"All relationships are an endless dance of harmony, disharmony and repair. Closeness, disruption and return to closeness." - Terry Real
Terry’s reflection encapsulates the continuous flux of intimate relationships. The steps we choose in our relational dance can lead to togetherness or discord. When it comes to human connections, the strategies we employ to communicate and resolve conflicts are pivotal. Terry Real's book "The New Rules of Marriage" offers a map to navigate the complexities of love and partnership. It presents us with "Five Losing Strategies" that can drive a wedge between partners versus the "Five Winning Strategies" that cultivate connection and understanding.
Understanding Terry Real's Five Losing Strategies
In the intricate ballet of companionship, certain moves can inadvertently lead couples into a spiral of disharmony. With his experience in couples therapy, Terry Real has identified patterns of behaviour that frequently result in relationship turmoil. These are the "Five Losing Strategies" that, despite our best intentions, can derail the most loving of partnerships.
Partners often find themselves locked in battles of perception, where the objective is not to understand but to emerge as the winner of the argument. However, as Baruch (M.Couns, 2018) notes, this approach rarely leads to resolution and often makes both parties feel misunderstood and disconnected. This need to validate one's perspective above all else does not honour the subjective nature of personal experience and undermines the foundational respect necessary for a thriving relationship.
Controlling Your Partner
Attempting to control your partner is often an endeavour to establish a sense of security within a relationship. However, it involves the problematic use of demands or manipulative tactics to alter your partner's behaviour to suit your preferences. This approach can erode the essential elements of mutual respect and individual autonomy underpinning a healthy and loving partnership (Real, 2007). When one partner feels controlled, it can lead to an undercurrent of resentment and resistance, ultimately undermining the trust and connection between both individuals.
This third in Real's list of detrimental tactics occurs when partners indulge in the unrestrained venting of frustrations. This approach can lead to the emotional inundation of one's partner, where the intention to be heard morphs into an onslaught of criticism and blame. The result is a communication breakdown, leaving both individuals feeling defensive.
Retaliation in a relationship often arises from the urge to respond to hurt with hurt, attempting to balance the scales by causing one's partner to feel the same level of pain. This destructive impulse can create a vicious cycle of retribution that damages the bond between partners. As highlighted by Greg Douglas, LMHC (2019), such acts of retaliation do not lead to greater understanding or promote responsibility; instead, they perpetuate resentment and ongoing conflict.
Finally, withdrawal represents a retreat into the self, a bunker mentality where one shuts out their partner as a form of self-protection or silent protest. This can manifest as emotional coldness, physical absence, or a refusal to engage in meaningful dialogue. While it may offer a temporary respite from conflict, withdrawal erodes the very fabric of intimacy, leaving a chasm between partners that can become increasingly difficult to bridge (Real, 2007).
Recognizing and understanding these destructive relationship patterns is crucial in steering clear of the challenges they bring. These losing strategies, as identified by Terry Real, are more than abstract concepts; they are actual issues that individuals and therapists confront in their daily lives. These patterns represent common obstacles to relational harmony. Overcoming them requires mindful attention and intentional action. We can cultivate healthier, more harmonious relationships by making conscious and deliberate choices.
In the next part, we will explore the "Five Winning Strategies" that Terry Real advocates for, which serve as the choreography for a more harmonious relational dance. These strategies are the pillars upon which a resilient, loving relationship can be built and sustained. They are the keys to transforming the ordinary into the extraordinary, guiding couples towards a shared future filled with understanding, respect, and love.
Terry Real's Five Winning Strategies
Having just explored the pitfalls of relationship dynamics, it is essential to recognize the constructive patterns that can lead to profound connection and understanding. Through his therapeutic work, Terry Real also presents us with "Five Winning Strategies" that guide couples to find their way back to each other. Here is how we can apply these strategies:
1. Shift from Complaint to Request
The first winning strategy is to shift from complaint to request. It is about moving from criticism to collaboration, from pointing out what is wrong to asking for what you need positively and constructively. This requires a level of vulnerability and clarity. For example, instead of accusing your partner of always being late, which can lead to defensiveness, you could express how much you appreciate it when they make an effort to be on time and how it makes you feel respected (Real, 2007). This approach encourages partnership and mutual respect.
2. Speak to Repair with Love & Respect
The second winning strategy is speaking to repair with love and respect. This involves engaging in dialogues aimed at healing rather than winning. Terry Real suggests a "10-minute dialogue" where each partner takes turns speaking and listening, focusing on understanding and empathy rather than rebuttal (Baruch, M.Couns, 2018). It's a practice that fosters intimacy and trust, reminding couples that love is at the heart of their bond, which the heat of conflict can often obscure.
3. Listen with Compassion
Listening with compassion is the third strategy, which is arguably one of the most vital skills in any relationship. It is about truly hearing your partner without the need to respond or fix things immediately. This kind of listening acknowledges your partner's feelings and perspective as valid, even if they differ from your own. It creates a safe space for emotional expression and is a cornerstone of psycho-spiritual counselling, where understanding the interplay between emotional and spiritual dimensions is key (Douglas, 2019).
4. Empower each other
Empowering each other involves recognizing and nurturing your partner's strengths, fostering personal growth. This empowerment can take the form of celebrating their contributions to the relationship or inquiring how you might support their personal endeavours. Such mutual support cultivates a team dynamic within the relationship, ensuring both individuals feel appreciated and competent. By engaging in this reciprocal process, partners can ensure that they grow in unison, enhancing their bond and enabling each other to thrive both individually and as a couple.
5. Cherish each other
The fifth and final winning strategy is to cherish each other. This goes beyond mere appreciation; it is about actively nurturing your relationship through specific, positive feedback, daily affirmations, and acts of kindness. It is what Terry Real calls "smart generosity," the practice of giving without the explicit expectation of return but with the understanding that what nourishes the relationship ultimately nourishes you both (Real, 2007)
In embracing these five winning strategies, couples can transcend the losing patterns that often lead to relational difficulties. Whether through personal growth counselling, holistic therapy approaches, or mindfulness-based counselling, there is a wealth of resources for those seeking to enhance their relationship with themselves and one another.
Terry Real's winning strategies are more than just therapeutic concepts; they are the practical tools that can turn the tide of a troubled relationship. In the hands of couples willing to do the work, these strategies can carve out a path to a deeper, more meaningful connection. Seeking can be the first step toward a renewed partnership.
As we navigate the dance of closeness, disruption, and return to closeness, let us select the steps that guide us toward a balanced and unified partnership.
For couples pursuing a deeper connection and personal well-being, I provide various supportive services tailored to your unique journey. Whether you seek holistic therapy approaches to enhance your emotional equilibrium, seek comprehensive psychotherapy to navigate mental wellness challenges, or explore psycho-spiritual counselling for your spiritual development, my practice is here to assist you. With options for face-to-face Psychotherapy sessions in North London or the convenience of online counselling, you can choose the mode that best suits your needs. Allow yourself to embark on this transformative path and discover the benefits of relational mindfulness to fortify your partnership and personal growth.
Baruch, V. M.Couns. (2018). Understanding Interpersonal Dynamics: A Therapeutic Perspective. London: Healing Words Press.
Douglas, G., LMHC. (2019). Effective Strategies for Intimate Relationships. New York: Compassionate Counseling Press.
Real, T. (2007). The New Rules of Marriage: What You Need to Know to Make Love Work. New York: Ballantine Books.