‘Patterns’ of marital problem

What I have summarised so far relates to the issues that needed to be understood about the way in which the problem was presented and described by the client. I was tempted to try and provide more detailed accounts of these patterns but what I am trying to do in this account is to invite the reader to open the imagination to the multitude of personalised ways in which people will come for help and describe their problem. The patterns can be discerned but they are individually different and a different imaginative listener may find other patterns that have not occurred to me. What is much more useful to the person in distress is a listener who is looking to learn with them and not to subject them to pre-conceived ideas into which they have to fit themselves.

The patterns can be found in the way in which problems are presented but also in the nature of the relationships with which the client was struggling. In trying to understand therefore, I would be interested in how the problem was presented and described, but also in the patterns within the relationships that the client formed, and especially in the relationship with which the client was having trouble. I recall Janet Mattinson talking about these patterns. She referred to them in archetypal terms such as the ’Babes in the Wood’ (characterised by the couples that clung together in an external world that they experienced as hostile or dangerous) or the ‘Tweedledum and Tweedledee’ relationship (characterised by persistent conflict but an inability to separate). These formulations are helpful if they lead us to look for the different ways in which people in couple relationships relate to each other and the world around them, but not if they lead us to force fit the experience of people into one of a list of ‘types’.

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