Relationality and Couples Work

christopher loeffler river

Individuation (differentiation and separation work) and relationality (the foundation to connecting and forming an intimate relationship) are two fundamental steps to truly benefit from psychotherapy.

The first allows us to see ourselves clearly and concretely, as the unique individuals we are. The second, relationality, lies at the heart of creating a “we” team, a true friendship, or a genuine alliance. But how many of us have ever been taught relationality – the fine art of relating to others? Instead, we absorb what we witness from our early role models in a highly competitive society that overrates certain traits (e.g., exceptionalism) while undervaluing others, and often prizes individuality over relationships and community.

At my counseling practice, Forays, we employ the Relational Life model developed by fellow social worker and renowned teacher, Terry Real. This full-respect process teaches:

  • how to shift from first to second consciousness. This requires that our flexible, moderate “functional adult” take charge of our daily lives, not giving in to our rigid, unforgiving “adaptive child.”
  • how to recognize when we climb up into one-up grandiosity or drop down into one-down shame. Operating in either of these areas will complicate our relational stance toward others.
  • how we struggle to hold onto positive self-esteem when we emerge from either boundaryless (disconnected) or enmeshed (over-involved) families where limits don’t exist or become walls.
  • how to understand and change the relational stance we take as a result of the parental “dance” we inherit to gain a sense of empowerment and balance in our relationships.
  • how to replace time-worn losing strategies we adopt when feeling devalued, unheard, or not cherished, with new winning strategies that bond us as mutually respectful, loving partners.
  • how to recognize and embrace intimacy as something we cannot simply achieve but must practice every single day in any evolving relationship.

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