Happy marriage or couple relationships

Updated on 27th October 2018: 

Hello and welcome to this page of information about our new book about couple relationships, which has recently had its title revised, as follows:

Top secrets for

Building a Successful Relationship: 

Volume 1 – A blueprint and toolbox for couples and counsellors: C101

By Dr Jim Byrne

With Renata Taylor-Byrne BSc (Hons) Psychol

A2, New Cover, full, Couples book, Oct 2018


The main text of this book is now complete, but there is still a huge task involved in editing and refining the text. (As at today’s date, I’ve polished and edited 334 pages out of 458!)

So I am now (still, as at 27th October) doing the final edit and polish; and I’ve decided that the contents pages are sufficiently detailed to make an index, at the back of the book, unnecessary.

And Charles Saul has produced the wonderful cover, above


On this page you will find information about our new book on couple relationships.  We have posted the full Preface; plus the full set of (revised) Contents pages; plus an extract from each of the main chapters (1-13).

Pre-publication review

“I have recently finished reading Dr Jim Byrne’s immensely useful book (about love and relationship skills).  This book is full of cutting edge thinking and priceless wisdom about couple relationships; which inspires us to believe that we can undoubtedly shape and improve our most important relationships.  The approach is comprehensive (despite being Volume 1 of 3), covering as it does: the nature of love and relationships; common myths about love and relationships (which tend to lead young people astray); some illuminating case studies of couple relationships that have gone wrong; and very helpful chapters on communication skills, conflict styles, and assertive approaches to relationship; plus a very interesting introduction to the theory that our marriage partnership is shaped, for better or worse, in our family of origin. I particularly liked the chapters on how to manage boundaries in relationships; and how to change your relationship habits. I can highly recommend this ‘must read’ book to couples and counsellors alike”.

Dr Nazir Hussain

Positive Psychology and Integrative Counselling Services, Whitby, Ontario, Canada.

September 2018


Here’s a sneak preview of part of the contents of Chapter 1:

Extract from black Contents page 1

This book has been designed to be helpful to two main audiences:

1. Anybody who is curious about how to build and maintain a happy, successful couple relationship, like a marriage or civil partnership (civil agreement), or simple cohabitation; and:

2. Any professional who works with individuals and couples who show up with problems of marital or couple conflict, breakdowns of communication, or unhappiness with the couple bond.

Coming soon: to an Amazon outlet near you!  Watch this space!


We have included here the updated Preface (as at 16th August); the full  Contents pages for all thirteen chapters; and brief extracts (of about two to two-and-a-half pages) from each of the thirteen chapters.


Copyright (c) Jim Byrne, October 2018


First, here is the complete Preface:


By Jim Byrne, DCoun

What is this book about?

A, New Cover, Couples book, Oct 2018

This book is an introductory guide to the subject of how to have a happy marriage, pair bond, civil partnership, or sex-love relationship – which means a happy and successful couple relationship – and it is designed to be helpful for committed, long-term couples, and for counsellors and therapists (who want to learn from the author’s experience in this field).

It deals with a broad range of knowledge and skills, spread across three volumes, and is based on the author’s thirty-four years of study of couple relationships; and his twenty years’ experience of helping couples to improve, revive, restore (or dissolve) their relationships with their long-term, committed, sex-love partners.  This first volume is an essential foundation for what comes later.

The fundamental need for this book

Why is this book so important?  What makes it different from other forms of marriage guidance and relationship advice which are available today?

As far as I can tell, most modern resources for couples – including books, articles and blogs – are designed to inform the reader of certain facts about love and relationship, without teaching how to change habitual ways of being.  Some may want to help couples to change their habits, but they do not go far enough in this direction.  They do not provide tools for habit change.

But this book, in addition to informing the reader, also sets out to help individuals to change themselves, at deep, non-conscious, emotional levels, so that they become better lovers, and more successful relationship partners.

