Infidelity navigation: Summary * fidelity 101 * fidelity 108 * fidelity 2 * fidelity 3 * fidelity 4 * emotional cost * triangles * how to mend * models of mending * how to forgive * the unforgivable * relationship education * exits from intimacy * ending a relationship in peace * defences * emotional intelligence * re-romancing * on vulnerability
Relationship navigation: * page list * page 1 * page 2 * page 3 * page 4 * page 5 * how to build intimacy * how to mend * models of mending * commitment quiz * toxic patterns * mental maps * tough love * boundaries * turning points * how to end * forgiving * survey of marriage * what is success * marriage research * love styles * marriage quotes * family love like the wind
How to mend navigation: 1. How to mend * 2. Models of mending * 3. How to be a grown up * 4. Hold me tight * 5. Becoming vulnerable * 6. Emotional bids * 7. Constructive fights * 8. Exits from intimacy * 9. The answer
Last edit of this page 08/06/2011
When we were children, we used to think that when we were grown-up we would no longer be vulnerable. But to grow up is to accept vulnerability. To be alive is to be vulnerable. Madeleine L'Engle
We're never so vulnerable than when we trust someone - but paradoxically, if we cannot trust, neither can we find love or joy. Walter Anderson
These three models come from 40 years of research into intimate relationships. They are based on scientific evidence of their effectiveness rather than fanciful theories about relationships.
None are based on listening or communication skills training!
See how to choose a therapist for a discussion of the generally poor outcomes for non-evidence based couple's therapy.
Short circuiting a couple's impulse to oppose each other is a simple powerful tool.
One of the best adjunct skills in the process of mending is a 'Radical Acceptance Of Everything'. I highly recommend Ann Cornell's book of the same title. Some chapters are available on line here.
A dual focus on mindfulness and empathy in relationships can rewire the brain. Dan Siegel's book 'Mindsight' explores those techniques in detail. Here's an extract.
And a tried and true gem: "Communication Miracles for Couple's" by Jonathan Robinson.
Self-help methods like those above and below, allow you to step back and feel the old stuff in a fresh way. They re-present the internal logic or mental map of each partner anew.
It can take as many months to rebuild as years it took to create the mess.
Some folk have just carried relationship habits from their family of origin, straight on into marriage without review. Typically, that's how mum and dad dealt with their differences. Or their opposite.
That's a lot of months to undo.
And too many of us start building a family already charged up, like a storm set to go off with just the right set of differences.
Some relationships in trouble are stuck in guarded small talk, like they know they are in the middle of a mine field. Walking on egg shells? See the rules for avoiding intimacy on Intro 1.
Instead of avoiding the minefield, a kind, direct, respectful and compassionate honesty sometimes invites the other in. Allows each to breathe IN their partner's experience rather than blowing it away.
This may pull for a compassion that for the first time makes sense of what had previously appeared alien. This is similar to the principles of tough love.
Maybe we have a choice to divorce the old wounds rather than divorce our partner?
Here how to make the most out of couple's therapy and how to choose a therapist.
Here are my 13 observations of intimate relationships with more tips for growth.
Please visit my iPad and iPhone friendly site couple-therapy.org
3 Models of mending
1. Susan Johnson's Emotion Focused Couple's Therapy
Here are a few videos of Sue Johnson on YouTube. I like this one the most - 'How can I tell if my marriage is in trouble, and what can I do to prevent breakup?'
Emotionally focused therapy (EFT) developed by Johnson and Greenberg is founded in attachment theory. This is the model I work from. EFT is simple:
Forget about learning how to argue better, analyzing your early childhood, making grand romantic gestures, or experimenting with new sexual positions. Instead, recognize and admit that you are emotionally attached to and dependent on your partner in much the same way that a child is on a parent for nurturing, soothing, and protection. EFT focuses on creating and strengthening this emotional bond by identifying and transforming the key moments that foster an adult loving relationship. Source
Here is a review on psych page and an excerpt from her book 'Hold Me Tight! - Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love' and her article in Psychology Today.
The core of Johnson's application of attachment theory can be summarized as expanding Accessibility, Engagement and Responsiveness (A.R.E.) This questionnaire from her book 'Hold Me Tight' (pages 57-58) will begin to make that clear:
'From your viewpoint, is your partner accessible to you?
