Reeti Bhat, Clinical Psychologist

    Couples Intake Questionnaire     
1.  What is the problem that led you to decide to come to couples therapy?          2.  How long have you and your partner been together? In what form (e.g.,  dating, living together, married)?        3.  What initially attracted you to your partner?          4.  What was the beginning of your relationship like and how long did this  phase last?        5.  What happened that first caused you to feel disillusioned with your  partner? Did this lead to any changes in your relationship?     

Reeti Bhat, Clinical Psychologist 2

    6.  How long has it been since things were good between the two of you?  What caused things to go downhill after that?          7.  How are the two or you similar and how are you different?          8.  What do you do when there is conflict between the two of you? What does  your partner do?          9.  What do you do when you are angry with him? What does your partner do  when angry with you?          10.  What strengths and weaknesses do you have in resolving conflict? What  would you say are your partner’s strengths and weaknesses in resolving  conflict?          11.  Do you enjoy being involved in activities separate from you partner? What  do you like to do in those situations?   

  When you could use support or encouragement from your partner. and if so. how aware or in touch with your emotions are you  (1=not at all and 10=extremely)? Explain the rating you give yourself. how open are you in expressing your innermost  feelings.          15.  On a scale of 1 to 10. why?          14.  Do you have relationships with other people that create conflict with your  partner.  On a scale of 1 to 10. Clinical Psychologist 3     12. desires and thoughts to your partner (1=totally closed and  10=totally open)? Explain the rating you give yourself. do you  get it? How? When your partner wants support of encouragement from  you do you feel that you give it? How?  .  How comfortable are you if your partner spends free time away from you?          13.Reeti Bhat.  What is the area or topic that it is most difficult for you to open with your  partner about? Why?           17.          16.

 how much do you respect your partner (1=not at all. how much do you still love your partner (1=not at all. What do you find most satisfying about  it? What don’t you like about it? How has your sexual relationship changed  since you were first together?          19.  10=very deeply)? Explain the rating you give yourself.  On a scale of 1 to 10.  10=very highly)? What is it about him that creates that level of respect in  you?      .          22.  When do you feel most content in your relationship? When do you feel  most unhappy or frustrated?          20.  On a scale of 1 to 10. 10= extremely). Clinical Psychologist 4         18.  On a scale of 1 to 10. Explain the rating you give  yourself.Reeti Bhat. describe your level of commitment to your  relationship (1=not at all.          21.  Describe your sexual relationship.

Clinical Psychologist 5     23. what tendencies do you have and what actions have you  taken that have helped create or have added to the difficulties between you  two?            24.  What role have you played in contributing to the problems in your  relationship. what would it be titled? And  how would it end?              Name:                                                                             Date:                     This list is the original work of Ellyn Bader & Peter Pearson of the Couples Institute.Reeti Bhat. Menlo Park. CA.   .  If your relationship was a book or a movie.

That’s pay attention to them. but not always as most important in our relationship. It is our challenge to listen. to not take the other’s feelings. based on what our emotions are telling us about our self and our reality. that is an act of intimacy. Conflict intimacy is not focused on conflict resolution. to express self clearly and to learn more about him/herself. desires and thoughts. And the second is a unique form of communication that is not focused on resolution of differences. This is based on you learning two skills. especially a new way to be intimate when you are fighting with your partner. and acting to take care of our self. be it verbally. on healthy. differentiated conflict process. and not to attack him/her. to really try to understand where s/he is coming from and to help our partner learn about him/herself by really hearing the person and by asking questions. This is what leads to conflict intimacy: the nonavoidance of painful. warm and positive. It is our challenge not to take what we hear defensively. Clinical Psychologist The Relationship Institute THE THREE INTIMACIES The central aspect of our therapeutic approach involves you learning a new way to be intimate. difficult subjects and the non-defensive reaction to them. We cripple his/her ability to be a good partner if we do not do this. Instead. We each need to take responsibility for being self-intimate. Self-intimacy involves treating our feelings and desires as important. physically and/or through actions. And just as important. Intimacy results from two people communicating well who they are. As a partner in a committed relationship each of us has a responsibility to communicate to our partner through our words and actions who we are. but rather see them as a reflection of whom the other is. not to put the focus of the interaction back on us. How can they be a good partner to us if they do . differentiated choices we can make in a relationship is seeing that at times acting on our partner’s feelings and/or needs instead of on our own is actually an expression of self-love and self-respect. which involves being keenly aware of your own self. it is based on helping the listener to learn to listen well. desire or thought. desires and thoughts personally. One of the most mature. Sometimes we must choose to put or own feelings and desires aside. that is. being aware of our feelings and where they are coming from. not to attempt to talk our partner out of his/her feeling. When our partner tells us that s/he is angry with us or even that s/he no longer finds us attractive. but rather. This is a two-part process consisting of expressing self as well as listening to who the other is. The first is self-intimacy. to not act to satisfy them when they are in conflict with our partner’s. This does not mean being self-centered. only caring about our own feelings and desires enough to pay attention to them. not to behave defensively. your feelings.Reeti Bhat. But not all intimate behaviors are soft. it is based on helping the speaker to own that this is about him or her self. not be controlled by them.

