Issues that Underlie Hypocritical Binds

Earlier this summer I started a blog series about hypocrisy in couples therapy. I was pleased to see so many of you respond on the blog sharing your own examples of these vexing moments and examples of hypocritical binds from your practice.

I promised some follow-up. So here it is.

Many of the partners we see in couples work have early developmental issues that move them to create binds for each other. Four common developmental issues are:

  1. Basic trust. When basic trust is missing, partners fear they are not loveable. They become afraid when their lovers are absent or withdrawn and often create binds that demand their lovers prove them unconditionally loveable.
  2. Problems with self-other differentiation. These partners desire highly merged relationships and angrily or more subtly create binds to coerce their partners to comply.
  3. Limited ability to self-soothe. These partners often demand “mind reading,” stay agitated and make unflattering decisions about the other.
  4. Difficulty with self-activation. All partners who create hypocritical binds have difficulty in this area. The bind in fact includes a rationalization for them not to take action.

These developmental issues also contribute to partners having difficulty knowing what they desire, activating positive energy to pursue desires, and raging at partners who seem to “get more of their desires realized.” What’s even worse is that these developmental issues fuel the creation of binds, hypocrisies and paradoxes that inhibit the long-term growth and development of the relationship.

The tragedy, of course, is that both partners lose out on the promise that brought them together.

To get us into this topic more deeply, I’ve prepared a short video reviewing the information from the original blog post and discussing 4 common types of hypocrisy, with examples of each.

We hope that you’ll give this topic some thought and comment on the blog about whether you see these four types of hypocrisy.

During the next month I will follow up with some short emails continuing this discussion.

“Truth without love is brutality, and love without truth is hypocrisy.”
― Warren W. Wiersbe

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Barbara Grossman
Barbara Grossman
9 years ago

Thoughtful. I am happy to follow this discussion. No need to bring a political commentator (Rush Limbaugh) in on the conversation. It is a distraction.

Bev
Bev
9 years ago

I found this so very informative. You also have a very pleasant and clear way of speaking and presenting your points. I look forward to learning more from you. Best Bev

Jean
Jean
9 years ago

This is great. It brings to mind both Sue Johnson’s withdrawer/withdrawer style of relationship. Would you ever speak to the couple about exactly what you’re seeing here, and about the opportunity missed by maintaining this degree of self- protection?

Ellyn
Ellyn
9 years ago

Jean-Definitely yes. In fact how you speak directly, clearly and non-judgmentally about what you see is exactly the art of excellent couples therapy.

Lorraine Krane
Lorraine Krane
9 years ago

Very good and clear presentation, thank you. As a point of clarification, I think it was Meryl Streep not Diane Keaton in Kramer vs. Kramer:)

Michelle Wangler Joy, MFT
Admin

Nicely organized, and a topic that needs this kind of attention. I look forward to following this informative discussion.

Elaine Davis
Elaine Davis
9 years ago

I really enjoyed this method of teaching and look forward to learning how to be a better confront hypocrisy. Ditto on the Rush Limbaugh comment. Distracting, Unnecessary and not helpful.

Charles Allen
Charles Allen
9 years ago

I take strong issue with your choice to single out Rush Limbaugh. You could just as easily used a comentator from the “other side” such as Alan Colmes. Prejudicial at the very least. Otherwise – really good and helpful information. Thanks.

Janae
Janae
9 years ago

I thought this presentation was excellent! This problem is very common in couples so I really appreciate the way you are breaking it down into more understandable and manageable parts. Particularly emphasizing the regressive stance the hypocrite takes as a way to not take accountability. I also found the examples very helpful too. As to the Rush comment, I thought it was a great example of someone who is a narrow thinker….
I am looking forward to learning more!

Janae
Janae
9 years ago

I have one more thought, the difficulty i have is managing the hypocrite without being judgmental or perceived as being too confrontive. There are other times i won’t confront enough. It often seems a fine line. Perhaps when I am feeling the most pressure not to confront is when the hypocrite is exerting more influence to block it? As if they are tryng to block the therapist the same way they block the spouse?