- I can get my partner's attention easily. T F
- My partner is easy to connect with emotionally. T F
- My partner shows me I come first with him/her. T F
- I am feeling lonely or shut out in this relationship. T F
- I can share my deepest feelings with my partner. He/she will listen. T F
From your viewpoint, is your partner responsive to you?
- If I need connection and comfort, he/she will be there for me. T F
- My partner responds to signals that I need him/her to come close. T F
- I find I can lean on my partner when I am anxious or unsure. T F
- Even when we fight or disagree, I know that I am important to my partner and we will find a way to come together. T F
- If I need reassurance about how important I am to my partner, I can get it. T F
Are you positively emotionally engaged with each other?
- I feel very comfortable being close to, trusting my partner. T F
- I can confide in my partner about almost anything. T F
- I feel confident, even when we are apart, that we are connected to each other. T F
- I know that my partner cares about my joys, hurts, and fears. T F
- I feel safe enough to take emotional risks with my partner. T F '
Understanding these three areas of applied attachment behavior, lead to the seven conversations described in her book that build a safe harbor for a lifetime of love.
The seven conversation are summarized here as:
'Recognizing Demon Dialogues - In this first conversation, couples identify negative and destructive remarks in order to get to the root of the problem and figure out what each other is really trying to say.
Finding the Raw Spots - Here, each partner learns to look beyond immediate, impulsive reactions to figure out what raw spots are being hit.
Revisiting a Rocky Moment - This conversation provides a platform for de-escalating conflict and repairing rifts in a relationship and building emotional safety.
Hold Me Tight - The heart of the program: this conversation moves partners into being more accessible, emotionally responsive, and deeply engaged with each other.
Forgiving Injuries - Injuries may be forgiven but they never disappear. Instead, they need to become integrated into couples conversations as demonstrations of renewal and connection. Knowing how to find and offer forgiveness empowers couples to strengthen their bond.
Bonding Through Sex and Touch - Here, couples find how emotional connection creates great sex, and good sex creates deeper emotional connection.
Keeping Your Love Alive - This last conversation is built on the understanding that love is a continual process of losing and finding emotional connection; it asks couples to be deliberate and mindful about maintaining connection.'
You will read in the excerpt the following pattern for Conversation 3 - Revisiting a rocky moment:
- Stop the game
- Claim your own moves
- Claim your own feelings
- Own how you shape your partner's feelings
- Sharing your deeper softer feelings
- Stand together
- Recognize your impact on your partner
I have put the basic principles of EFT for Couples in this way on the wikipedia article:
'Emotions bring the past alive. The past validates present day fears, blocks and styles of relating, which then fuels conflict. If there is to be long-lasting change, emotions are engaged and activated in the creation of new relationship events.
Attachment is maintained by perceived responsiveness and accessibility and by emotional engagement and contact. When those are uncertain, attachment becomes insecure and then follows protest, clinging, depression or despair and detachment. These become stuck in rigid patterns or negative interaction cycles until the underlying need for secure attachment is addressed. Hence,
1. Relationships are attachment bonds
2. Change involves a new experience of the self
3. Rigid interaction patterns create and reflect absorbing emotional states. Its systemic.
4. Emotion is the target and agent of change
5. The therapist is a process consultant
6. Partners are viewed as coping as optimally as they can given their current circumstances i.e. non-pathologizing.
The interactions of distressed couples are characterized by negative cycles where, for example, one partner pursues while the other withdraws. The therapist helps the couples reach for the underlying emotions that keep them stuck in those rigid positions and negative interaction cycles.
When attachment security is uncertain, a partner will pursue, fight, and even bully a spouse into responding to attachment cues, even if this has a negative general impact on the relationship. Sue Johnson in 'EFT for Trauma Survivors' 2002
Using the notion of transforming emotion with emotion, the EFT-C therapist guides each partner to expressing emotions that pull for compassion and connection. EFT-C promotes soothing and helps clients deal with unstated and therefore unmet attachment needs.'
2. Integrative Behavioural Couple Therapy (IBCT)
ICBT is an acceptance based couple's therapy. Best understood through the book ''Reconcilable Differences'' (Guilford Publications) by Dr. Andrew Christensen and the late Dr. Neil S. Jacobson.
