a harmonious relationship involves addressing the underlying issues that are causing the entanglement in the first place – and using specific tools to modify patterns that keep you and your partner from connecting and developing true intimacy.