Ellyn
Ellyn
9 years ago

Well I certainly hit a nerve with some of you on the Rush Limbaugh comment. I welcome the confrontation, because I learn from it. I selected Rush not because he is right or wrong but because he is a well-known example of someone who thinks from one perspective.

Lori
Lori
9 years ago

Thank you for this concise, clear video that points out the complex issue of hypocricy when working with couples. I appreciate your examples that highlight how couples get stuck, it helps me to understand where some of my couples get stuck. I will definitely be following and contributing to future discussions on this topic.

Vivian Baruch
Vivian Baruch
9 years ago

Hi Ellyn, thanks for the breakdown of the four main developmental issues couples face. I can never get enough perspectives on this important theme. I also appreciate your deepening of how we can work with hypocrites, especially having just had a couple where he was so entitled, yet his self-perception was that he was overly conceding, similar to the example you gave. Sheeeesh! It’s a fine line about how to challenge this. One teacher recommends having at least 3 concrete examples to back up our case, and, as you said, for us therapists to do it from a grounded-enough stance. It’s a challenge for me to tease out what’s my own reactivity or really useful clues I’m picking up about their hypocrisy.

Robert
Robert
9 years ago

Hi Ellyn –

Love your deep thinking about this underserved topic! I’ll be interested to hear how you approach these potentially difficult confrontations, and especially how to evaluate and deal with hypocrisies (double standards, etc.) that one partner brings up about the other.

Thanks and can’t wait for more!

Robin
Robin
9 years ago

Thank you for this very informative video! I loved how it was broken down and explained. I DO find hypocracy quite often in working with couples. I’m looking forward to future material on this topic. Great stuff!

L. D, Pratt
L. D, Pratt
9 years ago

Thank you for this. The frame is very helpful. I deal with couples and anger issues. I help them understand that when they are expressing too much anger, they actually cannot be heard. But viewing it as hypocritical is a great reframe.

I appreciated the Limbaugh tie-in Often the hypocritical binder is loud, stubborn, demeaning, and unable to see that. He/she projects that stance onto others–demanding behavior they cannot achieve themselves.

Michelle Wangler Joy, MFT
Admin

Here is what another reader said:
This blog is a timely one for me as I track interventions with a couple who are almost gridlocked in a power struggle over accomodation to the husband’s childhood deprivation and possible neurological handicaps. The husband justifies his critical demands and his refusal to express appreciation for his wife’s efforts by arguing that he is too incapacitiated by autism spectrum deficits, while his wife, who has been very lonely in the marriage but also compassionate and accomodating, is now tuning out some of his demands in order to maintain her own sense of autonomy. She is willing to follow through on a behavioral contract to do a daily task that is important to him, in exchange for him giving her the emotional acknowledgement that she longs for, a simple compliment on anything he chooses. His defense–this behavior is not part of his nature, not who he is, and his compliment would be meaningless.
He argues that what she asks for and what he asks for from her are two very different things, and he doesn’t get the logic that they are both behaviors that require some conscious effort, but are nonetheless do-able.
I am acknowledging his experience of loss and discomfort with his diffrerences, which he masks with learned social behaviors for successful functioning at work. I also support the ways in which they might expand their sense of connection in the marriage: I notice outloud the ways in which he and his wife share core values about childrearing and gender equality. And I highlight the brief moments when he expresses appreciation for his wife’s efforts to please him after I challenge his minimizing and discounting.
I have been frustrated by his rigid insistence on regression, while also recognizing that it stems from painful differences, isolation, feelings of helplessness and shame. Does it make sense to confront him more directly?

