“It is a union possessing all the traits of a good friendship: concern for the good of the other, reciprocity, intimacy, warmth, stability and the resemblance born of a shared life.”
Amoris Laetitia 2016.
Instead, the basis for marriage is the honeymoon phase, the thrilling experience of falling in love, bonding, and delicious feelings of uniqueness and specialness. It usually involves magical moments, long intimate talks, and hot sex. In the process of attaching to each other, the couple’s differences, disagreements and potential conflicts are generally suppressed. Excitement and anxiety are high; partners idealize each other, present their best selves, are off balance and overly focused on the other.
Other important concerns that we address during couples therapy are unresolved family of origin issues that impact the couple in unexpected ways. An intimate relationship seems to promise us the possibility of having a devoted person there who will love us unconditionally and make up for family hurts. Part of the disappointment and hurt of the power struggle phase is the realization that this will not happen. Couples therapy offers the possibility of rediscovering and working through unfinished childhood difficulties with abandoning, abusive, and otherwise unsatisfactory parents and siblings. This helps both partners understand themselves and each other more deeply.
As the couple’s experience of love, mutual understanding and acceptance develops, they move into the teamwork phase. In this stage, the couple feels settled into a loving, ongoing, and committed relationship that provides them with a secure base from which to negotiate the next phases of their lives together. They understand each other deeply, appreciate each other, are familiar and supportive with each other’s ongoing issues, and have the skills to work through new issues as they arise. They can then undertake the teamwork necessary for a pleasurable and fulfilling life together: raising children, pursuing careers, and contributing to the community.
In the past five years, I have been studying with Stan Tatkin PsyD, originator of PACT, a Psychobiological Approach to Couples Therapy. This is an attachment based approach to couples therapy which has deepened my work with couples, especially in the teamwork phase.
© Copyright by Frances Verrinder and Michael Griffith (2003, 2006, 2012, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2022). All rights reserved.