Which Movie Are We In? This typology was devised by Carmen Lynch, M. Victor Daniels, Professor of Psychology at Sonoma State University took notes on a talk in which she described it, added two categories and a few additional ideas, and wrote it down in the form in which it is presented here. We can cause ourselves needless distress by comparing our own relationships with such an idea of what a relationship "should be like" and then concluding that our own is defective by comparison.
Psychologists may imply something of that sort when they formulate criteria for a "healthy relationship" which few real couples ever meet. There are many kinds of relationships,and a given kind may fit a given person or couple at one stage of development but not at another.
Driven by our personal history, we choose partners who help us meet our present needs, fulfill our expectations, and if we're lucky, work throughour issues and grow in the directions in which we need to grow. For a person or couple, recognizing this can open doors to a broader spectrum of ways of being with ourselves and each other. We all know some couples who seem so mismatched that we wonder how they ever got together, yet who have learned to enjoy each other and live together happily.
Other couples seem so devoted to mutual punishment that we wonder how they stay together. Still others, by contrast, appear to be the perfect pair until we hear they're splitting up or getting a divorce. Sharpening and deepening our awareness of we're doing, and how we're doing it, can help us change our behavior in ways that make a relationship more nourishing and supportive, and less toxic and painful.
Or it can help us see what we're not going to find in this one. In either case, a clearer perception our present existential reality can help us move toward doing a better job of meeting our own and often the other person's needs. Ten kinds of relationships are described here, grouped into "dominant" and "collateral" patterns. This treatment is analytical in attempting to sketch the outlines of the principal patterns of relationships people enter into, and existential in attempting to describe what they are like from the inside.
Upon hearing these descriptions, many of our clients, students, and workshop participants breathed sighs of relief, because this categorization helped them understand what they were experiencing. They said such things as, "Yes, that's what's going on with us! It says, "This is how it is for these people at this point in time. The relationship fills real needs. It may become something else in the future, but this is what exists right now. Using this insight as a starting point is quite different from the common approach of saying, "Here's what's wrong with each of these relationships and here's what should be done to fix it.
These exist when partners feel like they can't make it on their own. This involves relating at its most basic: For example, a drug addict may be connected with a rigid, regimented partner who holds things together. In such a connection, the desperate quality of my choice is based more on my needs than on what you actually can offer me.
Since we are likely to have few shared interests or complementary qualities, there's little positive "glue" to hold us together when our relationship comes under stress. With each of us trying to get the other to provide what we're missing, our union is likely to be a symbiotic, desperately clinging one.
Often the relationship is subtly or openly hostile and abusive. One partner or both may be actually afraid he or she could get killed for talking about the partner's drinking or drug addictions or other problems, or for behaving in a way that appears to threaten the relationship. Such fears may have a basis in reality. Relationships where one partner physically abuses the other are often of this kind.
Partners may be desperate for caring, or they may be overwhelmed by any sign of caring and not know how to receive it.
In the latter case, the desperation may be just to have another person around to provide some kind of contact, order, routine, or even an opponent for fights and arguments. As a result of the desperation for contact and fear of losing it, partners tend to have a very fuzzy sense of their personal boundaries. Their contact is characterized by "confluence," in Fritz Perls' terms, in which it is unclear where one leaves off and the other begins, with considerable projection of the needs of each onto the other and introjection of the other's definitions of oneself.
Often partners think in terms of what the other person wants them to want, and are out of touch with what they themselves want. They may have little tolerance for independence and aloneness, and "go everywhere together and do everything together. The tiniest flicker of independence can be perceived as a threat. Even going into an ice cream parlor and asking for strawberry ice cream can be perceived as threatening if both of them have always ordered chocolate.
Strong feelings of insecurity tend to play a central role. Despite all this, they are getting something out of it. The connection feels better than being alone or institutionalized. Since the partners are so afraid to be alone, when they leave one relationship for another, they tend to make sure there's someone else to jump to before they let go of the person they've been with, or make a quick impulsive choice of a new partner.
Since the partners tend to be very dependent personalitis, or "relationship junkies," co-dependency is often a dominant feature of such connections. Co-dependent relationships can also exist at more sophisticated levels. A person may not feel his or her emotional survival intensely threatened, but the partner can be perceived as an anchor in one's life without whom one is rudderless and lost.
This is very common and is often an element in a number of the other relationship types described below. Therapy with a survival relationship is likely tobegin with looking at how the other person is "right" for you. What needs are they fulfilling? How was your existence at the point where the other person came into it? How can you develop more self-support in areas where you're depending on the relationship for support?
How would your life be without this person? How well were you functioning when you met him or her? Sometimes the ending of such relationships is a sign of growth by one person or by both. Even when that's the case, the relationship may end in a hostile way that is at least emotionally destructive and at most physically violent.
A person may seek another's validation of his or her physical attractiveness, intellect, social status, sexuality, wealth, or some other attribute. Sex and money are especially common validators. In response to a sexually unsatisfying relationship, a person may choose a new partner with whom sexuality iscentral: The packaging tends to be very important: These relationships are always a little insecure: Since the partners are immature, there is enormous tension and constant testing: This element can also occur in other types of relationships.
Each partner can be looking for a different kind of validation. An older professor who takes up with an attractive young student may want physical and sexual validation, while the student wants intellectual validation.
As the relationship continues, one person may continue to require validation while the other starts wanting something deeper. When this happens, both partners are apt to feel betrayed, empty, and angry. For example, the man may discover that the beautiful woman doesn't give him what he thinks she's going to. He grows hungry for real contact, while she still wants to be the queen and have endless large parties.
One of the sources of validation they originally had in common has broken. Or the woman who wants security marries money and discovers that even though she's rich, she still feels anxious and threatened. The money doesn't do what she thought it would. A validation relationship can further the valuable goal of shoring up a person's self-esteem in areas where he or she has felt inadequate or doubtful.
When that has been done, and the partners begin to be able to give themselves some of the validation they relied on the other person for, the question which begins to emerge is, "How much do we have in common besides the validating item?
Where else can we go in the relationship? Can we find other sources of connection besides the surface personality traits and social roles that originally brought us together?
But if she's a thinking person beneath the facade, the relationship may develop. If, for example, she was raised in a family with "the beauty" as her role, but is intelligent as well, there are possibilities. She may begin to play an important role in his business, or develop her own abilities in a way which makes her a more broadly interesting or useful partner. If no deeper basis for connecting materializes and the partners drift apart, there is a strong chance that the needs for validation have been met and the partners have begun seeking something different.
At that point, the relationship has done its work. The partners have learned to validate in themselves the qualities they were insecure about and they are ready to connect along other dimensions. This common pattern often begins begins when the partners both are just out of high school or college.
They seem to be "the perfect pair," fitting almost all the external criteria of what an appropriate mate should be like. The marriage involves living out their expectations for the roles they learned they were supposed to play. He has the "right" kind of job and she is the "right" kind of wife and they have the "right" kind of house or apartment or condo in the "right" place.
Their families think it's the perfect match. These relationships are intended to be for the long haul. They are often very child-focused.
Everyone is getting raised at the same time: The parents are growing up while they're raising the children. A variation of this theme is the career-oriented couple, where the career takes the place of the child.
They may have a child too, but the career is the primary focus. Often there is also still heavy involvement with the family of origin, calling mom or dad at least once a day.
Big holidays are stressful because they can't even please themselves, much less everyone else on both sides of the family. They become days of obligation rather than holidays. In these relationships differences often take the form of power struggles. Endless arguments develop about everything: This often turns into a pattern in which the issue isn't really the matter at hand but rather who "wins.