individuated individuals who have achieved healthy affection intimacy and healthy conflict intimacy. By growing pains we mean the times differences between the two of you emerge and result in relationship tension. This fear can often be recognized when we feel anxious and threatened by differences that we have with our partner. Along with this tendency comes many powerful. how we feel and what we like and don’t like? In addition. moving to make premature compromises. Such symbiosis not only stunts the growth of a relationship but also threatens its very continuance. For the same reasons. . growing. co-dependent. becoming numb and shutting down. blocking not only ourself from being able to experience the fullness of life that results from a healthy. but to embrace the tension they cause and work it through. commitment and courage to not avoid these growing pains. intimate communication is difficult to achieve when we fear being rejected by him/her. When such growing pains occur we often regress to the primitive mechanism of symbiosis in order to avoid or eliminate the tension that the differences or changes cause. This healthy. Also. And they are both able to maintain their individuation even when they are experiencing the growing pains of the relationship.2 Reeti Bhat. if we shirk this responsibility to communicate we deny our relationship intimacy. This mechanism is defined by our desire to merge with the other and in so doing eliminate the tension. you will agree with me”. etc. “childhood” ways. replacing differences with similarities. but our partner as well. we also have the responsibility to listen and empathize when our partner is being intimate and genuine with us. angry or disappointed. committed relationships are comprised of two people who love each other and who are each well defined. The strongest and healthiest long term. becoming more dependent on pleasing our partner. Examples of such regressive relationship reactions are: denying or acting as if we are not hurt. regressive. but from our self as well. becoming more dependent on pleasing our partner. their relationship and their love will flourish. As a result. A major goal of our work with you will be to help you and your partner see that times of anxiety in your relationship present the greatest growth opportunities that each of you and your relationship will ever have. attacking our partner either directly or passive-aggressively. When both members of a couple have the love. All of these types of behaviors result in distancing ourselves emotionally from not only our partner. a symbiotic request carries with it a demand for compliance that entails the other partner having to give up his/her sense of self. intimate relationship. Clinical Psychologist not know who we are. we will often react in old. This fear of rejection and aloneness causes us to want to avoid the anxiety caused by the differences. We become symbiotic with our partner. unhealthy assumptions that can be brought to the relationship such as “If you love me.

in-law issues and a myriad number of other conflicts do not end strong relationships. . money problems. Clinical Psychologist The Three Deal Breakers We have found that relationships are incredibly and sometimes unpredictable resilient. hurt. Often when partners earnestly work on taking responsibility for their part of the relationship problems and make personal changes. readers and therapists to not give up quickly on a waning and struggling relationship. Too much damage or disappointment has occurred in the course of the relationship that a partner no longer has faith and/or the capacity or desire to trust and love the other again. but there are three deal breakers that underlie relationship endings. 3. One or both partners never loved the other when the commitment was made. We seldom find the first deal breaker as the reason for a relationship ending and more often find the third deal breaker as the underlying cause. We caution clients.Reeti Bhat. and/or disappointment. Drug and alcohol problems. 2. infidelity. they learn two important things – one. and two. One or both partners are unwilling to commit to doing his/her best in the relationship and own his/her negative contributions to the relationship. that the love they once felt for their partner is still alive though foundering under years of neglect. 1. how hard change is for anyone.

