During relationship therapy, you will learn that there are three entities in a marriage: you, your partner, and the relationship. While we work on the marriage, we work at one time or another on all three entities. Every relationship has its own unique characteristics, which depend on the personalities of the individuals and the way the individualities come together. The relationship has to adapt to the demands and the circumstances that the couple comes to face. The circumstances change depending on age, responsibilities, life stage, and environment.
Young individuals are faced with the double task of still defining themselves individually and learning how to be intimate. Many times the relationship is burdened by tasks of individuation that the individuals have not yet accomplished, and therefore, one of the goals of marital therapy is to define what are “couple problems” and what are “individual problems” that are expressed in the relationship arena.
Relationships live in the light of this apparent paradox; The more we are individuated, the better we can relate. The better relationship, the more we are nurtured individually.
When two people come together, there is a clashing of cultures. Each partner comes from his or her own family of origin, where he or she has shared unique values and ways of living. The task at hand for the couple is to create a new culture, a cluster of relational patterns that determine the way of interacting, while pursuing shared ideals, goals, aspirations, and values.
At The Family Institute, you will begin your work by assessing your relationship, then identifying the aspects of it that place the relationship in trouble, and learn how to turn them around, transforming them into leverage for positive change.
You will also identify the aspects of the relationship in which you are doing well, learn how to foster them, and to expand and deepen your connection and assure mutual nurturance.
What are the guiding resources for the relationship work at The Family Institute?
The assessment and intervention strategies that are utilized at The Family Institute are based upon the empirical data collected by Dr. John Gottman’s research with 3,000 couples. We also utilize principles of The Harvard Negotiation Project, the techniques of Dr. Marshall Rosenberg’s “Nonviolent Communication”, and Don Miguel Ruiz’s practical guide, “The Mastery of Love.”
What will my partner and I learn during our relationship therapy at The Family Institute:
- See your marriage with new eyes, observe how your own patterns are leading to either discontent or harmony.
- Deal constructively with tough topics and awkward situations to strengthen your relationship.
- Explore the sacrifices and rewards of the relationship, then decide on your goals and dreams for its future.
- Use conflict to reconcile your differences and grow in your relationship.
- Know the warning signs of interactions that undermine your marriage.
- Nurture your relationship during times of transition.
- Manage the end of a relationship, identify gratitude, and practice self-care during this life change.
- Realize how your personal history and private thoughts are affecting the relationship.
- Identify how your body and thoughts are responding to stress in the relationship.
- Facilitate laughter and validation with your partner.
Will I learn what NOT to do in my relationship?
You will explore Dr. John Gottman’s “Four Horsemen of the Relationship Apocalypse” and identify how these may be affecting your relationship:
- Criticism: Attacking your partner’s personality or character, usually with them intent of making someone right or wrong. Using generalizations such as “you always…” “your never…” “why are you so…”
- Contempt: Attacking your partner’s sense of self with the intention to insult or psychologically abuse him or her. These attacks may include insults, name calling, hostile humor, sarcasm, mockery, or negative body language and tone of voice, such as sneering, rolling your eyes, curling your upper lip.
- Defensiveness: Seeing yourself as the victim, warding off a perceived attack. May involve any of the following:
- Making excuses – “It’s not my fault…”
- Cross-complaining – meeting your partner’s complaint or criticism with a complaint of your own, ignoring what your partner said.
- Disagreeing, then cross – complaining – “That’s not true, you’re the one who…”
- Yes-butting – starting off agreeing, then ending up disagreeing
- Repeating yourself without paying attention to what the other person is saying
- Whining – “It’s not fair.”
- Stonewalling: Withdrawing from the relationship as a way to avoid conflict. Partners may think they are trying to be “neutral,” but stonewalling conveys disapproval, icy distance, separation, disconnection, or smugness. This may involve stony silence, monosyllabic mutterings, changing the subject, or removing yourself physically.
What is the most important factor in a healthy relationship?
The characteristics of a mature, fulfilling relationship include: fostering individual expression, respect, mutual aspirations, caring, and flexibility.
One quality that is central to a nurturing relationship is “caring.” Caring is the ability to pay attention to the other; the investment of personal energy that is devoted to the other. It requires the ability to be comfortable in one’s own skin and settled in one’s own spot. Such capacity will allow being in the presence of the other without burdening the relationship with unnecessary needs and wants.
At The Family Institute, you can begin to foster these important characteristics in your own relationship, as therapy can be a catalyst for your relationship to undergo positive change from within.