Notes: Starting a New Couple (First Session)

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A class on one way, mine, in starting a new couple.

This class was taught by phone to a group of Imago Therapists in July of 2007. © Al Turtle 2007

The mp3 file is here.  The notes I (with references) are below.  If you have questions, email them to me.  

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Assumptions before I start any couple.

  1. they are awake to, and desire, the Biological Dream
  2. frustrated and angry – Master/Slave
  3. hurt and feel invalidated – Diversity
  4. they are more or less close to splitting up or divorcing – Choice Point, Map of Relationships.
  5. fighting: either one partner silent or arguing – Master/Slave
  6. communication collapse – no boundaries – no listening, no understanding
  7. clinger, pushing and avoider, withdrawing – Reliable Membership

General Goals:

  1. I want them to experience the Biological Dream in my office
  2. Safety: structure, boundaries, and patience
  3. Reliable Membership: facing the threats of avoider/splitting
  4. Good communication: feel heard – lots of mirroring and pulling
  5. Diversity: lots of PreValidation, if not validation –  feeling understood
  6. Autonomy: respect, leave up to them, choosing to participate or come back, feeling respected

On the phone call setting up the appointment:

  1. goal to give caller the experience Biological Dream
  2. keep it simple, and easy for me
  3. invite them – 2 hour first session, don’t push (Autonomy)
  4. Consider “No charge if they do not come back” after first session
  5. Mirror, lightly pull, Empathize with compassion, “I’ve been there,” share my experiences very lightly
  6. Use Rick Brown’s scheme of three invitations, maybe
  7. get 1st name, last name, first name of partner, phone. Give directions.

First Session:

  1. thanks for coming, “help my goal to get to the kids or grandkids
  2. chairs of Equality
    • Fairness critical, cuz both can split/divorce
    • Fair means both think it is fair at the same time
    • Never when one thinks it fair but not other.
    • Equal isn’t fair
    • Choc Milk, Watermelon
    • Both feel cheated, different values
    • But equal is a good start (by the way, taking turns is even better)
  3. Anxiety, couples not happy to come in.
    • Like going to dentist for root canal
    • Expect pain, to get relief from pain
    • Want my office to be relaxed place
    • Predictive Information for both
    • Sense of Control for both
  4. Session 4 Steps: outline – (predictive information)
  5. Gather information from both, good picture of what we-all need to work on, takes maybe an hour.
  6. Tell you what I am seeing and check out my picture with you.  Like screens at a drive in, I want to be accurate.  Only you can tell me.  15 minutes.
  7. Tell you about my background and how I work, what a session would look like.
  8. Answer questions.  I really am pushing your questions off to the end, cuz I want to answer them as we go along.

You ok with this?  Start with caller, then partner. – Autonomy, (sense of control)

Step One:  (60 minutes plus)

  1. Two challenges 
  2. I want a good full picture. Neither of you have the answer.  Each have a piece of the answer.  I don’t want the pieces, I want the whole.  So I am willing to take the pieces and I will do the assembly work.  I am used to this.  So in Step Two, I will give you the whole, while in Step One, I will take the pieces.
  3. I have to decide whose piece first.
    • 85%, there is definitely one I want to start with (the current avoider)
    • I don’t know who that is.  I will know in the next 30 minutes or so, but not now.
    • Flip a coin 50% accurate
    • Go with the man, 60% accurate
    • Go with the one who didn’t call, 95% accurate
    • Won’t kill us if we are wrong, cus I know this, but I want to be right.
  4. Witnessing partner instructions – zip it.
  5. Sharing invitation: “Please share anything you can think of that is a problem in getting along with your partner.”
  6. Mirror, Pull, Validate, etc.
  7. Normalize:
    • fighting
    • background, who taught you that – parents
    • bullying – definition: some who wants their way and if they don’t get it, they make other uncomfortable.
    • temper
    • If physical violence present, tell them the current law
    • disagreement
    • Tell of old couples who avoid agreement
    • “If two people agreeing, one lying.”
    • right/wrong
    • criticism
  8. test for Control, books on floor, watch tension
    • who will be more bothered, you or partner
    • ask both
    • if tense, normalize “control” is trying to relax
  9. avoiding or pursuing, identify the “turtle” if present
  10. lack of sharing – lying, definition: “To knowingly leave someone in a state of misunderstanding about something you believe is important to them”
  11. lack of trust, safety
    • closeness to splitting up, cliff edge
    • addictions: alcohol, pot; medications
    • affairs: useful outcomes
    • focus on lack of trust – 5 years
  12. vital data not being shared
  13. children: discipline disagreements, etc.
  14. difficulty being a team
  15. Switch and do partner with same question, ”Please share anything you can think of that is a problem in getting along with that other person.”  and “I’d rather you didn’t try to respond to anything your partner said.  Just add your thoughts.”
  16. Careful to use same skills on both.
  17. Test Communication
    • Two times each, share something you do that you think frustrates your partner.  Both ways mirrored.
    • Share four things/traits/characteristics you loved/liked alot when you were “in love.” Both ways mirrored and pulled.
    • Check out accuracy of step one.  “When your partner does… does that frustrate you?”  Look for Type I problem – can’t hear: speed, ADHD, dyslexia, etc.

Step Two – (15 minutes)

  1. Share what I see in single words, with explanations
  2. Define
  3. Control
  4. Type II
  5. Master/Slave
  6. Turtle Hailstorm
  7. Safety/Trust
  8. Tragedy
  9. Brightness, IQ, problems of
  10. Naivety
  11. Lack of Relationship Skills, training
  12. Other

Step Three  – (10 minutes)

  1. Tell of my background.
  2. typical number of sessions and length
  3. Give out Relationship Vision homework. Have them mirror, “There is no way to do this wrong.”
  4. Next session “we’re going right to work, if you come back.”
  5. Make “tentative” appointment for them.  “Most important thing for you is to decide if you want to see me again.  Take your time to make that decision, couple of days.” Tell them they have to call to confirm, don’t have to call cancel.  Make it easy for them to not come back.

Step Four – any questions.

Step Five – (Optional) – Go home. image


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