Harville and I assert that the best way to heal a relationship is not to repair the two people, but the Space Between them. So what is this Space Between? The moment you committed to each other, it was born. You can think of it as an energy field filling up the space between you two.
Right now, we’re imagining you have the same kind of look on your face that we get from couples in our workshops. Many are suspicious. Others think we’re off our rockers! And many insist, “There isn’t anything between me and my partner but … well, air.”
It may look like there isn’t anything between you. But there is.
Consider outer space. Our universe is filled with stars, planets, meteors, and comets. What lies between all these cosmic bodies? Space. Lots of space. Lots of empty space. Right?
We used to think space was empty. But astronomers have proven that the space between the planets isn’t empty at all. It is filled with gravitational and energy fields that actually hold the planets in their orbits.
And so it is with the Space Between. It is a cosmic energy field that supports you both in your relationship. Just as physics is part of the physical world, we believe there is a physics that governs the Space Between you and your partner.
The Physics of the Space Between
Every word, tone of voice, every glance, affects the Space Between. Even the unspoken communication of your body language (called nonverbal cues) contributes to this energy field.
There are times when you and your partner feel accepted by each other. The air is safe to breathe. These are the times when the Between is filled with love.
Then there are times when things are strained. The air is thick with judgment. Tension coils all around you. These are the times when the Between is filled with conflict. The state of the Between determines how safe you and your partner feel in each other’s presence. So we’re going to give you, as my yoga instructor says, a mantra—a statement that we want you to repeat over and over and over again. Tape it to every mirror in your house. Say it 10 times throughout the day.
Ready for the mantra?
Here it is: No shame, blame, or criticism in our Between!
Criticism, blame, and shame are like toxins. They act as acid on the Between, corroding your connection to your partner. Your goal is to make the Between safe. This means loving and empathizing with each other through it all. Yes, we mean all! Your partner’s fun and happy feelings, and their not-so-fun ones. It was amazing when Harville learned to do this for me.
All my life, I’d been given the message that only those who were sweet and nice were worthy of love. Then I hit a period when stress turned me into a real grouch. And Harville really stepped up. Instead of criticizing my behavior, he became a steady, loving presence for me. It was simply wonderful.
One day, I woke up and suddenly saw myself and realized, “I have so many ways I should be working on myself to become a more loving person. That should be my focus!” I would not have made it to this liberated place if Harville had been critical of me. It was his loving presence that made it safe for me to see how I was really being. When two people make the Space Between truly sacred space, that’s when the healing can happen.
By sacred space, we mean space that is absolutely holy. The Between may look like ordinary air. But don’t ever treat it in an ordinary way. Your relationship needs to be the most important thing in the world to you. Never, never, never violate the Space Between with anything that will hurt your relationship. Truly think of it as holy ground.
This is the act of building real love. It leads to a genuine homecoming. One built on a solid foundation of trust and caring.
We were all wounded in relationship. We can heal only in relationship. This is why we have to answer the call to become each other’s healers.
And it all hinges on what you choose to put into the Space Between.
Helen LaKelly Hunt, PhD, and Harville Hendrix, PhD, cocreated Imago Relationship Therapy, practiced by more than 2,200 certified therapists in 30 countries. This post is adapted from their book Making Marriage Simple: 10 Relationship-Saving Truths. Join them at Kripalu to explore more.