I have the responsibility to be aware of it as an emotion I am feeling and the responsibility to figure out what I need to do about it in order to take care of my self. I also have a responsibility: the responsibility to remember that it’s not about me. I will ask a few questions. Because of this. Clinical Psychologist IT’S NOT ABOUT ME Anger is the most frequently misunderstood emotion. None that has anything to do with any defensive agenda of mine. To help deepen this process of conflict intimacy. And I will put myself in his or her shoes and try to find empathy for his or her experience. we can listen. I will listen knowing that my partner is sharing with me who he or she is. it’s not about me. understanding it and helping the speaker to learn more about him or herself. for what I am hearing is about him or her. and does not try to problem solve. curious to understand what he or she is telling me about him or herself. but only questions to help me and maybe help him or her understand and learn about him or herself. it’s about who I am and how I am reacting to my perceived reality. Specifically. A caring listener does not bring the focus back to him or herself. this is an act of conflict intimacy. When I feel angry I need to own it. That is. When my partner is feeling angry about something that I have done. the level of respect and intimacy in the relationship. When this happens. That means that I need to take responsibility for my anger. our selfknowledge. it is the emotion that has the most destructive effect on relationships. Instead of getting defensive. . is taken too personally and creates alienation between us and our partners. and the relationship itself can evolve. and can resist the tendency to become defensive. I will listen like a friend. knowing that this is an act of intimacy. This listener helps the intimacy being offered by hearing it. can remain caring. I will remember that I do not have to defend myself. the conversation. This is true whether I choose to express it to my partner in a constructive manner or choose to dismiss it as an unhealthy or inappropriate reaction. When we know that it’s not about me. It’s not about my partner. Since so many of us never learn how to experience and express our anger in constructive ways. That means that I will listen respectfully to how my partner feels even though it pertains to me and I don’t like what I am hearing. the kind of intimacy that we are all less comfortable with. So I may have to push myself to really listen. it often comes out hurtfully.Reeti Bhat. to remain calm and not think about my response.

thinking and needing. You can wait for your turn.” Stating what is obvious about your partner. S/he is describing and sharing her/his experience. slow belly breaths. to be certain you have understood what was said. etc. 3. I want to defend myself. and it does not count if you do this to attract attention. The only way the two of you can have a healthy relationship is by knowing how you each see things differently. disagree. thoughts and feelings second to your partner who is speaking and sharing. and real for you helps you to calm yourself and gives you an opportunity to switch from reacting to responding. 2. For example. REMEMBER: It’s not about me! S/he and I are separate people and I must listen to what is important to my partner. Waiting is an act of personal and relationship respect as well as an act of maturity. thus engaging your thoughts and feelings while putting your needs. As you notice yourself reacting with words or strong urges to speak. take 6 deep. These questions are genuine and designed to help your partner really share and describe his/her feelings. It’s hard for me to listen. ask him/her TWO questions. “How long have your been angry with me about this?” or “What first made you angry?” and “Do you have other feelings about this?” Each time you practice this new set of behaviors you will find this becomes easier and that you are able to remain in the conversations longer and to a more productive end.. but I will calm myself and respect what you have to say. You are doing this to soothe and calm yourself so that you can listen to your partner’s perspective. sharing and earnestly working to understand two different perspectives. . explain yourself. “You are really mad. Your goal is to be two separate and equal people who are speaking. STATE THE OBVIOUS.Reeti Bhat. We are different people with different viewpoints. Clinical Psychologist Responding rather than Reacting to Your Partner 1. These are questions designed to objectively and empathetically learn more about what your partner is feeling. Then as you calm and push yourself to stay focused on what your partner is saying. 4. For example. When your partner has finished speaking.