Fights stem not primarily from personal differences, poor communication skills or weak problem solving techniques, but mainly from a perception of loss of esteem.
Each mate must feel valued and honored by the other to feel safe and secure. Any behavior that threatens one’s worthiness evokes hurt and anger leading to self- justification, defensiveness, and sometimes attacks for self-redemption. The threat of being unfavorably viewed by one’s lover is so profound that it must be instantly rectified. Not mattering is an instinctual crisis of survival.
The methods one uses to urgently restore his/her esteem in the eyes of the beloved arise from a primitive reactivity that bypasses the logical mind. At that instant the individual is devoid of the capacity of seeing the other as a separate, precious beloved being. The partner is perceived as an enemy who seeks to destroy the hurt one. The speed of this response is so great that people often say, ”I got so mad I could not see straight”. Indeed! This is how pairs, who truly love each other sometimes blur the boundaries between love and hate.
• Realize that your mate’s perception of you is the most important opinion of all.
• Appreciate that losing your mate’s esteem feels annihilating, thus must be immediately restored.
• Understand that when your partner reacts in a harsh or extreme way to something you said or did, he/she may perceive being devalued by you.
• Abstain from attempting to explain, justify or reason with your mate at the moment of his/her fighting gesture. Instead, realize that your beloved feels profoundly hurt by a perceived discount of his/her value and feel empathy for his/her pain.
• Do not attempt to placate, withdraw your comment, apologize or attack back. Your spouse is in an acute crisis of lost esteem and is not open to an interactive exchange.
• Respond with an affirming, positive and empathic (not patronizing) statement that can help your partner feel valued anew.
• When you are the one experiencing the temporary panic of worthlessness restrain your reaction until your cognitive functions resume.
• Make it a habit to have an ongoing culture of mutual appreciation, admiration and empathy to maintain the emotional security derived from knowing that you are both cherished and loved. Source
More here from a summary of a lecture by one of the founders is this opener:
Traditional behavioral couple therapy asks each couple patient to change the behavior that distresses their partner. But IBCT identifies and attempts to change the long-standing patterns of distressing but functionally similar behaviors.
For example, a primary conflictual theme may be: Mary feels unloved and Joseph feels suffocated. Mary may become distressed by a wide variety of Joseph's behavior that triggers her feelings of being unloved: coming home late, spending time with his same-sex friends, watching ball games on TV. And Joseph may feel suffocated by Mary's demands (Or were they really "requests"?) for more time together.
Rather than negotiate each of these behaviors, IBCT identifies the repetitive pattern, the "primary conflictual theme," and teaches Mary and Joe how to resolve their suffocation/feeling unloved conflict.
Agreement on the primary conflictual theme helps to develop a "collaborative set," an agreement that the problem is the way each partner relates to the other. The problem is not the behavior of just one partner.
Here are some quotes from other reviews on the web.
With an experimental approach called integrative behavioral couples therapy, for example, 67 percent of couples significantly improved their relationships for two years.
Instead of teaching couples how to avoid or solve arguments, as traditional counseling techniques do, the integrative therapy aims to make arguments less hurtful by helping partners accept their differences. It is based on a recent finding that it is not whether a couple fights but how they fight that can destroy a relationship.
All of the couples in the study were at high risk of divorce. "Many had been couples therapy failures," said Dr. Andrew Christensen, a professor of clinical psychology at the University of California, Los Angeles and the lead author of the study. Source
The approach of integrative therapy is that rather than force change, partners should start by accepting each other's differences and appreciating their individual sensitivities. Instead of backing partners into a corner by insisting on changes, this kind of understanding often leads to uncoerced changes that are more lasting and more in tune with each partner's core personality and behaviors.
One virtue of the book (Reconcilable Differences) "is its utter realism, its repeated warnings that one or another tactic may backfire, which are then followed by new strategies.
The main idea behind acceptance therapy is that acceptance of another person's traits and behaviors often leads to compassion, and when partners learn to use compassion in dealing with one another, they tend to become more willing to let go of conflict and even change the troubling behavior.
