Mark B. Borg, Jr, Ph.D., Grant H. Brenner, MD, & Daniel Berry, RN, MHA



Comprehensive Irrelationship Case Study

The complete case study of irrelationship's patient zero couple

Posted Nov 25, 2014

Let the Show Begin

“At the end of our marriage, all I ever thought about was how much I had always done for Vicky. It didn’t occur to me—had never occurred to me—that she was doing anything for me, or even could do anything for me.”

People love for all kinds of reasons and some of those reasons work better than others. Everybody has ideas—conscious and unconscious—about what love and loving are; but where do those ideas come from, and what role—conscious and unconscious—do they play in looking for and choosing a partner?

If we ask ourselves what we’re looking for, we probably answer that we want passion, empathy, security and, perhaps, novelty. It sounds sensible and mature and might even be true.

But over time and under our radar many of us have internalized concepts about love learned in early childhood that actually work against finding and cultivating satisfying relationships. Like termites infesting a beautiful old home, these ideas infiltrate our ways of loving so thoroughly that without our realizing it, they undermine our ability to embrace true intimacy. This results in relationships that repeatedly leave us unaccountably frustrated and strangely alienated even from those we believe—or believed—ourselves closest to. Time after time, despite our conscious determination that “this time it’s going to be different,” we end up, once again drawn to the wrong things for the wrong reasons.

Glen’s description of the first time he met Vicky when they were in grad school is pretty dramatic:

“I felt as if something had knocked me on my head and dragged me off into a fantasy kind of love that I had stopped believing was possible. It just felt ‘so right.’”

The images and ideas from the popular culture about what love looks like—or is supposed to look like—set Glen up to think that he had found the perfect mate, the person with whom his life would be “complete.” The effect was so profound that he often asked himself what it was about Vikki that felt so familiar and why it was “so easy to be with her.” Though he spent a lot of time examining his feelings, it never occurred to him that his response to Vicky was programmed into him when he was a small child—that it was his own history and head that were kicking him in the head!

The anxiety-provoking relationship Glen had with his mother as a small child taught him to mistrust intimacy. His response even in those very early years was to begin to form the habit of protecting himself from the vulnerability that is a natural part of genuine caring relationships. Irrelationships are the perfect mechanism for simulating a relationship with another person, while, in fact, keeping at bay the unpredictability of spontaneity, the give-and-take that is necessarily part of attachment to another autonomous person. In some ways an irrelationship looks like a real connection between two people; but in fact it’s more like two one-way streets with no turn-offs, and strict rules that severely limit where one can go. These restrictions eliminate the risk attached to feelings and crises that have to be worked through and negotiated in genuinely intimate relationships.

*            *            *            *            *            *            *            *            *            *            *

Psychoanalyst Harold Searle famously believed that a child’s first job in life is to be a therapist for her primary caregiver (usually her mother); that, in fact, the child perceives that her survival depends on how well she fulfills that role. In the irrelationship model, the techniques the child employs to “satisfy” her mother are known as her song-and-dance routine. As implied above, once the routine is established and found to be successful, the child will more forward in life continuing to use the song-and-dance to manage situations she perceives to be crucial at least to her feeling safe, if not to her actual survival.

Parents’ needs and expectations of their children vary, of course. Anxiety or depression in one parent may cause her to want her child to distract her by actively performing for her by joking, clowning or in other ways. Another parent undergoing stress may want to be catered to by a child who denies her own needs and quietly disappears into her own room or other solitary venue.

When two persons with backgrounds of caretaking for their parents meet and are attracted to one another, they immediately begin assessing whether their needs are complimentary.  If the correct unconscious signals—affective, verbal, behavioral—are given and received, they will jointly begin to create a song-and-dance in which each acts out the role—Performer or Audience—that the other is looking for in a partner.  The irrelationship has begun.

Later, Glen was able to look back and assess what had led him into and out of his disappointing relationship with his wife:

“For a brief time we thought we were in love. But at the same time, we were doing everything we could to protect ourselves from the very things we thought we wanted from each other. The reality was that, ultimately, our ongoing denial of our needs and feelings caught up with us when we entered the final crisis of our marriage.”

The Show Must Go On

“I began to notice that something wasn’t right when we went to visit my family at the holidays. In a kind of oblique way I started mentioning that I felt that a distance was developing in our relationship. I didn’t know what it was; I just had this sense that a piece was missing. I first started to feel it in our kisses. I couldn’t figure out what was wrong, but somehow, I was getting the feeling that Vicky just ‘wasn’t there.’