Jenny A
Jenny A
9 years ago

Thank you Ellyn – I am currently seeing a young couple who have recently migrated to Sydney from the Middle East. The wife presented with severe panic attacks and agoraphobia, and also some specific phobias. The husband is very caring but had become frustrated and irritable as her behaviour becomes very regressed and demanding, and fits your description of hypocrisy. She demands that he stop his activities (which are just work-related – nothing outside of the r’ship) and soothe her. He feels smothered and furious, but is “not allowed” to show this. “You must NEVER raise your voice to me!”
Fortunately, they are both committed to making change. I have been amazed that the wife seems to listen to my (gentle) confrontations and reports back efforts to “be more kind” to him. We are doing both couple sessions and individual sessions with each. He is working on his expectations of quick change in her, and increasing his capacity to tolerate the frustration of the regressed episodes. She is working on anxiety management and starting to explore her rigid attitudes. We are also starting to acknowledge the symbiotic patterns. She is still very enmeshed with her mother back home, and he is too frightened to confront her. So far the work feels very promising – it will be very interesting to see how it unfolds as deeper issues emerge.

Alan
Alan
9 years ago

As usual, I have listened to the video later than most. Still, I found the hypocrisy issue to be both thought provoking and helpful. I have been thinking about these concepts in regards to a couple with whom I am working in which both have utilized justifications for their regressive behaviors, just as Ellyn has described. The husband has justified his withdrawal from his wife and has recently justified his inviting another woman (with whom he apparently came close to but did not consummate an affair with) into his life that he rationalizes as being due to his wife’s angry tirades and neglect. He made few efforts to understand his wife’s emotions or the legitimate issues underlying her anger and withdrawal. The wife has justified her angry tirades and withdrawal due to her husband’s withdrawal from her and has felt helpless in dealing with his significant depression. They have both lived in a very deadened and despairing relationship for many years until things hit ‘rock bottom’ and they came to therapy. I have noticed a shift in myself, based on my participation in the couple’s training, where my interactions have changed dramatically. I am not so much pursuing what I used to regard as ‘depth.’ In its place, I am much more actively giving support to each member of the couple for assuming responsibility for their own behaviors with one another rather than relying on their past denial and blaming. I was just recently surprised to hear that the couple rededicated themselves during a recent wedding anniversary to staying in and improving their marriage. I do believe that I can use the concepts regarding hypocrisy to further aid them in their growth.

Dr. Ellyn Bader

Dr. Ellyn Bader is Co-Founder & Director of The Couples Institute and creator of The Developmental Model of Couples Therapy. Ellyn is widely recognized as an expert in couples therapy, and since 2006 she has led innovative online training programs for therapists. Professionals from around the world connect with her through internet, conference calls and blog discussions to study couples therapy. Ellyn’s first book, "In Quest of the Mythical Mate," won the Clark Vincent Award by the California Association of Marriage & Family Therapists for its outstanding contribution to the field of marital therapy and is now in its 18th printing. She has been featured on over 50 radio and television programs including "The Today Show" and "CBS Early Morning News," and she has been quoted in many publications including "The New York Times," "The Oprah Magazine" and "Cosmopolitan."

Dr. Ellyn Bader

Dr. Ellyn Bader is Co-Founder & Director of The Couples Institute and creator of The Developmental Model of Couples Therapy. Ellyn is widely recognized as an expert in couples therapy, and since 2006 she has led innovative online training programs for therapists. Professionals from around the world connect with her through internet, conference calls and blog discussions to study couples therapy. Ellyn’s first book, "In Quest of the Mythical Mate," won the Clark Vincent Award by the California Association of Marriage & Family Therapists for its outstanding contribution to the field of marital therapy and is now in its 18th printing. She has been featured on over 50 radio and television programs including "The Today Show" and "CBS Early Morning News," and she has been quoted in many publications including "The New York Times," "The Oprah Magazine" and "Cosmopolitan."

Have something to say?

Subscribe
Notify of
guest

19 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Barbara Grossman
Barbara Grossman
9 years ago

Thoughtful. I am happy to follow this discussion. No need to bring a political commentator (Rush Limbaugh) in on the conversation. It is a distraction.

