Ellyn Bader

This spring I presented keynotes and workshops at The Couples Conference in Oakland and at a UCLA conference called Relationships and the Health-Promoting Power of Connection Across the Lifespan. Both events featured faculty that trained, enlightened and entertained participants.

I’m still reviewing in my mind some of the great things I heard there. And I thought I’d share a few quotable moments. It’s impossible to paint a complete picture using just snippets, but I think you’ll agree that these are some memorable ideas and turns of phrase. I hope you enjoy them – and remember them when they might be helpful!

Helen Fisher

Men are two and a half times more likely to kill themselves after a relationship ends.

Don’t make any major live decisions while madly in love. Let this wear off because people don’t make good decisions when madly in love. Love is indeed blind.

Esther Perel

Esther says, “Before I meet your problems, I’d like to meet the person.” And then she asks some good questions:

  • What makes it difficult to live with you?
  • What is a vulnerability your partner grapples with?
Terry Real

Masculinity is at war with itself.

Patriarchy damages both sexes.

Developmentally, men have only been allowed lust and anger.

Men fear subjugation not intimacy.

Stan Tatkin

Check with yourself. Does your approach fit the capacity of the brain in front of you?

Sometimes we interpret deficits as defenses. Defenses protect the self while a deficit has no purpose.

The autonomic nervous system is very fast. We make things up and our memories can’t be trusted. It is not about facts. It is about getting to repair.

Ed Tronick

Interactions are messy and filled with mismatches. It is repairing the messiness that leads to growth and change.

When a child or infant can’t repair, they get stuck in:

  • I can’t cope.
  • I am helpless and hopeless.
  • I am not whole.

When repair happens, they recognize:

  • I can connect.
  • You can be trusted.
  • The world is safe to explore.
  • Something wrong can move to something right

And here a few lines from my presentations….

Ellyn Bader

Tremendous growth happens when couples learn to swim in anxious soup together. This means learning to tolerate anxiety for growth, rather than moving to control and manage one another or collapsing and complying in order not to threaten each other.

Sustained change often happens faster in couples therapy than it does in individual therapy.

Couples Therapy is a true specialty. Marriages and primary attachments are so precious.

It is too easy to do damage to a bond that is stressed or disillusioned. It is not a therapy

to be undertaken lightly by a therapist who only sees individuals or 1-2 couples a week.


Ellyn Bader, Ph.D., 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."

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Forward to a Colleague
  1. Thank you, Ellyn! Here is another favorite from your amazing husband, Dr. Peter Pearson, at the Couples Conference, “Never be the most motivated person in the room.”

  2. Thank you! I’m glad you find these helpful-and Marty especially that you take your learning and competency seriously.

  3. Dear Ellen: thank you so much for these comments and all of the topics and ideas you share so freely. I’m one of those therapists who only sees one or two couples a week. I do not take this lightly and learned a lot in the year I was part of your on line group class…and thank you for continuing your solid and helpful work. I look forward to your newsletter and go back to the materials from the class often.

  4. Thanks, Ellyn, for these quotes…and for so many other memorable gems you’ve offered us over the year. I’m so grateful!

  5. Thank you , Ellen . Your generosity and depth of caring for healing Couples is beautifully illustrated by sharing these important nuggets from our gifted therapists .

  6. Thank you Ellyn for always being there for us and sharing your knowledge and experience in the world of connection and relationships.

  7. Appreciate all your wisdom and sharing.
    I’m a retired psychologist.
    Does anyone remember Marty Kirchenbaum?
    I took family therapy classes with him at his home.

  8. Thanks Ellyn for sharing these quotes. I recently completed Relational Life Therapy Level with Terry Real and it has changed my approach to working with couples. I am looking forward to learning more about the Developmental Model this coming year.

  9. Thank you Ellen. I love your model so much. I also trained with Terry Real for years and a little with Stan. I am growing along with my clients as this work deepens. I honor it so much and feel blessed to be on this journey towards health and healing. ginger edwards

  10. Thank you Ellen. Wise words to live and practice. And one needs to see more than 2 couples a week! They are good teachers of those wise words.
    Many blessings to you.

  11. Pearls of great worth. Such wisdom and generosity. Thank you, Ellyn. The training I received years ago guides my work every session. My ratio of couples to individuals has steadily increased yet I also find success working within the Developmental Model with individuals whose partner won’t come for therapy.

  12. Thank you very much, Ellyn, for letting us be part of
    your experience and for sharing this with us!!!

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