Clinical Psychologist EMOTIONS: THE SHORT LIST Positive Admiration Amusement Caring Compassion Contentment Curiosity Enthusiasm Euphoria Excitement Gratitude Happiness Hope Joy Love Peaceful Pride Respect Safe Secure Negative Anger Anxiety Boredom Confusion Depression Disappointment Embarrassment Envy Fear Frustration Guilt Hopelessness Hurt Jealous Loneliness Regret Sadness Shame Vengeful .Reeti Bhat.

 working on ESA is vital since your Self Intimacy is a key to your  relationship’s health. The inability to get in touch with emotions or know what they are (this is  especially common for men). This is a way of allowing your partner to become closer  to you. Spending only a few minutes. your low SI limits your ability to let your partner in and to feel  close to you. What specific emotion(s) am I feeling?   2. That’s it. What situation is causing me to feel this emotion(s)?   3. use a list of feelings to help you determine what  exact emotion(s) you are feeling. The most common roadblocks to successfully doing ESA are:   A. Use your daily ESA work to be more self intimate with others. all you need to do is practice the Emotional  Self Awareness exercise (ESA) for a few minutes a day for a month. Share your ESA  insights with your partner.     The ESA exercise is quite simple. The more times you do ESA the better you will  get at knowing what the feeling is. What. if anything. Clinical Psychologist   The Emotional Self Awareness Exercise    To develop strong Self Intimacy (SI). can I do about that situation to take care of myself?     ESA Exercise Points to Remember:     1. Do it.    3. tying it to every time you go to the bathroom). ESA works best when it is done in an ongoing. That’s all  you have to do. is all that   is needed for profound growth in Self Intimacy    2. not big blocks of time refocusing from the    external onto the internal in this structured way. Failure to remember to do it: a mnemonic (memory) device is often needed   (e.g. day‐by‐day basis:   A. It also hinders your ability to take good care of your self. You’ll be amazed at what happens. It consists of asking your self two or three  times a day the following three questions:  1. practice is all it takes     Remember.. but the failure to   remember to do it can also be a symptom of lack of motivation   B.                  . 2‐3 times a day.Reeti Bhat.

 analyzing where  you two are in the Three Intimacies (Self Intimacy. Verbal AI: the verbal expression of your love and affection for each other.  2. Non‐Sexual Physical AI: physical touch in whatever form that expresses  your affection but that is not sexual or in anticipation of sex    In getting a clear picture of the state of Affection Intimacy in your relationship.” Whereas Self Intimacy (SI)  is about each partner being able to be close or intimate with their self.  These four types of Affection Intimacy are:    1.Reeti Bhat.  So in this exercise you are to rate how well you think you and your partner do  both in giving and in receiving (or participating) in the four types of AI.    Of the Three Intimacies. Conflict Intimacy and  Affection Intimacy) will tell you why you are having problems and pinpoint  exactly what those problems are.    At the Relationship Institute we have discovered that the ways that LTLR  partners express their love to each other can be divided into four categories. and  Conflict Intimacy is about the partners being able to be close or intimate even  when they are fighting. Actions AI: doing things just to bring a smile to your partner’s face or  simply to make his or her day a little easier. lovemaking expression of your affection  4.     . it  is important to analyze your LTLR’s relative strength in each of these AI types. Affection Intimacy or AI is the closest to what we  normally think of when we hear the word “intimacy. Sexual AI: the sexual. Clinical Psychologist     How Well Have You Loved Each Other?    Analyzing the Affection Intimacy (AI)   in your  Long‐Term Love Relationship (LTLR)    In assessing the state of your Long‐Term Love Relationship.  3. AI is about the ways in which two LTLR partners are  able to be close or intimate through their expressions of love for each other.

” rate you and you partner on the four dimensions  of Affection Intimacy. couldn’t be better. Clinical Psychologist 2 Using a scale of 1 to 10. in which 1 is “Terrible or non‐existent” and 10 is  “Fantastic.     Comparing your ratings with those done by your partner is usually very  revealing of differences in how the two of you experience AI in your LTLR and  of differences in how the two of you view each other’s relative AI strengths and  weaknesses.  both in giving and in receiving Affection Intimacy in your Long‐Term Love  Relationship.  showing you which of the four types of AI you each can work on to increase the  love that you each feel in your LTLR.        Verbal AI  Actions  AI  Sexual AI  Non‐ Sexual  Physical  AI  Total  Score  You   Giving          You   Receiving          Partner  Giving          Partner  Receiving          Total  Score                        You can use these ratings to see where you are strong and where you are weak. give a rating based on how well and  how often you or your partner give that type of AI and then how well or  comfortable you or your partner are in receiving it or participating in it. If you two talk over these ratings you can use them as a guide. This analysis also tells you how you experience your partner’s  expression and reception of AI. This will make a world of difference to the  health of your relationship by greatly increasing the loving intimacy the two of  you feel from each other.  . For each type of AI.Reeti Bhat.