Loving-couple3There is research to support the idea that people choose their love partners non-consciously[i], on the basis of habit.  (Teachworth, 1999).  And, also that we tend to have conscious goals for the type of mate we would like, but that we then choose our mate on the basis of a non-conscious goal about which we know nothing. (Gladwell, 2006; and Lewis, Amini and Lannon, 2001).  Therefore, it is clearly pointless producing a list of ‘rules of love’ (Templar, 2016) and encouraging people to read them, if we do not at the same time show them how to get those rules into their non-conscious brain-mind, from where they can inform their non-conscious goals for partner selection. And that is why we have structured this book so that the reader can reprogram themselves; change their non-conscious goals; change their ‘radar device’ for finding a partner. This ‘radar device’ is their inner model of an ideal couple (called, by us, ‘The Inner Couple’. [Teachworth, 1999]).

Anybody who studies this book, in the ways we recommend, will find that:

– their relationship behaviours change for the better (because their non-conscious goals have changed!);

– their emotional intelligence will increase; and

– they will find themselves either choosing a better partner, or working successfully with their current partner to produce an amazingly satisfying relationship together.

See Appendix K for guidance on how to study this book in order to produce behaviour change and improved emotional intelligence.  In addition, we have also included Appendix M, on general habit-change processes; and Chapter 11 on how to change your ‘Inner Couple’ guidance system from dysfunctional to emotionally healthy!

Why relationships fail

Gay-female-coupleAccording to a recent study by Shackleton, Barlow and colleagues (2018), at the University of Exeter, UK, there are four common reasons for relationships to break down:

“The first two (are) incompatibility and unrealistic expectations…”.

But why would anybody choose an incompatible partner? The viewpoint expressed in our book is that we choose incompatible partners because our parents were actually incompatible, and we simply copy what we experienced of their relationship – outside of our conscious awareness.  And our expectations of relationships also come primarily from what we saw our parents do, compounded by (i) poor models we have seen in films; and (ii) the lyrics of love songs we have heard, often subliminally hypnotizing us into unhelpful beliefs about love.

It is the contention of this book that we will go on choosing incompatible partners until such time as we work at reforming our model of relationships – otherwise called our ‘Inner Couple’; and we teach how to do that in Chapter 11.

Shackleton et al., (2018) continue:

“The second two” (reasons for relationship breakdowns, were) “…failure to deal with issues, and failure to nurture the relationship…”

DrJimCounselling002Again, these patterns of poor relating are most likely copied from the couples’ parents.  Indeed, the authors of the University of Exeter research report know this to be true, since they write: “…Couples in thriving relationships in both samples had realistic expectations of marriage and relationships, shaped by examples they had seen through the marriages of their parents or other family members”.  (Shackleton et al., 2018).

As mentioned already, we address the question of how to change those early parental influences in Chapter 11, below.

Human nature and love

Love is central to what it means to be human – and the other side of the coin is, of course, hatred!  We often seem to have a greater capacity to access our feelings of anger and hate than our feelings of love and affection.  But it is precisely by getting in touch with our feelings of love, and spending our life loving a significant other person, that we experience a sweet, warm ‘feeling of completeness’ in our hearts.

To do that well – to get in touch with our feelings of love in a helpful way – we have to understand the nature of love and relationship, at least as well as we understand how to do our work; how to drive; or how to practice our hobbies or recreational activities.  And this requires effort and practice; training and learning.  It has to become habitual, and that means driven from non-conscious levels of mind.


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According to a well-known Rolling Stones song: “We all need someone to lean on…”  However, if you over-rely upon your partner, and lean on them too much, you will become vulnerable to falling over if they step back.  So you need to have some degree of autonomy from your partner, as well as feeling you can rely upon them when you need their support.

We are essentially social, connected and related beings, and not completely separate individuals.  We attach to our mothers in the first six months of life – securely or insecurely.  Later we separate from mother (if development is normal,), and, in adulthood, we (normally) attach to a sex-love partner; often in marriage or cohabitation.

No man or woman is an island, complete unto themselves, according to the poem by John Donne.  We are interdependent beings.  We rely upon each other, but we must also be capable of acting independently, when that is the emotionally healthy option.  (But not too independently – and especially not avoidantly!)

