Marital Analysis – self-test intended

In my counselling work with individuals and couples my clients often address their closest committed relationships. Amongst them are typically marriage, parent/children, partnerships, siblings and friendships. When I ask people to describe the way they relate to each other, I hear for example “loving”, “explosive”, “happy”, “disciplined”, “authoritarian” or “caring”. And while we could leave it at that, I often wonder if those are really descriptions of the relationship or rather characterising the style, behaviour and personality of one or both persons involved.

It is much more difficult to hone in on the qualities of the connection or disconnection that we have with one another. In particular in couples counselling and marriage therapy it is absolutely worth to invest some thinking effort and to carve out and define what we have created with the other person. How we relate, how relations shift over time and the difference in relationships we form provides valuable insight into our live patterns, struggles and worn-out comfort zones.

A deeper analysis and understanding of the qualities and nature of a relationship with another person helps us to better manage dynamics and boundaries. Taking marriage for example: describing the marital state as “broken”, “dysfunctional, “close”, “intimate”, “illicit” or “unhealthy” seems to be valid, as neither of the partners has to be “unhealthy” or physically close to be in a close or unhealthy relationship. Or take “platonic” for that matter. Your relationship might not be sexual but rather friendly close, but that does not mean YOU are not sexual about the very same relationship.

Most adjectives are broad and remain superficial with regard to their level of information gained. Think “healthy”, “troublesome”, “beautiful” or “committed”. However! We start to gain value and insight exactly here. By asking further questions and allowing ourselves to be curious with an open heart. Can you allow yourself to be that way?

Besides the validity of your description, how precise is it? I like to think of any relationship as a bridge and when I look at my own bridges, I am often describing them very visually and in technical terms. That doesn’t mean a bridge can’t be symbolic, metaphoric or even poetic in your own words. Check for yourself from the following list of pairs and decide in each case towards which side you are leaning to.

absorbing – unforgiving

balanced – imbalanced

close – distant

natural – high-maintenance

heavy-travelled – via ferrata

historical – modern

longstanding – makeshift

romantic – functional

stable – shaking

solid – troublesome

weatherproof – season

Here are a few of my favorites (also thinking of real bridges)

convenient – life-saving

enabling – risky

exciting – boring

reciprocal – unilateral

safe – dangerous

symbiotic – differentiated