Fight getting defensive.   Reminders for the Initiator   Talk about yourself. your goal is to help your partner know your reality    Focus on one issue and be specific   Pick an issue that is difficult to share   Structure your sharing around “I feel x because of y. keep reminding yourself that what your partner  shares is about him/her. your opinion and your feelings about the topic  your partner is talking about is irrelevant  2.   There are two roles in this exercise.  it’s not about me. “It’s not about me.” making sure “x”  is an emotion and not a thought  5. Ask questions to help you understand your partner. Clinical Psychologist The I‐to‐I Exercise  Creating Intimacy through Tension              the I‐to‐I (Initiator‐to‐Inquirer) Exercise. The most intimate and important information to share with your  partner are the emotions you feel or felt regarding this issue    1.  which was originally developed by Bader & Pearson. The person who first brings up an issue  is the Initiator. 4.  healthy Conflict Intimacy. Don’t problem solve. your task is to step into their shoes   5. is the most powerful and  effective way for Long‐Term Love Relationship partners to develop strong.   6. Be curious. remember. Reminders for the Inquirer   1.Reeti Bhat. the mantra of the Inquirer is. not questions  designed to defend yourself or your agenda. Don’t blame your partner. it’s not about me. your view. and then his/her partner is the Inquirer.                     . this is about you. etc”   3. Right now. 3.   6. Recap what you heard your partner say   4. 2.

relationship. an hour or overnight). These goals define the Intiator and Inquirer roles from their least mature mindset (steps 1-4) to a more mature mindset (step 5) and to the most mature (steps 6-10/11). Then commit to come back to your partner in that period of time and re-initiate the discussion. This way you will do no harm to the The Initiator’s Goals . Clinical Psychologist The I-to-I Maturity Goals After we introduce our clients to the “Tension through Intimacy” exercise and use the roles of Intiator and Inquirer in the office once. We remind you that under emotional stress on more “touchy” subjects we all regress.Reeti Bhat. We recommend that all clients become familiar with step 5 as the beginning of maturity and stretch themselves to function at steps 8 and above on a regular basis.g. inform your partner and ask for a “time out” to regroup (e. in the following session we introduce the Maturity Goals. but hold yourself to step 5 “at your very worst” and when you cannot.

Reeti Bhat. Clinical Psychologist The Inquirer’s Goals .

“Good fighting leads to good loving”. 2. Sweet Symbiosis: “the honeymoon”. Self Intimacy: the on-going. Differentiation: acknowledgement and respect that the couple is composed of two separate and different people. Synergy: each individual being more because of the relationship with the other and the growth that their differences create. b. foundational to the relationship. Growth in Conflict Intimacy is primarily fostered through the therapist’s use of the Initiator-to-Inquirer Exercise with the couple. moment-to-movement awareness of one’s thoughts. b. LTLR Developmental therapists focus their work with the couple on engendering growth first in Self Intimacy and Conflict Intimacy and then in Affection Intimacy. Affection Intimacy: verbal. Growth in Self Intimacy is primarily fostered through the therapist’s use of the Emotional Self Awareness Exercise with each partner. c. 5. The growth process is governed by the level of symbiotic vs. 3. a. differentiated functioning in the couple. . Conflict Intimacy: two people sharing and respecting their inevitable differences and the tension it creates between them. Developmental progress in the couple is enabled by growth in the Three Intimacies which increase differentiation. feelings and desires and the expression of these to the person they involve. 6. Soured Symbiosis: re-emergence of two separate selves which introduces tension and disappointments to the relationship. love and admiration for the other person. The LTLR Developmental Model has four stages: a. c. physical. actions. 4. non sexual and sexual expressions of one’s caring. d. Clinical Psychologist LTLR Developmental Therapy Overview 1.Reeti Bhat.