Love is the glue that holds us all together, and binds us to our nearest and dearest.  And love, paradoxically, is also the energy that fuels our sense of autonomy; our capacity to be ourselves, and to stand on our own two feet.

Love of others in the present moment binds us together, and internalized love, from our childhood socialization, fuels our sense of autonomy and self-regard.

Love can be the source of enormous joy, comfort, fun and satisfaction in life.  But the unsuccessful quest for love can be the greatest source of misery.

First extract from Contents Pages

Preface  xv

Chapter 1: Understanding love and relationship  1

1.1 Introduction  1

1.1.1 Steinbeck on love  2

1.1.2 Some unrealistic love songs  5

1.1.2(a) All of Me, by John Legend  6

1.1.2(b) Bruno Mars’ Marry You  6

1.1.2(c) Thinking Out Loud, Ed Sheeran. 7

1.2 Defining love and relationship  9

1.2.1. What is love?  9

1.2.2 Distinguishing ´loving´ from ´being in love´ 11

1.2.3 Theories of love  12

1.2.3(a) A psychological theory of love  12

1.2.3(b) Love as ´passion, intimacy and commitment´ 14

1.2.3(b)(i) Passion  14

1.2.3(b)(ii) Measuring passionate love  15

1.2.3(b)(iii) Sexual Passion  16

1.2.3(c) Intimacy  18

1.2.3(d) Commitment 21

1.2.3(e) Summing up about love  23

1.2.3(f) Mad, passionate love  23

1.2.3(g) Erich Fromm´s definition of love  24

1.2.3(h) M. Scott Peck´s definition of Love  24

1.2.4 What is a relationship?  25

1.2.4(a) Learning by watching and listening  25

1.2.4(b) Insights into Robert Bolton´s marital relationship  27

1.2.4(c) Werner Erhard´s definition of relationship  30

1.2.4(d)  Developing a revised definition of positive relationships  31

1.2.5 Practical Exercise: 33


Love – like charity – begins at home

The experience of love begins in our mother’s arms, in the earliest days of life; but more especially from the age of six months to three years.  Our experiences of mother-love (and father-love), in this stage of our development, shapes us for life – making us ‘securely attached’ or ‘insecurely attached’ in relationships – though we can change our ‘attachment style’ (to some degree) later in life, through some forms of attachment therapy and/or a curative relationship with a secure partner. (See section 1.2.3(c); section 3.8; and sections 6.10 to 6.12(b) below).

Furthermore, the first ten years of our life is a kind of ‘apprenticeship’ for our own adult life.

We observe our mother and father (or main carers) relating to each other; and we decide which one we like most as a role model for our own adult life.  This one is called our ‘Adult role model’, or ‘model for our adult role in relationships’. (This is a more specific application of the principle, advanced by Claude Steiner [1990], to the effect that, when we are very young, we choose a character to identify with, and create a script based on that characters words and actions).

We then store a memory of the other parent as a template for our future life partner. This one is called our ‘Mate model, or ‘model for our future partner’.

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And then puberty hits us with a hugely disorienting and stressful wave of disturbing and disorganizing hormones!  And we struggle through our teenage years hoping (consciously) to find a stable resting point up ahead, while (non-consciously) following a life script we co-authored with our parents when we were too young to have any sense!

Another way of saying all that is this: We are mesmerized by our parents’ relationship and lifestyle, and this becomes the hypnotic trance that guides our future life! (Wolinsky, 1991).

However, this could suggest ‘mysterious forces’, which has nothing to do with the processes involved.  The two processes that underlie our life and relationship scripts are:

experiences (of relationships) and

stored memories of those experiences.

All of our actions in the present moment are guided by stored experiences from the past; and our relationship actions in the present are guided by stored experiences of relationships in the past – how mother, and father related to us; and how we related to them.


Love and the human brain-mind

To have any hope of reaching mature adulthood, every single human being, male and female alike, has to traverse the vast emotional minefield of adolescence. And, according to Carl Gustav Jung, adolescence lasts from puberty (around the age of twelve or thirteen years) until the age of forty or forty-five years of age!

