What makes a relationship a transformative one? How do couples go from having a dysfunctional, or even a functional relationship, to one that is transformative? Relationships go through developmental stages, just as individuals do, in terms of their psychological development. Transformative relationships evolve when both partners take responsibility for their own “inner work” and recognize the deeper nature of their connection to one another. Strong loving relationships can have a soulful quality that furthers each partner’s growth as a person. Most often, this does not come without tension and conflict. The realization that each partner is not going to carry the burden of making the other “whole” can be the beginning of the individual’s own deeper development, as well as that of the relationship itself.

In our work, we also look at the “unlived life” of a couple, the unlived life of the relationship. Most often in individual therapy, the focus is placed on the individual – going back to look at the potentials and possibilities that a person has not been aware of or developed. Relationships can also be looked at in that way. What are the unlived things in the relationship that were left behind because of the “deal” that one makes with their partner about the various tasks, functions, and responsibilities? What would it be like to look at love in a relationship without the striving, wishing and disappointments?

Legalities aside, marriage is a commitment in depth made by two people. It is a guarantee of nothing certain, but it claims to be an expression of an intention that is serious, long-term, and deep. Explicit or covert conflict is inevitable and universal in all relationships. Partners have different ideas, values, and beliefs, and therefore disagreement is inevitable. One of the implicit demands of marriage is that issues must be faced and worked through, rather than evaded. Anger and confrontation can spur development, and differences and disagreements can give rise to new and creative opportunities. The Relationship Center therapists use empirically validated methods that help partners develop the attitudes, skills, and behaviors that identify problem areas, and then manage these more effectively. The results reached through this process benefit both partners and diminish hurt feelings. Building on these skills, partners can then move on to create a system of shared values and meaning in their relationship, as well as rituals of connection that strengthen and deepen their relationship.

In our work, we consult with many couples, whether married or partnered in a committed relationship. The Relationship Center of Milwaukee was founded to develop a place where couples can do the work that their relationship needs to move forward and serve one another, whether this involves healing old or new wounds, communicating better, addressing perpetual problems, or deepening the intimacy of their relationship. The therapists at the Relationship Center of Milwaukee are inspired to bring together the science of masterful relationship with the insights that emerge from deeper individual work. We feel passionate about this work and hope that we may be able to help partners explore and develop a more transformational relationship that serves each partner’s individual and relational growth.