Relationship and Couple's Work

Process Work with relationships starts with the basic premise of learning. A process work approach to relationships is multi-faceted; it might help couples to tap into feelings and inner experiences that have been disavowed, thereby strengthening and deepening communication. Couple's work might mean re-discovering the myth or deepest connection that brought the couple together in the first place. A relationship focus helps some couples to understand and unfold disturbing moods, unearth their highest relationship dreams, explore their different and similar roles, and bring more of their dreaming world into everyday life.

Let's look at a session between Fred and Carmela. They have been together for about ten years and have two young children. They complain that the spark has left their relationship. Life just centers around the children and every day tasks. I wanted to find out what connects them besides tasks and everyday roles, so I asked them about their earliest memories of meeting. These early memories and dreams can be very helpful to find the mythic bond that connects people, as well as find out where the couple is growing.

When I ask them how they met, they both look at each other and giggle. Carmela blurts out, "I thought he was really weird!" "Well you were pretty strange too," Fred counters. Carmela agrees.

I ask them what was so unusual about the other. Carmela said that they were at a party and Fred was playing the guitar off in his own world. "Somehow I felt really drawn to him. He hardly talked to me when I went over to him, but was just consumed with his music. I just wanted to sit beside him. A friend of mine actually wanted to introduce me to this other guy who was trying to impress me and I wanted to get away. So I sat next to Fred and enjoyed listening and being in his presence."

"I noticed you," Fred said. "How could I not, you had on this crazy hat and you were definitely the most colorful person in the room!" "Yeah, but I didn't know that at the time, you barely spoke to me," said Carmela. "You were just into your guitar. I think that was the most fascinating thing to me. You weren't like the other guys, trying to impress me, but were just creative. I really loved that about you." Fred smiles as she speaks, "I always thought you were bugged by that," he said, "and that we fought because you felt I was not involved enough with the kids."

Carmela agreed that she was disturbed that Fred didn't help out as much, but remembering their first meeting, she was drawn to how he nurtured his creativity. "I would like to be able to do that," she says. "I just feel so bogged down by the everyday things in life and then when we are together I am so tired and I don't want to do anything."

"I always feel guilty, like I am sneaking away to play guitar or do something on my own," says Fred, "and I miss you, I miss the woman in that colorful hat." Carmela has tears in her eyes. "I miss her too," she says.

I encourage Carmela to remember that woman who wore that hat, to remember the feelings and experiences of that woman. Carmela got quiet at first searching for that inner feeling. Then suddenly she jumped up, startling both Fred and me, and said "I want to dance!"

Fred looked a little hesitant, but Carmela just pulled him up and began doing some kind of a tango-like dance. He started to laugh, and we all spontaneously began to make sounds and percussive accompaniment. "This is the woman I fell in love with," Fred exclaimed. "I just love her." Carmela was radiant.

This couple had become bogged down in everyday life. After many years and a couple of children they were lulled into a routine that didn't connect with their more spontaneous and creative natures. Remember the successful man at the party who Carmela wasn't interested in? He is also one of the characters in their story. He symbolizes the normal way to be successful, but in a way that sacrifices creativity and spontaneity. In some way, Carmela and Fred had become this man. They were both successful. They earned enough money. They had two kids who were doing well, but they lacked contact with the deeper spirit that had originally connected them.

This is a very common process for many couples. In order to make this session useful, the couple needed to do a few more things. They needed to support each other in their own creative projects. Fred's music needed support, and Carmela needed support and encouragement to write the novel she had always wanted to write. They also needed to live more of their unusual and spontaneous selves with each other and in their family lives. When they came back a couple of weeks later, they reported that they had a fabulous couple of weeks. They were able to pursue their own interests and their family life had become more lively. They also reported that they felt more interest and intimacy together even though they were also taking the time to do more individual projects.

Books on Relationships and Couples and Social Issues

Dworkin, Jan. Radical Relationship : Pushing the Boundaries of Power, Gender and Sex. The Journal of Process Oriented Psychology, Volume 7, Number 1, 1995.

Goodbread, Joe. Radical Intercourse: How Dreams Unite Us in Love, Conflict and Other Inevitable Relationships, Portland, OR, Lao Tse Press, 1997. Shows how the unpredictable world of dreams and dreaming plays out in relationships.

Menken, Dawn. Speak Out: Talking about Love, Sex and Eternity. Tempe, Arizona: New Falcon Publications, 2001.
Explores the relationship between mainstream and marginalized groups and looks at diversity issues in relationship.

Mindell, Arnold. The Dreambody in Relationships. New York: Penguin, 1987. Reprint. Portland, Oregon, Lao Tse Press, 2002.
How the study of signals in postures and dreams present new avenues for understanding and working with relationships.

Reiss, Gary. Vital Loving: A Guide for Couples and Families 2004. Currently available on
Practical tools for dealing with new, changing family structures and roles, including separation, divorce, step-families, and how to manage anger, violence, grief and adolescent behavior.

Straub, Sonja. What's Love got to do with it: Race, Gender and Culture. Journal of Process Work Psychology, Volume 7, Number 1, 1994.
An intimate account of interracial relationships, with thoughtful insights and practical suggestions.

Select One of the Following:
Body Symptoms and Illness
Relationship and Couple's Work
Family Work
Extreme States of Consciousness (so-called Psychiatric diagnoses)
Comatose and Non-Verbal States of Consciousness
Working with Children and Teens
Group and Organizational Facilitation