“It was jarring—almost alarming. I was invested heavily in the idea that Vicky was ‘the love of my life,’ but I was starting to feel—well, looking back, I realize that there had always been a ‘vagueness’ about her presence, but now she seemed to be disappearing altogether.

“Though I tried not to think about it then, I know now that it was the beginning of the end. At first I thought I was losing trust in Vicky herself. But l came to realize that it wasn’t Vicky: it was the relationship that couldn’t be trusted—in fact, that there was nothing there! Hard to explain, but somehow I realized that neither of us required the other’s actual personal presence in our marriage!”

When Glen and Vicky met in grad school, they were inseparable. Without hesitation, they tumbled into the roles that were “so right” for, in which they could “be themselves” with each other. Vicky came from a highly dysfunctional family that left her with unresolved, sometimes debilitating depression. Glen’s mother and father’s marriage had been shattered by the effects of the Vietnam war, resulting in Glen’s being cast in the role of caregiver for his depressed mother soon after his father left.

These oddly complimentary histories prepped Glen and Vicky for the roles they acted out for one another. In Glen’s case, the role was that of almost ceaselessly performing “routines” designed to make Vicky feel better. But Vicky’s apparently passive role was just as much a performance: her part was to make Glen believe that his “feel better” routines worked, whether they did or not.

Glen’s expectations of romantic relationships had been co-created by Hollywood, by messages he received from family and peers, and by his own fantasies about finding the perfect mate. In Vicky, he believed he’d found the person who fit those expectations. Paradoxically, he unconsciously harbored the feeling that making her feel better would make him better—that having someone to fix would fix him.

Vicky’s mother and father were so absorbed by their own needs that they were not capable of providing anything resembling nurturing care for their children. While still a small child, Vicky learned that, to manage this vacuum and ensure that her and her brother’s basic needs were met, she had to provide validation to her mother and father, becoming, in effect, their caregiver. In this way she succeeded in manipulating their mother and father to provide minimally for their children.

As can easily be seen, Glen’s need to fix his partner fit neatly in Vicky’s routine of validating her caregivers. And at first their “connection” took off stupendously. Glen described their first summer together as a “blaze of passion,” of blind, intense attraction, sexual excitement, and bonding. Their time together was filled with laughter, romance and building dreams of a home together. And since they shared the same profession, they also shared a whirlwind of travel to professional conferences and symposia all over the world. It was a life that many might envy. What could possibly go wrong?

The reality was that nothing had to go wrong. The set-up was doomed from the start.

Though their stories are strikingly dissimilar, Vicky and Glen both undertook roles strikingly similar in purpose: each was highly invested in putting on a performance that would reassure the other, would make the other “feel better.” In both cases, the need to perform grew out of childhood experiences in which inadequate caregiving left them with a deep fear that their caregiver would not—or would not be able—to care for them. For a small child, this experience is primary and disorienting, amounting to a fear that, without intervention, the world itself will become unmanageably chaotic. Since the child herself is the only force she knows of besides her caregiver, she undertakes to address the incipient chaos herself.

Both Glen and Vicky brought forward into adulthood not only their experience of anxiety, but also the adaptations they developed to deflect that anxiety. In both cases, they walled off their fear. Glen did this by contriving performances intended to defuse, first, his mother’s depression, and later, negative emotions in those around him, particularly the women in whom he was romantically interested. Vicky treated her fear by performances designed, first, to deny the impact of her parents’ neglect, and later, to deny the pain and isolation caused by others, including romantic interests, who were oblivious to her real emotional needs.


Glen sought psychoanalysis because he was considering psychoanalytical training as the next step in his career development. He also hoped that the training and the analytical process required of candidates would help him to break through his growing sense that he was stagnating as a clinician as well as “stuck” in his own personal development.

He was aware of a growing resentment toward patients who seemed not to be improving at a pace that suited his professional pride. Some of these were becoming increasingly dependent on him while, at the same time speaking increasingly disparagingly of him as a clinician and as a person. Glen interpreted this as a kind of passive-aggressive punishment for trying to help them get well.

While reflecting on this during own analytical session one day, he recalled similar feelings of resentment toward his wife Vicky a few months into their marriage. Vicky, who had been severely neglected as a child, had been in therapy herself for several years. In time, Glen became able to articulate that, for most of their married life, both of them had felt a profound unease and trepidation about their relationship. Despite this, they were strangely locked into an unspoken commitment to maintain their status quo without ever broaching the subject of how brittle the mood in their marriage felt. 

