In RLT, we have seven diagnostic lenses for looking at a really precise description of what is going on and what you’re going to feed back to the couple.

One of the seven lenses, which in some ways is the skeleton of the whole therapy, is stance, stance, and dance. In a heterosexual couple, his relational stance, her relational stance, and the way they interlock in a good-old family therapy, self-reinforcing feedback loop, a vicious circle, in plain English, which we describe as “The more, the more.” The more he angrily pursues, the more she helplessly withdrawals. The more she helplessly withdrawals, the more he angrily pursues. This is couples therapy 101. Anybody trained in systemic thinking knows how to do this. However, I will say, by the end of your first session … And in RLT we do longer sessions. We tend to do double sessions every other week, rather than 50 minutes every week. By the end of your first session, it’s good to have a description of the more, the more.

The more, the more you two are caught in this bad pattern … I’m so sorry for you. The blame is on the pattern, not the people. I’m so sorry you’ve been caught into this pattern. Once you wind up this pattern and let it go, it goes and proliferates and it will, like cancer or rust, eat up all the good feeling between the two of you. Let me help you get out of this pattern. A great psychotherapist here in Boston, once said, “The goal of a first interview is a second interview.” If you can do the more, the more, blame the pattern, not the people, and be accurate about it, they will feel that. It will give them hope. You will establish your bone fides as a competent therapist, and they will be back at your door next week.

Doesn’t matter if they love you. It’s not about nurture. It’s about giving them the feeling that you can help. Of course, nurture is a part of it. I don’t meant to downplay that. Empathy, reflective listening, all the skills of traditional therapy are brought into play. They are necessary, but in RLT, not sufficient. Empathy is necessary but not sufficient. You have to do more in couple’s therapy than just, “How do you feel?” “Oh, that’s too bad.” “How do you feel?” “Oh, that’s too bad.” Once you have the more, the more, what you’re going to be joining with the difficult man about is his more, is his relational stance, what he is doing to blow his own foot off. This is what you’re doing to get in the way of your own best wishes.

We start all first sessions with the same question: “Tell me what your wish is. If you walk out of here in two hours and it hit it out of the park, what would hitting it out of the park get you? What would it look like?” So then, the dysfunctional relational stance, say angry pursuit or irresponsible boy or a helpless victim or passive-aggressive yes man … These stances will be clear in that they obstruct the goal of getting him whatever it was that he said at the beginning, whatever his wish is.