Bev
Bev
9 years ago

I found this so very informative. You also have a very pleasant and clear way of speaking and presenting your points. I look forward to learning more from you. Best Bev

Jean
Jean
9 years ago

This is great. It brings to mind both Sue Johnson’s withdrawer/withdrawer style of relationship. Would you ever speak to the couple about exactly what you’re seeing here, and about the opportunity missed by maintaining this degree of self- protection?

Ellyn
Ellyn
9 years ago

Jean-Definitely yes. In fact how you speak directly, clearly and non-judgmentally about what you see is exactly the art of excellent couples therapy.

Lorraine Krane
Lorraine Krane
9 years ago

Very good and clear presentation, thank you. As a point of clarification, I think it was Meryl Streep not Diane Keaton in Kramer vs. Kramer:)

Michelle Wangler Joy, MFT
Admin

Nicely organized, and a topic that needs this kind of attention. I look forward to following this informative discussion.

Elaine Davis
Elaine Davis
9 years ago

I really enjoyed this method of teaching and look forward to learning how to be a better confront hypocrisy. Ditto on the Rush Limbaugh comment. Distracting, Unnecessary and not helpful.

Charles Allen
Charles Allen
9 years ago

I take strong issue with your choice to single out Rush Limbaugh. You could just as easily used a comentator from the “other side” such as Alan Colmes. Prejudicial at the very least. Otherwise – really good and helpful information. Thanks.

Janae
Janae
9 years ago

I thought this presentation was excellent! This problem is very common in couples so I really appreciate the way you are breaking it down into more understandable and manageable parts. Particularly emphasizing the regressive stance the hypocrite takes as a way to not take accountability. I also found the examples very helpful too. As to the Rush comment, I thought it was a great example of someone who is a narrow thinker….
I am looking forward to learning more!

Janae
Janae
9 years ago

I have one more thought, the difficulty i have is managing the hypocrite without being judgmental or perceived as being too confrontive. There are other times i won’t confront enough. It often seems a fine line. Perhaps when I am feeling the most pressure not to confront is when the hypocrite is exerting more influence to block it? As if they are tryng to block the therapist the same way they block the spouse?

Ellyn
Ellyn
9 years ago

Well I certainly hit a nerve with some of you on the Rush Limbaugh comment. I welcome the confrontation, because I learn from it. I selected Rush not because he is right or wrong but because he is a well-known example of someone who thinks from one perspective.

Lori
Lori
9 years ago

Thank you for this concise, clear video that points out the complex issue of hypocricy when working with couples. I appreciate your examples that highlight how couples get stuck, it helps me to understand where some of my couples get stuck. I will definitely be following and contributing to future discussions on this topic.

Vivian Baruch
Vivian Baruch
9 years ago

Hi Ellyn, thanks for the breakdown of the four main developmental issues couples face. I can never get enough perspectives on this important theme. I also appreciate your deepening of how we can work with hypocrites, especially having just had a couple where he was so entitled, yet his self-perception was that he was overly conceding, similar to the example you gave. Sheeeesh! It’s a fine line about how to challenge this. One teacher recommends having at least 3 concrete examples to back up our case, and, as you said, for us therapists to do it from a grounded-enough stance. It’s a challenge for me to tease out what’s my own reactivity or really useful clues I’m picking up about their hypocrisy.

Robert
Robert
9 years ago

Hi Ellyn –

Love your deep thinking about this underserved topic! I’ll be interested to hear how you approach these potentially difficult confrontations, and especially how to evaluate and deal with hypocrisies (double standards, etc.) that one partner brings up about the other.

Thanks and can’t wait for more!

Robin
Robin
9 years ago

Thank you for this very informative video! I loved how it was broken down and explained. I DO find hypocracy quite often in working with couples. I’m looking forward to future material on this topic. Great stuff!

L. D, Pratt
L. D, Pratt
9 years ago

Thank you for this. The frame is very helpful. I deal with couples and anger issues. I help them understand that when they are expressing too much anger, they actually cannot be heard. But viewing it as hypocritical is a great reframe.