The psychologists suggest that partners in conflict work on accepting, even embracing, each other's irritating behaviors and characteristics. ''To accept means to tolerate what you regard as an unpleasant behavior, to understand its deeper meaning [and] see it in a larger context.'' Source
The official website for IBCT is currently here.
3. John & Julie Gottman
After 30 years of research into marriage John Gottman (who began his career as a mathematician) has shown that healthy couples almost never listen and echo each other's feelings naturally.
Whether miserable or radiantly happy, couples said what they thought about an issue, and "they got angry or sad, but their partner's response was never anything like what we were training people to do in the listener/speaker exercise, not even close." [Source: Gottman, J The Marriage Clinic: A Scientifically Based Marital Therapy (Norton, 1999)]
"Such exchanges occurred in less than 5 percent of marital interactions and they predicted nothing about whether the marriage would do well or badly. What's more, Gottman noted, data from a 1984 Munich study demonstrated that the (reflective listening) exercise itself didn't help couples to improve their marriages. To teach such interactions, whether as a daily tool for couples or as a therapeutic exercise in empathy, was a clinical dead end." Source and a polite dispute between Gottman and a colleague about the futility of active listening archived here.
Bids for connection are the fundamental building blocks. Go to this page for more information on the Gottman's view of bids. On site are 8 popular articles on their marriage research.
In a nutshell here are their recommendations for a stable marriage.
Here is their web site.
This is their model:
- Move Gridlock to Dialogue - teaching the couple to use basic compromising skills, avoiding crazy buttons that instantly escalate the argument ("You are just like your mother!"), and using video review of the couples' arguments in the office are all important. However, since over 60% of marital problems are not solved, but managed, start talking about ways to manage these issues in the future, just like you manage a chronic illness like diabetes. The conflict is not about the topic they are discussing; rather, the real problem is some underlying or symbolic meaning, tied to a dream or fantasy of their future, that they feel they simply can not compromise on without invalidating their dreams.
- Teach recovery after a fight - Gottman has found in his research that fighting in and of itself is not the problem. In fact, couples who do not fight at all are more likely to end up divorced. You may not be able to teach them to avoid fighting anyway, and reflective listening skills ("What I hear you saying is...") likely won't help since no one uses them in a fight. Instead, the best bet is to teach them how to recover after a fight.
- Teach six basic social skills recognizing (and avoiding) the 4 Horsemen: softening startups; accepting influence (especially for men); soothing physiological arousal (relaxation techniques can help partners calm down during heated arguments, but once they are upset, it may take over 20 minutes for the body to slow itself down to calm levels); recognizing (and responding to) repair attempts; compromise.
- Effective repair is easier to accomplish when there are Rituals of Connection, or standard and every-day ways the couple connects and feels bonded to each other. This means decreasing negativity during and after fights, as negativity is the best predictor of divorce over six years (85% accuracy), and effective repair skills increases prediction accuracy (97% accuracy), as among even highly negative newlyweds, 85% of those who effectively repair stay happily married.
- Fade out the therapist - Gottman starts with 90 minute sessions, then eventually moves to once every two weeks, then month, and finally to "therapy checkups" to help the couple function on their own without the therapist, and avoid relapsing into previous problems.
- Women are more likely to begin with Harsh Startups - an abrupt and negative introduction of an issue, while men are more likely to become Flooded and Stonewall, and to rehearse stress-inducing thoughts. Some (such as Rampage) criticize Gottman for not realizing that gender differences in most relationships make women less powerful, and thus more likely to begin an argument more harshly as a way to communicate "I can't take it any more"; however, such criticisms often ignore why gender differences that leave men feeling they have to "Buckle down and take it" when arguments become emotionally overwhelming or even abusive to them. Quoted from this site where there is more.
More on Gottman's research
Gottman emphasis is on distinguishing the masters of matrimony from the disasters, learning the elements of successful wedlock from those folks who are getting it right. He has tested newlyweds, couples in their first seven years of marriage, forty- to sixty-year-old couples, and those in violent marriages. What he found was surprising and sometimes counterintuitive.
