The Secrets of Enduring Love videos

Jacqui Gabb and  put together this series of videos with The Open University to answer some the main questions that we cover in our book The Secrets of Enduring Love.

Should you make grand romantic gestures?

Should you spend as much time as possible with your partner?

Should you be sure to say I love you?

Should you make sure you have plenty of sex?

Collaborative approaches to conflict

Yesterday I ran some training on relationship therapy for counsellors which involved exploring various different approaches and techniques. I was reminded of a chapter that I’ve found particularly helpful in this area, which I gave out to the students. Re-reading the chapter I realised that it says something a lot more profound than I originally realised. I thought it would be useful to summarise it here and draw out some implications: both for intimate relationship difficulties and more for conflict more widely.

Collaborative relationship therapy

The approach is the ‘collaborative couple therapy’ of Daniel B. Wile, a US therapist. You can read all about it on Dan’s website here. Personally I prefer the term ‘relationship therapy’ to ‘couple therapy’ as it recognises that not all relationships are couple relationships.

Dan’s first idea is that the aim, in relationship therapy, should be to ‘solve the moment, not the problem’. This takes the pressure off trying to fix the whole – often seemingly overwhelming – difficulty that people are having. Instead, the emphasis is placed on addressing each interaction that comes up as something that can be ‘solved’, or engaged with more helpfully. Dan shares my view that conflict isn’t a problem in relationships: it is inevitable, and it can be helpful depending on how we engage with it.

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Enduring Love?

Monday 16th January saw the launch of a new Open University research project called Enduring Love? Here I will introduce the project and also summarise the talks at the launch about current thinking on relationships, and the pressures they are under.

There has been plenty of research on break-up, divorce and separation. The team behind this project decided that it was time that we knew more about what makes people stay together as well as what makes them split up.

The plan is to get as many people as possible to fill out the online questionnaire so that the researchers can get a good idea of the diversity of ways in which people are experiencing long-term relationships, as well as anything that people who stay together have in common. At the same time, there will be much more in-depth research on sixty couples who will keep a diary of their relationship, take part in interviews together and separately, and explore the way they live and how they feel in their relationship. The detailed research will consider various aspects of the couple relationship such as emotions, sex, commitment, and the way that their partnership fits with other important relationships in their lives. You can already get an idea of the kinds of things people are saying about their relationships from the video clips and podcasts that the team has put together.

The project is called Enduring Love? with a question mark to give the title a double meaning. The researchers are keen to explore what makes relationships work for those who stay together long term and who find that a fulfilling way to live. At the same time it is clear that some couples feel pressured to stay together even when they are very unhappy. It is useful to know what makes an enduring love, as well as what the experience is like when love itself becomes something to be endured. Of course many relationships include elements of both these things: when times are hard the relationship feels like something to be endured, and when things are going well the ‘enduring’ nature of the relationship is something that may be celebrated. Enduring hard times can build intimacy as well as sometimes breaking it.

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