Sonya Thomas lcsw

The Relationship Trajectory – Part 3

This is the final installment in our series on the work of Ellyn Bader and Peter Pearson’s Developmental Model of Couples Therapy.  The substages that are described below are experienced as less painful and more manageable by most couples.  In fact, they can be rewarding, enriching and vivifying for many.

3.Reconnecting or Rapprochement

Rapprochement means “back-and-forth” or “coming and going.” In this stage we see children going back and forth between the love for independence and the desire to regress, be nurtured, and cared for.

As couples develop in their relationship, we begin to see the independence of each person as well as a rebuilding of the “we.” Partners may look to deepen their connection through participating in couples retreats, working on their sexual connection, or creating something together. They also notice that they place a deeper value on the “we” without overshadowing the “I.”

4.Synergy or Mutual Interdependence

According to Pine, the last of the childhood sub-phases is libidinal object constancy. In this phase, the child starts to see Mom and Dad as separate from themselves, and from each other. The child learns to hold on to the image of being cared for, even when the parents are not in the room. The child who has this image is able to use it to self-soothe and to maintain connection and attachment through frustration, disappointment, and disillusionment.

In healthy couples, this is where we see that the “we” is very big. You as the therapist can often feel the energy in the relationship when they are together. They usually have something that they share together. This is where 1 + 1 is truly greater than 2.

The Symbiotic Bind

Over time many partners create symbiotic binds for each other. These binds arise out of unresolved issues from each partner’s early development, beliefs about what makes a perfect relationship and experiences within the relationship. Couples lose sight of their strengths and talents, and they focus on each other’s flaws. They don’t have the ability to build upon these strengths, so they become regressed and pull the relationship down instead of building it up.  We will dig deeper into the ways that couples regress in our next post.

Until next time, peace.