*            *            *            *            *            *            *            *            *            *            *

In an irrelationship, each partner believes that she or he is doing all the heavy lifting, either by giving, accepting or accommodating.  Sooner than later, this can hardly fail to create smoldering resentment and distress on both sides.  This disconnect is the result of each partner’s continuing as adults to play roles that they took on toward their caregivers when they were small children, specifically, undertaking to meet their caregiver’s emotional needs.

This pattern of caretaking persists into adulthood and is ultimately used as a smokescreen to prevent their encountering and having to address the true needs and desires of romantic partners. Instead, they treat their partners with the behaviors they devised in childhood to use on their caretakers. When two such persons become enmeshed in a would-be romantic involvement, these behaviors allow them to avoid acknowledging each other’s true needs, thus escaping the vulnerability that comes with investment in one another. Thus insulated from one another, intimacy and empathy isn’t even a remote possibility.

Take a moment to reflect on the following irrelationship descriptors, listening for anything that sounds like something you may have observed or experienced:

  • When beginning a new relationship, are you focused on listening for ways you might be needed to help or fix the person you’ve becoming involved with?
  • Do you start new relationships with the hope that a new girlfriend or boyfriend will be able to help you with your needs?
  • Is your idea of being with someone mostly about taking care of a partner or being taken care of by her or him?
  • In your relationships, do you sometimes feel vaguely disconnected from your partner even while you’re “doing things” for her or him?
  • Does “showing that you really care” sometimes make you feel exhausted or unsatisfied—that the caring always goes only one way?

If any of the above descriptors ring true for you, that could indicate that you unconsciously seek out irrelationships, i.e. a relationship that, demands attention and effort, but is safe from the threat of turning into intimacy. 

Becoming aware of this tendency in oneself is no small task because it represents a pattern we learned in early childhood. And it’s a pattern we learned for good reasons: as children we needed to feel safe, but our caregivers didn’t deliver on that need because of their own negative emotional states. So we took the matter in hand and did whatever we thought we had to do to make our caregiver “feel better” so that we could feel better.

When we became adults, however, this strategy actually got in the way of building genuinely caring, reciprocal relationships. In fact, it devolved into a strategy for avoiding intimate connections. And when two people seeking irrelationship come together, its effects are even darker. Motivated by fear of the “costliness” of intimacy, such couples lock themselves into silently agreed upon roles of care-taker and care-receiver—also known as “performer” and “audience”. This arrangement not only keeps the scary parts of intimacy at a safe distance, but disallows spontaneity or any alteration in the roles they’ve agreed to assume with one another. The net result of this carefully structured way of relating is that it prevents development of genuine love, both in its costliness and in its joys.

Now, what does this have to do with Glen and Vicky?

As Glen explored his history of playing the performer for his wife and others in his past, he began to see that their marriage—in fact, their entire history—was based on the irrelationship dynamic with himself in the role of caretaker/performer while Vicky “consumed” his caretaking as his audience. 

Glen had begun is career as a performer when his mother became depressed after Glen’s father left the marriage when Glen was a small child. Glen brought his performer role forward not only in his relationships with girls and women (including Vicky), but also in his professional life. As in all irrelationships, the payoff for Glen was that the arrangement allowed him to maintain a safe, invulnerable distance from the risks that are part of being intimate with another person.

Now, with all this “distance-keeping,” something has to fill the space between the two actors that allow each to think that they’re “involved” with one another. That “something” is called their “song-and-dance routine.” The song-and-dance routine is a set of behaviors—active, passive and interactive—that the couple acts out together to deflect the possibility of genuine sharing of feelings and needs, although in many respects and song-and-dance may look very much like caring behaviors. But the song-and-dance actually sidelines authentic interaction. It also prevents exploration of one another’s personalities and needs, making it easy for each partner to devalue the other by preventing any encounter with positive qualities in each other.

From the time Glen met Vicky, her value for him lay entirely in her response to his “performances." When they met in graduate school she was enamored of his performance routines, which seemed to make her “feel better.” Her passivity in this role-play wasn’t accidental, however: it was the same technique she devised with her mother and father as a child.  Having suffered severe neglect by her parents, Vicky determined that her safety depended on maintaining a distance from them. She did this by becoming an audience whose role was to make her mother and father believe that they were good parents. This created a zone of safety from her mother’s bizarre, narcissistic behavior and her father’s incompetence, thus allowing them to believe that they were such good parents that she needed little attention from them. Bringing this same mechanism into their marriage, the value that Vicky realized from Glen was derived from his believing in his effectiveness as a performer.

When Glen began to realize the aridity of his connection with Vicky, he made the “error” of stepping outside the agreed upon parameters, the song-and-dance routine of their relationship. Realizing that their marriage was in crisis, Glen confided to Vicky how vulnerable he felt, asking her for her presence and support. When he thus broke their “pre-nuptial agreement” by admitting his emotional need for more than Vicky was giving, Vicky lost little time fleeing their marriage.

Performer: Human Anti-Depressant

“I guess I was a human antidepressant for Vicky the same way I was for my mom.”

Glen was reflecting on the falling apart of his parents’ marriage when he was a small child. He described them as “children of the Sixties.” And when they were married, they practically were children: both were eighteen years old when Glen was born.

His mother came from a family of established wealth and community standing, while his father decidedly did not: he was literally a boy from the wrong side of the tracks by whom his mother, thoroughly smitten, became pregnant. Their decision to marry was no less provocative and insulting to her family than was the pregnancy.

Soon after their marriage, Glen’s father enlisted in the Army and was sent to Vietnam to serve as a helicopter pilot. Like many of his peers, he coped with the war with alcohol, heroin and prostitutes. Also like many of his peers, the war left him with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. During the same period, Glen’s mother became deeply depressed, which she unsuccessfully treated with Born-Again Christianity. It was at this point that Glen took up the slack, treating his mother’s depression with what became his song-and-dance routine—a schtick of slapstick, jokes and prankish tricks designed to relieve the tension in the household by making his mother feel “happy.”

When Glen’s father returned from Vietnam, the marriage fell apart quickly. At first his mother fantasized that she would be able to relieve the devastating effects of the shock of war on her young husband. But he left instead. This seeming failure on his mother’s part pushed Glen into redoubled efforts to make her feel better. Perpetually “on,” he maniacally performed for her, regardless of occasion or circumstances. And it often seemed to work.

As he moved through school, Glen took his song-and-dance with him into every situation, becoming known as the class clown. And he was undeniably popular: people seemed to like him and want his company. But he never really felt connected to anyone around him, no matter how much they seemed to enjoy his performances. He had a genius for knowing how to make others “feel better,” but he was equally careful about not letting anyone get too close. In fact, the closer anyone got or tried to get—especially girlfriends—the more easily he would seem to become resentful of them.

Before long, the resentment would be returned in kind. It was most poignant in relationships with his girlfriends, who, after a time, almost always had the same complaint: Glen didn’t really seem to care about them or even to respect them as people.

This recurring theme mystified Glen completely. He would go through many years, relationships, and therapy before he would begin realize that the “feel better” routines he was dispensing to others had the paradoxical effect of devaluing them—of leaving them feeling that he felt they brought nothing of value to offer to their relationship.

The baseline compact underlying Glen’s relationship with Vicky was her willingness to be an audience for Glen’s performances. For Vicky, this meant that Glen had to agree not to deviate from the role of performer (her “anti-depressant”) or the deal was off. While at first this looks deceptively as if Glen the compulsive performer had the greater power of the two, Vicky’s demands on Glen were equally rigorous and inflexible. Their tacit agreement was, in fact, a straitjacket built for two.

The roles both had taken were designed to prevent pain in him- or herself. Numbed against his own discomfort, then, when the terms of the agreement began to wear thin, Glen was unable to recognize even in himself the need for change—still less, to communicate that need in an open way. And so it happened, then, that when Glen found himself in an emotional crisis of his own, not only was he unable to articulate his need for support to his wife: the charter agreement underlying their relationship disallowed his exposing his vulnerability. As noted earlier, when Glen ineffectively tried to share honestly with Vicky about what he was feeling, Vicky promptly cut and ran.

For Glen, this was jarring and disorienting. He was highly invested in his long-standing belief in his personal power to solve others’ problems—in fact, ever since he first used that “power” on his mother. This belief became increasingly heady as he grew older and used his mood-fixing technique on others. Ultimately, however, his “successes” reinforced behaviors that proved to be less-than-desirable in the longer run: intrusively taking care of others, cheering them up or “fixing” their problems, rather than learning to listen for their real needs; not observing appropriate boundaries; and even lashing out when his own desires were not immediately gratified. It need hardly be said that the individual who functions this way doesn’t readily learn from his mistakes.

The song-and-dance routine of the Performer is driven above all by the need to distance himself from his own anxiety and pain. He will often develop into the do-gooder, caretaker, rescuer or hero, but those are roles cultivated from childhood, usually emerging from one (or more) of the following patterns:

  • The Performer attempted to change the caregiver’s mood and behavior toward him.
  • The Performer altered his own behavior to please his caregiver.
  • The Performer avoided contact with his caregiver to prevent confrontation with her poor caregiving skills. (This may include implicit self-blame for the caregiver’s negative emotional state.)
  • The Performer ignores his own needs to prevent confrontation with his anxiety. Again, the caregiver is spared from looking at her caregiving skills. It also allows the child to believe himself a “hero” by not making his needs a “burden” to others.

As a child, the Performer doesn’t understand his transactions with his mother beyond his need to change her emotional state to reduce his own anxiety. But even when acting out the same need as an adult, he’s likely to remain walled off from the reality behind his caretaking and what it’s costing him. He has long since lost touch with the need to feel safe that drives his song-and-dance routine. Instead he clings unconsciously to the notion developed in childhood that, having made mommy feel better, he can keep the world safe and comfortable for himself by making everyone around him feel better.

Audience: Helping the Helper Help

In session Vicky described what it was like when she first met Glen.

“I could believe it: I’d fallen in love at last! And from the way Glen took care of me, I just new he was the right one from the start. He always seemed to know what I wanted and needed even before I did. It was uncanny and made me feel hopeful about the future. He seemed to be right in every way. I knew that with Glen I’d never have to worry about being alone—that he’d never let me down.”

As Vicky reflected further, she described how a point came when the dynamic with Glen began to feel disconcertingly familiar. “As crazy as I was about Glen, still, there was something about being with him that reminded me of being with my family. And that definitely wasn’t good. In my family I always felt that I had to make my mother think she was a good parent—which she wasn’t. I had to make her think that I was ‘okay’ so that she would, well, not think she had to bother about me—so she would leave me alone.”

Life in her family of origin was the beginning of Vicky’s role as an Audience. The contrived role she took up toward her mother taught her how to be the perfect audience for Glen’s performance as a caretaker. And it worked: it worked for both of them—for a time. But the unconditional acceptance of Glen’s unremitting performances wore thin after awhile.  In fact, when Vicky was able to be entirely honest about it, Glen’s continually diagnosing and “fixing” her “shortcomings” often seemed to cross the line into his being critical of her.  In the main, however, Vicky was grateful for Glen’s apparent solicitous concern for her welfare, despite the fact that after awhile it became draining and, in a strange way, burdensome.

*            *            *            *            *            *            *            *            *            *            *

Vicky’s back-story could scarcely be more different from Glen’s.  She came from a small town in the Southwest where her mother had married a boy who was the captain of the high school football team who also was also something of a cowboy.

Their fantasy romance and marriage soon gave way to the football star’s un-romantic job in sales, while Vicky’s mother went on to own her own business.  They had two children.  Vicky and her brother both learned early on to submit to the role of audience for their mother. While this was, perhaps, relatively harmless at first, it became less savory as Vicky got a little older: her mother got into the habit of unabashedly sharing with Vicky accounts of escapades and out-and-out affairs with other men—adventures that sometimes got her into trouble.  Looking back, Vicky could see that her father was equally inept, both emotionally and as a parent. Vicky, however, took on the role of uncritical audience and pretended nothing was wrong, that her parents provided all that she needed. Chaotic as her family life was, all she really wanted was to be allowed to keep to the periphery. When time from college came, she fled to New York City, where she remained for graduate school and never looked back for a moment.

When she met Glen, Vicky had found a new target for her Audience role, very much as Glen had found in Vicky a satisfying target for his performances.  Also as for Glen, as their irrelationship connection aged, it felt increasingly unreal and began to fray making Vicky feel uneasy. Then she began to become resentful as she increasingly felt that her needs were not really being met; and that the only value she had for Glen was as the object of his caretaking. Added to this was a vague sense of loss: what both of them had invested in with a sense of adventure and excitement at the outset had given way to a flat, unsatisfying routine that held little promise of new discovery and growth. The song-and-dance routine had hit a wall. 

The deepest rub, however, was that both Vicky and Glen had invested so much in the irrelationship as a means of buying off anxiety that neither dared to expose vulnerability or dissatisfaction by voicing what she or he was feeling. In the case of Vicky, the card she always had up her sleeve was to maintain distance from the emotional state of her Performer, just as she did when she marginalized herself from family life as a child. She played that card again when she left for New York without even a thought of missing her family. Finally, as we've already noted, when Glen confided in Vicky his need for her to support and be there for him, she took off without missing a beat.

