Couple relationships experiencing difficulties can be categorized into two broad styles of relating: temperamental or tenuous, and can fluctuate between these extremes. These relationships are not satisfying, and not likely to succeed – enjoy couples’ inherent synergy, as the partners are spent in their constant efforts to address the impact of their relational style.The partners might feel overwhelmed and exhausted by the level of reactivity in the temperamental relating and/or sad and alone by the distance in the tenuous relating.

The temperamental relationship might appear chaotic, volatile, reactive, the partners are all over each other. The tenuous relationship might appear rigid, cold, boring, polite, a lot of rules are in place, the partners lead parallel lives. Some relationships might fluctuate between these or have traits of both.

Regardless of the relational style polarity the partners tend to create, one of the common denominators between the styles is their ineffective system structure. The couple system consists of two individual subsystems, the partners. How these are aligned within the couple system determines in part the effectiveness of information and energy flow between the partners required for building intimacy and connection. When this flow is disrupted by an inappropriate systemic structure, the partners can not be their authentic selves in their interactions nor be fully alive in their relationship.

Imagine the partners as circles. In the temperamental relationship, the partners are enmeshed with one another. Their individual circles might significantly overlap one another or one might engulf the other. In the tenuous relationship the partners are disengaged where their individual circles might be very separate, might have an obstruction in between them, or are above one another. Combination of these are possible creating more complex interactional patterns.

Imagine the couple system itself represented by a circle that contains the individual circles structure. The success of this system depends also on how the individual circles are positioned in relation to it. In some troubled couples, one or both of the individual circles might be outside the couple circle, or the couple circle is barely discernible. In these cases, the energy is leaked out of the couple system giving the partners a double whammy to deal with – funky relational structure and views.

It makes sense then that couples would struggle… And, a little mis-alignment is probably present in most couples, not just the ones screaming for help… How can couples possibly experience and enjoy synergy!? We haven’t been taught how to do relationship health and maintenance. If anything, most of us have grown up with mediocre relational role models at best.

Not to worry, good intention and an open heart is a good beginning. Then, restructure your system to its proper healthy functional order! How?

1) Mind your interactions to see if you are doing any engulfing, owning, dismissing, rejecting or other disruptive relating with your partner. Correct any tendencies to do this.

2) Accept your partner fully – you don’t have to love everything about them or agree with everything they say and do, but try to understand, get and accept them for who they are.

3) Treat your partner as an equal and invite their authentic Self to come out and play.

4) Address gender and other roles, expectations, cultural influences and differences.

5) Cooperate with each other. Set up clear responsibilities and opportunities to shine.

6) Have functional and efficient routines for taking care of the business of life. Schedule staying current discussions.

7) Have a united front, work as a team, address any obstacles standing in between you or pulling you apart.

8) Build in couple fun and intimate time. Dialogue about what it takes for you to feel special in your relationship and how to sprinkle that into your relating.

9) Re-introduce old rituals and create new ones. Intentionally interact with one another. Regularly share what you appreciate about each other.

10) Set out to create the relationship you want with your partner. Mark your calendars with your next “Relationship Check-up Chat”.

The current state and structure of your relationship is a manifestation of your and your partner’s growth opportunity. You are co-creating exactly what you each need right now in your journey to continue to grow and heal your Selves. What a beautiful and humbling treat! Don’t let the moment pass you by, savor its richness. Appreciate the way of things.

Happy Restructuring!!

Author's Bio: 

About Emma K. Viglucci, LMFT (Metropolitan MFT)
I'm the Founder and Director of Metropolitan Marriage & Family Therapy, PLLC (Metropolitan MFT), a private psychotherapy practice specializing in working with couples. I help couples succeed at their relationship by assisting them get on the same page and deeply understand each other, repair hurts, create intimacy, stay connected, share passion, and tap into their synergy. I specialize in pre-marital, codependence, reactivity / anger, and infidelity work.