“What Do You Do When…?”

Free 5-part Workshop

This past week I demonstrated how to use the Developmental Model to tackle tough impasses you will likely encounter. I hope you found my demonstrations helpful whether you’re just getting started or are an experienced couples therapist.

Thanks for your interest in this powerful and transformative work.

On this page you’ll find the information from one day’s question, and if you scroll to the bottom you’ll find links to pages with all of the articles and webinar replays.

Access to your free workshop will be available until September 22 at 11:59pm Pacific Time.

What Do You Do When Partners in a Power Struggle Refuse to Budge?

Below you will find a link to a transcript that comes from a demonstration consultation roleplay my husband, Pete, did. A therapist in my Developmental Model training group requested help with a couple named Martha and Matt who had been severely battling for 7 years over how to parent their two kids.

Their defensive angry struggle had brought them to the brink of divorce.

When partners like this come to you, they hope for a miracle - that you will resolve the struggle by getting their partner to change!

You and I both know exactly how well that works. Entrenched power struggles do not resolve easily. Each partner digs in and is highly committed to their own position.

Over the years my husband, Pete, developed a process that allows partners to inch towards each other across the void that has developed between them. The progress itself might seem infinitesimal. But the internal shift is tectonic, building momentum that can have real, lasting, significant effect.

I’m sharing with you a transcript that demonstrates the technique, but first I’d like to point out a few key steps in his process.

  • Avoid the content of the ongoing struggle.
  • There are multiple ways to assess this struggle. Pete chose to view it as a collision of values. This is challenging because values are generally non-negotiable. Yet, this perspective allowed him to get some traction in their power struggle.
  • Redirect their attention to a higher set of values. He did not make either partner wrong for holding onto their values. Sometimes the way out of this conundrum is to describe a higher set of values that neither of them had considered. That is the path Pete chose to pursue in this case.
  • Ask both partners to be accountable for the logjam. This is probably the toughest aspect of the work. That is why this transcript is so long. As you will see, Pete did not let Martha pass responsibility to Matt.
  • Ask the partners for a change and call it “an experiment.” Emphasize the fact that it is a short term one. In this case he asked for the new behavior just until their next appointment. This prevents partners from feeling trapped. They know the change/experiment will not last forever.

In this session Pete goes underneath the presenting struggle of polarized parenting to access the pain of each partner in order to build a bridge and create a shift.

I was tempted to edit the length of this transcript. But then you would miss the skillful nuances of how Pete helps reframe and confront the couple’s stubbornness and starts moving them towards working as a collaborative team.

Click here to download a PDF of the transcript.

Here’s the full schedule: