Contemporary Psychoanalysis in Action

A roundup of psychoanalytic points of view

Why Do I Always End Up in “Bad” Relationships?

An irrelationship is a relationship used to hide from a…relationship! Read More

The last sentence of this

The last sentence of this entry, "...they can begin to aspire, together, toward that goal," needs many more entries to expand upon, because though the problem has been well defined, the cure has not.


GREAT to hear from you, and thanks!

Appropos of the concern you raised, i.e., we need more entries specifying the cure:

We're currently producing a blog to be located on "Psychology Today's" website, which will be designed as an interactive forum for sharing experiences such as we've described and providing guidance for participants to find a way out.

The tentative title of the blog is:


Thanks again for hitting us up and for your feedback. Look for the blog after Labor Day!

Best wishes...

Irrelationship- Hiding in

Irrelationship- Hiding in Plain Sight

For me, what I find compelling in the piece is that it redirects the reader back to defining the problem before trying to solve it. It made me think that, when a relationship sours, most of us may be looking in the wrong place for answers. And maybe the very thing that drove us into the relationship is the thing that is driving us out of it. Exploring the motivation of why we picked a certain partner to love is a very intriguing challenge and an interesting redirect for me.

After reading the piece, a quote I once read came to mind. To paraphrase, Einstein once said if he had an hour to solve a problem, he'd spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and 5 minutes thinking about the solution. Articulating the problem is a big idea that comes across in the article. We then begin to formulate new questions: "Is what we most dislike in our relationship the very thing that moved us into it? Is the thing that prevents intimacy, the motivating force in choosing our partner? Why do we chose who we chose when we 'fall' in love?"

The piece challenges the idea that loving a person is the guaranteed portal into an intimate relationship. If loving leads naturally to intimacy and fulfillment, why is it so hard to maintain that loving relationship on the truest level?

Maybe the most important question teased out of the reader (me) is: "Is the initial need to self-protect stronger than the need to form a deep meaningful connection with another human?"

Irrelationship provides emotional proximity so we don't feel totally alone in the world. But it inevitably fails because we're not really in it. (Got to be in it to win it)

Tackling This Problem of Relationship in Crisis.

What I'm hearing in this piece is a call to change orientation from adversarial to collaborative between partners. This then changes the whole vocabulary we use in the conversation. We don't need guilty/innocent, victim/victimizer, good/bad. We drop the threat of damaging each other more and are working with the person we care about to build something far more satisfying together.

excellent points

Dear Anon,

Thanks so much for your thoughtful and thought-provoking post. It really helps me think further into this problem. The issue of if, when and how different forces within a person tip over toward a major shift is a key consideration. As well as what are the contextual factors which make this kind of tectonic shift more probable (a major reason for the Irrelationship project, for us).

For example, you wrote: Maybe the most important question teased out of the reader (me) is: "Is the initial need to self-protect stronger than the need to form a deep meaningful connection with another human?"

Well, as usual I like to take a look at the question and what is implicit. What kind of self-protection? When does one kind of self-protection win out over another? If forming and living within deep and meaningful relationships is also on some level about self-protection, for example?

You call attention to that crucial aspect of understanding what we are dealing with before dealing with it, something hard to remember in a quick-fix mindset. Slowing down and examining the issues before leaping into the breach.

I hadn't quite looked at it that way, so I feel very appreciative of this point... and always like an Einstein reference. I'm now also reminded of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, and the author's approach to problem-solving, and the essential issue of the limits of self-perception raised in that book.

Perhaps we are talking about a new mindset - the "slow-fix" mindset? Yet it is the subtle interplay between fast-medium-and-slow paced processes which are hardest to grasp, between two people let alone several.

Kind regards,
Grant Brenner

Your open, reflective response

Your insight into the importance changing how we frame the nature of an intimate relationship is very exciting.

The language you candidly used, i.e., guilty/innocent, victim/victimizer, good/bad, reveal, perhaps, the popularity of buying into adversarial relationship models. How did this happen? An obvious answer may be that those polarities are how we viewed (maybe correctly, but maybe not) the relationship of our parents or other couple(s) who were significant to us in our formative years. So we grew up assuming that our relationship/marriage will be - or ought to be - modeled along such lines. The damage this does may, perhaps, be inferred by watching couples' interactions in supermarkets or restaurants or from how they speak to their children.

The other point, which Dr Brenner raised to respond to your wonderful posting, is the question of time it takes truly to understand the nature of a problem--or, as I like to express it, to understand what things are. In my experience it can sometimes take years - even decades - to come to an understanding of life-events that enables the individual to move on. Giving ourselves time is one of the kindest things we can do for ourselves.

You have to sort through a

You have to sort through a lot of dross and misdirecting pop psychology trends on Psychology Today, but occasionally you come across a little gem.

This is a little gem and I look forward to hearing more about "irrelationships".

Our blog

Simon, you may enjoy reading and joining the discussion at our newly-launched blog. Pay us a visit and let us know what you think.

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Contemporary Psychoanalysis in Action, edited by Susan Kolod, Ph.D., and Melissa Ritter, Ph.D, is under the auspices of Contemporary Psychoanalysis, the journal of the William Alanson White Institute.


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