(Increase Conflict Intimacy) • To teach the couple how to continue to think while expressing and experiencing strong feelings as well as expand each’s awareness of their range of feelings and perceptions. and particularly.are not necessarily threatening to the relationship. Goals of the LTLR Developmental Therapist • To push the couple to accept as normal and non-threatening the differences and tension that exists in any. hybrid solution. • To increase the tension within the individual and between the couple rather than decreasing it. • To assist each partner in the face of tension to hold onto one’s self calmly while simultaneously hearing. • To demonstrate to couples that tension and differences are indications of growing pains in the relationship rather than threats to it. In LTLR Developmental Therapy self-awareness of and constructive expression of emotion is centered. • To encourage and teach both partners how to continue the conversation as they define their differences and invest in the process of the conversation to arrive at a mutually satisfying. . remaining curious about what e partner is saying.Reeti Bhat. (Increase Self Intimacy) • To help individuals understand each has a wide range of feelings that are often contradictory and temporary while recognizing that feelingsespecially negative ones. Clinical Psychologist 7. and respecting the partner’s viewpoint. their relationship.

Within a few years of the beginning of a committed relationship the differences between partners start to tug at the relationship and require that we find new ways to grow and incorporate these differences into the relationship. our weak points. When this happens. especially when it is not our idea. So our commitment to the relationship must include a commitment to work on our own issues and our own contribution to the difficulties in the relationship. 4. but for unconscious reasons as well. However. Clinical Psychologist Key Concepts for Change in the Couples Therapy Approach of 1. a battle begins in which one of us is promoting the change (consciously or not) while the other is resisting. In being the most intimate relationship it challenges each of our weaknesses and vulnerabilities. Yet most of us do not know how to respond to change in a relationship without feeling threatened and rejected. . To do this we will help you and your partner recognize the source of each of your own personal discomforts so that you each can learn how to self-comfort.Reeti Bhat. So we all need to learn how to appreciate and respect our differentness. Therefore it is necessary that we learn new ways of dealing with these changes. Of all the various types of relationships. In so doing. We were initially attracted to our partner not only for the reasons we are aware of. 3. no matter how much either of us changes. we were also attracted to this person because their personality make-up is such that it brings up our unresolved issues and conflicts. It is the process by which we define and respect our differences as individuals tied together. ways that will allow and indeed encourage the relationship to grow. These differences in a relationship do not diminish over time: personal change is inevitable. and help you deal with it constructively with your partner. 2. One of the goals of our couples therapy approach is to help you identify how you are or are not defining your self and differentiating. Most often quite unbeknownst to us. all of us fight change. and the relationship can then start to grow. you each will be able to learn from your own distress instead of being controlled by it. with the agreement that neither of us will leave the other. We then want to help you recognize the stress that differentiation creates. It is a normal. This is called differentiation. healthy and necessary part of a growing and evolving relationship. This is an important first step. It is the only relationship in which we make the choice to tie our life in exclusive ways to that of another. continue to define ourselves and handle the attendant anxiety. for the rest of our lives. having a truly good marriage is the greatest challenge.

