Relational life therapy is a form of couples counseling that aims to help partners resolve conflicts, develop personal accountability, improve communication, and foster intimacy within their relationship.
People seeking help from a therapist or counselor in order to improve their relationships, especially when a relationship has been affected by societal assumptions about the roles of intimate partners, may find relational life therapy a helpful approach.
How Does Relational Life Therapy Work? This modality aims to provide people with the confidence and ability to break out of the traditional roles society often encourages them to follow so that they can better achieve more harmonious relationships. Proponents of the approach believe society and culture have created an environment that often begins to strip people of needed relational skills as early as childhood.
Some individuals may experience pressure from others to sacrifice their true inner desires and beliefs and assume roles deemed by society to be appropriate. If they fail to meet public expectations they may be criticized and blamed and experience guilt as a result. People who are more often perceived as dominant figures may be influenced to adopt aggressive and defensive behaviors often idolized in the cultural mainstream. Those who fail to demonstrate these characteristics may be publicly labeled as weak. As a result of these social pressures, some individuals may develop figurative masks in order to “fit in” with society, and these masks may be present as they enter into a relationship.
Therapists who practice this approach believe all relationships experience cycles of harmony, disharmony, and repair. Relationship issues may arise if either partner is not aware of how to properly repair the damage associated with disharmony. The relationship may become more troubled if either partner begins to develop feelings of disillusionment and/or resignation when faced with relationship issues. With this in mind, therapists help couples to identify their issues, develop the skills needed to repair their relationship, and encourage them to take decisive action.
Practitioners of this approach contend that balance and equality are at the heart of harmony. The aim of relational life therapy is to achieve a sense of balance and dispel the social myths that often impact modern relationships and further, to celebrate the true nature of each partner and the role that partner plays in the couple dynamic. The approach allows for freedom of expression without fear of blame, anger, retaliation, or condemnation.
How Can Relational Life Therapy Help? Relational life therapy was developed to address relationship concerns, but it may also be used to address family of origin issues and individual relationship conflicts. Therapists who practice this approach work to encourage people to develop assertiveness and the skills that may be necessary to achieve intimacy, passion, and unity. The long-term goal of relational life therapy is typically to help people establish productive environments where all relationships are valued, balanced, and grounded in equality and mutual respect. Thus, the approach may be a helpful tool of empowerment for educators, parents, and even communities, as well as intimate partners.