The abrupt conclusion of their song-and-dance routine came about when Glen looked for caregiving from Vicky. But Vicky’s acting as Glen’s caretaker was not in their silent irrelationship contract, and was not what Vicky was looking for or prepared to deliver.  When called on to be actively supportive and caregiving to Glen, Vicky again deployed her emergency evacuation procedure and disappeared from their song-and-dance routine. The reality of what their marriage was and was not was incontrovertibly exposed without any ambiguity.


Despite the obvious dissimilarities in their backgrounds, Vicky and Glen shared the trait vital to making and maintaining an irrelationship: both were highly invested in making people around them “feel better,” especially significant others. This may be done by helping, fixing or rescuing the significant other; or by making or allowing the incompetent significant other (for example, a parent) to believe that she or he is competently and effectively meeting their needs.

But why are irrelationships so difficult to identify? And, once identified, why are they so hard to fix? 

The answer is that the pattern that defines and creates irrelationship—the partners’ song-and-dance routine—dates from their earliest childhood years. But it goes deeper: the reduction of anxiety brought about by the song-and-dance routine triggers chemicals in the brain associated with feeling safe and secure. 

As the song-and-dance becomes habitual and even reflexive, the brain gets roped into the mechanism, creating stable patterns of brain activity which are 1) far below conscious awareness, hence hard to change intentionally and 2) locked into place by potent brain physiological processes including "reward neurochemicals" and related "bonding neurochemicals" (e.g. dopamine, oxytocin) and activation of deep "reward areas" in the brain which "hijack" higher brain areas (conscious control areas) in rigid circuits of repetitive brain activity jumping around different brain areas and creating a gravitation-like whirlpool of brain network activity from which it is hard to escape. This double whammy—being deeply etched into the brain's non-conscious processes and being lost in the sands of time—makes shifting irrelationship patterns a tall order. But, perseverance and long-term pay-off makes it worthwhile.

Since this way of adapting to and treating anxiety gets its start in early childhood, identifying and uprooting it is a serious challenge. Glen and Vicky are both psychology professionals, so convincing them that they were not in touch with their feelings was a hard sell. Since their “needs” fit together so well, particularly the need to feels safe in an unpredictable world, Glen and Vicky weren’t looking for a way out of irrelationship: irrelationship was what brought and held them together.

Part of their deceptive set-up for this was that, early in their acquaintance, Glen and Vicky had told one another their backstories in detail, convincing themselves in the process that they were becoming “intimate.” In actuality, however, as Vicky and Glen shared their histories with each other, they were providing the signals each needed to recognize that this person was “perfect for me.” In this case, however, “perfect” meant this was someone who probably could and would be a good partner in my song-and-dance routine.

Commitment to the routines is also a commitment to what is called, “brainlock,” i.e., a condition in which both parties become so entrenched in the dysfunctional pattern of irrelationship that any challenge to it, either from outside or from within, is treated as an intolerable threat. The "lock" in brainlock refers to the underlying physiological processes, which "lock" the psychology to the hard reality of how the brain is "wired" (to over-simplify it). The flip-side of this is that the parties to an irrelationship may have no inkling that anything is “wrong” until it starts “not working.” However, irrelationships often “work” for periods of years, so convincing its parties that something is fundamentally wrong with their relationship—even that intimacy is altogether missing—isn’t easy.  

Vicky and Glen began to feel a vague unease about their relationship even before they were married. But this deeply hidden discomfort was so readily sublimated that it remained unspoken and unaddressed until the relational (or irrelational) crisis, in which Glen sought Vicky’s support as he entered a crucial personal and professional crisis. Until then, both Glen and Vicky had succeeded in intercepting and repressing any awareness of how far apart from one another they had actually been living. Unable to discover any reason or desire to renegotiate their commitment to their marriage, they agreed to end it.

*image purchased from

Visit our website

Follow us on twitter: @irrelation

Like us on

Read our Psychology Today blog

Add us to your RSS feed

**The Irrelationship Blog Post ("Our Blog Post") is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice. We will not be liable for any loss or damage caused by your reliance on information obtained through Our Blog Post. Please seek the advice of professionals, as appropriate, regarding the evaluation of any specific information, opinion, advice or other content. We are not responsible and will not be held liable for third party comments on Our Blog Post.  Any user comment on Our Blog Post that in our sole discretion restricts or inhibits any other user from using or enjoying Our Blog Post is prohibited and may be reported to Sussex Publisher/Psychology Today.