It is our challenge not to take what we hear defensively. We each need to take responsibility for being self-intimate. it is based on helping the listener to learn to listen well. growing. but rather. if we shirk this responsibility to communicate we deny our relationship intimacy. that is. blocking not only ourself from being able to experience the fullness of life that results from a healthy. And second is a unique form of communication that is not focused on resolution of differences. desires and thoughts personally.2 Reeti Bhat. on healthy. Instead. That’s pay attention to them. only caring about our own feelings and desires enough to pay attention to them. not to behave defensively. and acting to take care of our self. desire or thought. 6. be it verbally. difficult subjects and the non-defensive reaction to them. And just as important. but rather see them as a reflection of whom the other is. 8. This does not mean being self-centered. intimate relationship. This is what leads to conflict intimacy: the non-avoidance of painful. 2 . differentiated conflict process. The central aspect of our therapeutic approach will involve both of you learning a new way to be intimate. It is our challenge to listen. Sometimes we must choose to put or own feelings and desires aside. to not take the other’s feelings. to express self clearly and to learn more about him/herself. how we feel and what we like and don’t like? In addition. but our partner as well. but not always as most important in our relationship. 7. This is based on two primary processes. we also have the responsibility to listen and empathize when our partner is being intimate and genuine with us. This is a two-part process consisting of expressing self as well as listening to who the other is. being keenly aware of your own self. One of the most mature. We cripple his/her ability to be a good partner if we do not do this. that is an act of intimacy. physically and/or through actions. a new way to achieve conflict intimacy. How can they be a good partner to us if they do not know who we are. But not all intimate behaviors are soft. to really try to understand where s/he is coming from and to help our partner learn about him/herself by really hearing the person and by asking questions. The first is self-intimacy. based on what our emotions are telling us about our self and our reality. not be controlled by them. Clinical Psychologist 5. not to put the focus of the interaction back on us. Intimacy results from two people communicating well who they are. Self-intimacy involves treating our feelings and desires as important. your feelings. For the same reasons. warm and positive. Conflict intimacy is not focused on conflict resolution. in particular. differentiated choices we can make in a relationship is seeing that at times acting on our partner’s feelings and/or needs instead of on our own is actually an expression of self-love and self-respect. it is based on helping the speaker to own that this is about him or her self. As a partner in a committed relationship each of us has a responsibility to communicate to our partner through our words and actions who we are. and not to attack him/her. When our partner tells us that s/he is angry with us or even that s/he no longer finds us attractive. not to attempt to talk our partner out of his/her feeling. desires and thoughts. being aware of our feelings and where they are coming from. to not act to satisfy them when they are in conflict with our partner’s.

while looking in the mirror. Mirroring is an important. A major goal of our work with you will be to help you and your partner see that times of anxiety in your relationship present the greatest growth opportunities that each of you and your relationship will ever have. Most importantly. individuated individuals who have achieved healthy affection intimacy and healthy conflict intimacy. It is the act of one person making an observation about his or her partner to that partner. Along with this tendency comes many powerful. moving to make premature compromises. All of these types of behaviors result in distancing ourselves emotionally from not only our partner. their relationship and their love will flourish. your partner is holding on to his or her own sense of self. This healthy. we will often react in old. Examples of such regressive relationship reactions are: denying or acting as if we are not hurt. As a result. 3 . 10. The strongest and healthiest long term. a symbiotic request carries with it a demand for compliance that entails the other partner having to give up his/her sense of self. co-dependent. etc. intimate communication is difficult to achieve when we fear being rejected by him/her. This can be one of the most positive processes in an intimate relationship. but from our self as well. you will agree with me”. “childhood” ways. Also. powerfully leading to self-growth. Then your partner looks at his or her image as reflected by you. commitment and courage to not avoid these growing pains. This fear of rejection and aloneness causes us to want to avoid the anxiety caused by the differences. and gives it honest consideration. committed relationships are comprised of two people who love each other and who are each well defined. When such growing pains occur we often regress to the primitive mechanism of symbiosis in order to avoid or eliminate the tension that the differences or changes cause. attacking our partner either directly or passive-aggressively. By growing pains we mean the times differences between the two of you emerge and result in relationship tension. unhealthy assumptions that can be brought to the relationship such as “If you love me. It is not telling your partner how you want him or her to change or how he or she “has to” change. and making it from a position of differentiation and compassion. This fear can often be recognized when we feel anxious and threatened by differences that we have with our partner. becoming numb and shutting down. It is one partner holding up the mirror to the other. advanced process in the art of achieving intimacy. angry or disappointed. replacing differences with similarities. Such symbiosis not only stunts the growth of a relationship but also threatens its very continuance. but to embrace the tension they cause and work it through. 12. We become symbiotic with our partner. This mechanism is defined by our desire to merge with the other and in so doing eliminate the tension. When both members of a couple have the love. becoming more dependent on pleasing our partner. becoming more dependent on pleasing our partner. 11. regressive. And they are both able to maintain their individuation even when they are experiencing the growing pains of the relationship. Clinical Psychologist 9.3 Reeti Bhat.