The presence of anger, he deduced, did not indicate an imminent divorce or marital unhappiness, indeed, some of the most happily married couples went at it hammer and tongs. Nor was repression necessarily problematic, as long as both members of the couple abided by a tongue-tied approach. Instead, he found that the best markers of a bad marriage were certain familiar, and often gender-linked dynamics in marital disputes.
A "harsh start-up" (the abrupt and negative introduction of an issue) by the wife was associated with bad outcomes, for example. In response, men tended to become physiologically "flooded," closing down emotionally and physically as a self-soothing mechanism.
Ultimately, Gottman found that four behaviors (which he termed "the four horsemen of the apocalypse") were most associated with long-term unhappiness: criticism, defensiveness, stonewalling (retreating into silent unresponsiveness), and contempt. Contempt, he found, was especially corrosive and highly predictive of marital disintegration.
One of Gottman's most widely publicized conclusions was also one of his most widely satirized, the "yes, dear" hypothesis. For a marriage to work, he concluded, the husband had to be willing to accept the influence of his wife when it came to working out marital disagreements. Women, whatever their other problems in relationships, had little trouble allowing themselves to be swayed by their spouses, but men sometimes did, and male recalcitrance doomed a relationship to disintegration. Source
'The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work: A Practical Guide from the Country's Foremost Relationship Expert' by John M. Gottman, Nan Silver. (Amazon reader's reviews)
Web based workshops
There are many pages on the web for working on yourself and as a couple at home.
The Six Steps of Focusing are a good beginning.
An evidence based on-line program I recommend is: the power of two at a cost of $US18 per month.
Please visit my iPad and iPhone friendly site couple-therapy.org
How to end a relationship with dignity and love
Go to my article here. Here are some articles on incompetent couples therapy.
Knapp's Model of Relationship Development
Retrieved from sh4rd.blogspot.com September 15th 2009
There are ten stages in two phases:
5. Bonding which come under the Escalation Model
10. Terminating which come under the Termination model
The first stage is the initiating stage. This stage is very short. Subjects involved in this stage try to make a favorable first impression and observe the other subject through their mannerisms and body language.
The second stage is the experimenting stage. Subjects involved in this stage try to find out more about each other. They ask questions about their backgrounds, personalities and culture. If they have that special chemistry, they move on to the next stage. Otherwise, they remain in the second stage as acquaintances.
The third stage is the intensifying stage. The relationship becomes more friendly and personal and disclosure of feelings to the other party becomes more prevalent. There is also a heightened expression of affection between the subjects involved. It is in this stage that people begin to further their relationships from "just friends" to something more romantic and committed. Methods to further their relationships include subtle hints and asking the other party for approval to take their relationship to the next level.
The fourth stage is the integrating stage. This is the stage where two become one. The two individuals come to be seen as a unit than two separate individuals. There is a more physical display of affection and there may be a public declaration of how far the relationship has gone.
The fifth stage is the bonding stage which basically is the stage where the relationship becomes legalized and formalized. Subjects may engage in public rituals such as marriage and engagement. Few relationships ever make it this far.
The sixth stage is called the differentiating stage. This is the first stage of the termination phase. The integrated unit of two individuals begins to fall apart due to the differences they have. It may also be due to one of the parties refusing to compromise about their partner's negative aspects. A large amount of differences may be caused due to a relationship that has developed too fast.
The seventh stage is called the circumscribing stage. I personally call this stage the lovers' quarrel stage due to its qualities. Conversations are restricted to small talk and necessary conversations. Commitment and interest in relationship becomes diminished due to the effects of the sixth stage. And there is a degree of avoidance in topics of discussion. Mostly ending with the words, "I don't want to talk about it." At this stage, attempts to return the relationship to a more positive state is still possible.
The eighth stage is called the stagnation stage. Subjects avoid discussions of the relationship as they feel that they know what their partners will say. Emotional detachment begins and others around them begin to notice that there is something wrong with their relationship. Subjects persists the relationship and they go through with it just to avoid the pain of termination.
The ninth stage is called the avoiding stage. There is a significant increase in emotional detachment that it becomes a withdrawal of both physical and emotional. Communication becomes very minimum, only doing so if it is an absolute necessity. If it were a married couple, divorce will be considered during this stage.
The final stage is called the terminating stage. The relationship ceases to exist and parties move on to another relationship. Source
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