Dear Drs. Adler and Dreikurs,
I'm currently working with couples in therapy. While the details of their presenting problems vary, all of the couples have expressed a sense of discouragement and disconnection. Do you have any suggestions for how to encourage couples to reconnect on an intimate and emotional level?
Researchers indicate that couples need a ratio of four positive interactions to one negative in terms of communications. Some couples approach this with the "Golden Rule" that is practiced by most religions. This rule states that it is important to love or treat people the way we want to be treated. However, this doesn’t necessarily lead to meaningful positive interactions within the couple dyad.
Adlerian therapists have been well-trained in the power of encouragement with couples and they understand why the "Golden Rule” doesn’t work. Adlerians practice the “Platinum Rule” which can be very different; it is to treat your partner the way they way want to be treated not the way you want to be treated. Too many partners waste energy giving their partners what they want and wonder why it doesn’t produce positive results. You may love surprises but your partner is put off by them, or they might like to be waited on and served and yet you value self-sufficiency and taking care of yourself etc. In therapy you can help the couple see that many partners are disconnected and discouraged not because their partner doesn’t love them or care for them, but rather their partner is doing it in the wrong way.
Jane Griffith's Addition:
To encourage couples, remind the couple what brought them together in the first place by asking each member of the couple for the ER of their first meeting. Ask how this person stood out, was different from others they'd met. Ask the other member to listen to the recitation without interrupting. (Don't be surprised if they recount different incidents.)
Purpose: The first ER reveals the basic (unspoken) agreement or “contract” between them: for example, she's to be fun, light, entertaining; he's to be serious, solid, someone to be counted on. Eliciting the first ER of the relationship reminds them why they got together in the first place and the expectations each set for the other at that time. Then comes a disruption (presence of a child? lust affair? job loss? etc., etc.), the original “contract”/expectations break down, and the couple is adrift.
If the couple is in earnest about staying together, the reminder of the first ER is encouraging in itself -- usually bringing relief and laughter into the session. More important, the couple can see clearly that the old (hidden) “contract”/expectations are no longer relevant, and that they have to create/formulate a new "contract" more suitable to their present situation in life.
Added By: Admin
Areas of Focus: Jane Griffith
, Ask Alfred
, Early Recollections
, Couples Therapy