I appreciated the Limbaugh tie-in Often the hypocritical binder is loud, stubborn, demeaning, and unable to see that. He/she projects that stance onto others–demanding behavior they cannot achieve themselves.

Michelle Wangler Joy, MFT
Admin

Here is what another reader said:
This blog is a timely one for me as I track interventions with a couple who are almost gridlocked in a power struggle over accomodation to the husband’s childhood deprivation and possible neurological handicaps. The husband justifies his critical demands and his refusal to express appreciation for his wife’s efforts by arguing that he is too incapacitiated by autism spectrum deficits, while his wife, who has been very lonely in the marriage but also compassionate and accomodating, is now tuning out some of his demands in order to maintain her own sense of autonomy. She is willing to follow through on a behavioral contract to do a daily task that is important to him, in exchange for him giving her the emotional acknowledgement that she longs for, a simple compliment on anything he chooses. His defense–this behavior is not part of his nature, not who he is, and his compliment would be meaningless.
He argues that what she asks for and what he asks for from her are two very different things, and he doesn’t get the logic that they are both behaviors that require some conscious effort, but are nonetheless do-able.
I am acknowledging his experience of loss and discomfort with his diffrerences, which he masks with learned social behaviors for successful functioning at work. I also support the ways in which they might expand their sense of connection in the marriage: I notice outloud the ways in which he and his wife share core values about childrearing and gender equality. And I highlight the brief moments when he expresses appreciation for his wife’s efforts to please him after I challenge his minimizing and discounting.
I have been frustrated by his rigid insistence on regression, while also recognizing that it stems from painful differences, isolation, feelings of helplessness and shame. Does it make sense to confront him more directly?

Jenny A
Jenny A
9 years ago

Thank you Ellyn – I am currently seeing a young couple who have recently migrated to Sydney from the Middle East. The wife presented with severe panic attacks and agoraphobia, and also some specific phobias. The husband is very caring but had become frustrated and irritable as her behaviour becomes very regressed and demanding, and fits your description of hypocrisy. She demands that he stop his activities (which are just work-related – nothing outside of the r’ship) and soothe her. He feels smothered and furious, but is “not allowed” to show this. “You must NEVER raise your voice to me!”
Fortunately, they are both committed to making change. I have been amazed that the wife seems to listen to my (gentle) confrontations and reports back efforts to “be more kind” to him. We are doing both couple sessions and individual sessions with each. He is working on his expectations of quick change in her, and increasing his capacity to tolerate the frustration of the regressed episodes. She is working on anxiety management and starting to explore her rigid attitudes. We are also starting to acknowledge the symbiotic patterns. She is still very enmeshed with her mother back home, and he is too frightened to confront her. So far the work feels very promising – it will be very interesting to see how it unfolds as deeper issues emerge.

Alan
Alan
9 years ago

As usual, I have listened to the video later than most. Still, I found the hypocrisy issue to be both thought provoking and helpful. I have been thinking about these concepts in regards to a couple with whom I am working in which both have utilized justifications for their regressive behaviors, just as Ellyn has described. The husband has justified his withdrawal from his wife and has recently justified his inviting another woman (with whom he apparently came close to but did not consummate an affair with) into his life that he rationalizes as being due to his wife’s angry tirades and neglect. He made few efforts to understand his wife’s emotions or the legitimate issues underlying her anger and withdrawal. The wife has justified her angry tirades and withdrawal due to her husband’s withdrawal from her and has felt helpless in dealing with his significant depression. They have both lived in a very deadened and despairing relationship for many years until things hit ‘rock bottom’ and they came to therapy. I have noticed a shift in myself, based on my participation in the couple’s training, where my interactions have changed dramatically. I am not so much pursuing what I used to regard as ‘depth.’ In its place, I am much more actively giving support to each member of the couple for assuming responsibility for their own behaviors with one another rather than relying on their past denial and blaming. I was just recently surprised to hear that the couple rededicated themselves during a recent wedding anniversary to staying in and improving their marriage. I do believe that I can use the concepts regarding hypocrisy to further aid them in their growth.

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