Robert W. Resnick, Ph.D. & Rita F. Resnick, Ph.D.
From a Fusion Model to a Connection Model
From Stencils and Templates to Movement and Process
New Interview: See the December, 2018 British Gestalt Journal with Malcolm Parlett interviewing the Resnicks about their model of Relationships and Couples Therapy.
MARRIAGE AND RELATIONSHIPS TODAY (straight and gay) are, to a large extent, based on the assumption that two individuals fuse into one. More than 50% of all first marriages end in divorce, as do approximately 70% of second marriages. Add to this the remaining secretly “miserably married”– those living lives of quiet (or not so quiet) desperation based on fear of being alone, fear of damaging the children, financial insecurity, religious doctrine, social stigma, etc. — and we begin to see the magnitude of the problem. Simply put, we are either all seriously disturbed (pathologizing all of us) or there is something fundamentally flawed with our traditional model of relationships and marriage. Traditional models of marriage and coupling evolved within contexts that met the needs of the situation (environment and people) at the time — FORM following FUNCTION. Unfortunately, when FORM becomes rigid while FUNCTION changes, our models become outdated and obsolete — vestiges and remnants of another time wreaking havoc on today’s attempts for mutually nourishing, long term, primary relationships.
Dealing with differences is the second fundamental dynamic that is at the root of almost all couples issues. Most people are acculturated to view difference as dangerous (as threats to their autonomy, criticisms, attacks, betrayals, etc.) and therefore try to eradicate difference by either becoming like the other (fusion) or trying to make the other like them (conflict). In reality all contact (and connection) can only happen through difference. Difference is connective tissue. The Resnicks, respectful and appreciative of difference, have evolved new ways to collaborate, engage, compromise, trade and even celebrate differences.
This model of coupling enthusiastically supports marriage and other committed long term relationships. Only with a long-term primary relationship, can couples build a shared ground of mutual support and understanding.
The Resnicks are, however, fundamentally questioning how people historically and currently attempt to do this. Clearly, current models of marriage and other committed long-term relationships do not work very well for most people. Trying harder at that which doesn’t work simply leads to more frustration and blaming of self or other. This Couples Therapy Training Program is aimed at helping people have more nourishing, enduring and successful marriages and other long-term primary relationships.
Doing therapy with couples is more than embracing a theoretical orientation, a methodology or an eclectic bag of tricks and techniques. It is more than coming up with “deep understandings” from childhood, brokering behavioral “deals” that usually only postpone the explosion and subsequent withdrawal, or unhooking couples from their old narratives and trying to get them to buy the therapist’s new story. In order to do effective couples therapy, therapists need to look beyond trying to help “make the relationship work” within a coupling model that doesn’t work and to widen their perspective and the clinical work to a process approach. Relationships and marriage are difficult, rhythmical and not for the faint of heart. Most importantly, ongoing primary relationships are worth the effort.