Attachment theory isn't the only way to think of how you and your partners show up in relationships. The Relationship Grid developed by Terry Real can be helpful to identify the strategies you use when stressed or in conflict.
Which quadrant do you find yourself?
Do you go to criticism? Do you go to shame? Do you tend toward removing yourself from connection? Do you become more "needy"?
Terry Real relates these positions to our past experiences in relationships and explores these positions through the lens of inner child work. Couples therapists can help identify parts of self that adapted to your environment in order to survive emotionally, often by developing coping mechanisms that were useful in the past but may not be healthy in the present (shame, criticism, grandiosity, disconnection, people pleasing). Couples therapists help individuals identify patterns of avoidance, aggression, or even passivity, which can prevent individuals from forming healthy, intimate relationships. This is why as a couples therapist in Oakland, CA I focus on individual work in the context of couples therapy. Communication skills are crucial, but finding our way to our wise adult is key for healthy, connected, intimate relationships.
Further, couples therapists can help individuals understand and question the societal roles that they have adopted and see how they may be limiting their ability to form healthy relationships. Terry Real argues that societal roles can shape the way people think, feel, and act in their relationships. For example, societal expectations around gender roles can limit people based on their assigned gender role ability to express vulnerability, emotional openness, and intimacy.
The Relationship Grid
Knowing where you and your partner tends to go depending on the circumstance can be helpful in identifying when you're both feeling defensive and need to take a step back and focus on more positive forms of communication.
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the relationship grid in couples therapy
***Resources are not a substitute for therapy and are not intended for making diagnoses or providing treatment. Not all practices and tools are suitable for every person. Please discuss exercises, practices, and tools with your individual therapist or health care provider.