* Stage 1: Symbiosis This is the initial. The Necessary and Sufficient Conditions for Relationship Healing are: 1. this fantasy is revealed and the relationship must grow and change if it is to endure and flourish. Differentiation. a time when you experience the joy of giving to and being given to unconditionally by your partner. Just as an individual goes through stages of development. the skewed perceptions that support this merging of the two of you. But without this stage there is no foundation of love and commitment for the relationship to build on in the future. If the tension created when differences and conflict arise is not reacted to regressively. This is a very challenging and sometimes painful time as conflicts start to occur. The drive to achieve this merging developed evolutionarily since it increased the chances of survival. through working on the relationship. If #1 does not apply there is no chance. the differences that were hidden in Stage 1 become apparent. In this stage. Both partners respect the other as an equal. 4 . Anything seems possible and you are filled with happiness to have found in the other this “missing part” of yourself. But these very same conflicts also present the most hope and opportunity for helping the couple advance through this stage of development. They are: Symbiosis. When reality inevitably starts to intrude. So each of us is driven at a very deep. and Synergy. Clinical Psychologist 13. so do couples go from one stage to another. Both partners feel deep love for the other. That is. If #1 does apply but #2 and/or #3 do not apply there is still a chance if. 14. they come to apply. There are three stages of couple development. It is when two people merge in love and become more a “we” than two separate individuals. the relationship will get stuck here and will deteriorate. this symbiosis. But this happiness is in part based in fantasy. Each of you discovers attributes of your partner that you don’t like. but instead is met head-on by two partners intent on staying differentiated and on treating each other with respect. Unless a couple engages healthy. the intimacy they achieve will be enhanced and the relationship will grow. 3. resulting in disillusionment and disappointment. instinctual level to form this symbiotic bond. 2. our differences are minimized or overlooked and the best parts of each other are emphasized. effective ways of working through these conflicts. Stage 2: Differentiation As each individual “I” starts to re-emerge from the symbiotic “we”. Both partners want to save the relationship.4 Reeti Bhat. “romantic” phase of a love relationship.

goes through. 15. Especially in a committed relationship. but we can also be our self and are loved and respected for being who we are even with our shortcomings and our differences with our partner. Each person needs to acknowledge his or her limitations and make vigorous efforts to work on them. This begins to happen as each of us is not only able to experience the joy of the union of our love. Clinical Psychologist Stage 3: Synergy This is the stage in which increasingly the “whole” that is “we” becomes greater than either of us individually. Instead of thinking of these as relationship dealbreakers (“He’s not smart enough for me. intimate love relationship we are helping them to build a life that is richer and more fulfilling than either of them could have alone. An individual places such a limitation on his or herself to keep from taking a risk. for example. for fear that they will fail at it. These limitations fall into three catagories: self-imposed limitations. incongruence or defensive anger. especially a marriage. In Quest of the Mythical Mate. has a very serious responsibility to make every effort to work through the problems and the pain that every relationship. Healthy affection intimacy and conflict intimacy have been established and the differentiation of each partner is solidifying. This is a common hindrance to fulfilling sex. not as a determiner of his or her worth. each partner needs to work to overcome his or her limitations. trying a new behavior or way of being. no matter how good. when he or she was traumatized interpersonally. and genetically imposed limitations. trauma-imposed limitations. and result from incidences from his or her past. Genetically imposed limitations are the physical or intellectual abilities that each person does or doesn’t have. sometimes from very early in their life. 5 . part of what makes him or her who he or she is. Ellyn and Pearson. 16.”) they need to be acknowledged and accepted as part of who each person is. We believe that each person in a committed love relationship. That is what commitment is about and that is what will result in self-respect and in no regrets. Conflict doesn’t block but rather catalyzes the love bond to grow ever stronger and richer. Peter. * #12 above is adapted from Bader. Trauma-imposed limitations are based on a person’s fear of being hurt. This type of limitation keeps a person from opening up and becoming intimately vulnerable with his or her partner. Our couples therapy is based upon the belief that by helping two people achieve a healthy. Self-imposed limitations are based on the fear of failure. The love and the felt intimacy in the relationship are deepening and continue to grow over time.5 Reeti Bhat. They are more often used as excuses to avoid intimacy and vulnerability than they are true factors in a relationship. Instead he or she remains well defended and “safe” through withdrawal.

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