Many of us seem to feel we have ‘arrived’, fully grown up, at the age of sixteen or eighteen years of age.  But at those ages, we are constantly at the mercy of powerful surges of strong feelings from the emotional centres of our brain-mind, because the ‘reasoning centres’ – based in, or managed from, the frontal lobes of our brain – do not become fully operational until the age of twenty-five or twenty-six years of age.

Chapter 2: Some common myths about relationships 37

2.1 Background  37

2.2 Common myths about relationships  37

Myth No.1: Getting married is the solution to all my personal, emotional and practical problems. 38

Myth No.2: The best relationships involve no conflict whatsoever. 40

Myth No.3: Happiness in my relationships is just a matter of ´the luck of the draw´. 41

Myth No.4: Once my relationship becomes unhappy, I cannot improve it! 42

Myth No.5: If my relationship goes wrong, it must be my partner´s fault! 44

Myth No.6: I have the right to say and do whatever I like, and my partner should just accept me the way I am! 45

Myth No.7: I do not have the right to influence my partner or to ask them to change any aspect of their behaviour. 46

Myth No.8: To be acceptable at all, a relationship has to serve me like a dutiful mother serves her child. 47

Myth No.9: I have to be a perfect partner; to love and serve my partner; and if they become unhappy, then I have failed. So then, I must try harder! 48

Myth No.10: I can drink as much alcohol as I like and it will not interfere with my capacity to communicate effectively with my partner. 50

Myth No.11: I can live a sedentary lifestyle; eat as much junk-food as I like; use strong medications; and it will not interfere with my capacity to have a happy relationship. 51

Myth No.12: I can sleep when I like, and as little as I like, and this will not impair my capacity to have a happy relationship. 54

Myth No.13: I do not have to do anything to keep my marriage alive and vibrant.  It should just take care of itself. 55

Myth No.14: Men and women differ significantly in the area of sexuality; and men do not have sexual problems or concerns  55

2.3 Comments on myths  57

Juvenile passion

This is an important fact, because it tells us something about the unreliability of juvenile love – or ‘puppy love’.

As an illustration of this fact, in 1774, in Germany, a twenty-four year old Johann Wolfgang von Goethe published a novel – (The Sorrows of Young Werther) – which told of the unrequited love of Werther for Charlotte.  It is a story of impossible longing for a young woman who is already engaged to another man.  It is an obsession.  It is characterized – as John Armstrong (2003)[ii] writes – by four forms of intense emotional states: “…longing, rapture, doubt and the sense that one is in touch with the source of all value”.  This story by Goethe formed the cornerstone of a new Romantic movement in Western Europe, which was a form of madness, often ending in the suicide of the lovesick young men who pursued this cult.

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Today, we are all affected by the love songs that permeate our daily cultural experience.  And many of the most influential and most disturbing love songs are written by individuals who were below the age of twenty-five years when they wrote them, and thus in thrall to their uncontrollable passions.

Shakespeare’s story of Romeo and Juliet was also formative of our culture’s attitudes towards Romantic love; and Juliet was just thirteen years of age in that story.  How old was Romeo?

This question is explored by Durbanville (2015) like this:

“The ages of Romeo and Juliet are significant in understanding how they come to such a tragic end because it is their youth and inexperience and their inability to see beyond their immediate circumstances that causes them, Romeo in particular, to act so irrationally. Romeo is so overwhelmed by his circumstances and so immature in his actions that he is apparently just a teenager of perhaps sixteen years old, definitely younger than eighteen because by eighteen a young man of his standing would be expected to be able to lead men into battle and so he would not act so impulsively”.[iii]


Chapter 3: The case of Ken Clark and his family of origin 59

3.1 Preamble 59

3.2 Family of origin 59

3.3 ´Escaping´ from home 60

3.4 ´Escaping´ from the original escape 61

3.5 Moving on again… 62

3.6 The nature of Ken and Loren´s marriage… 63

3.7 The horrible, slow end of the relationship… 64

3.8 The post-split reckoning… 65

3.9 Postscript on Ken´s new relationship pattern 67

Beyond juvenile passion

Much of the popular culture of love, which assails us from love songs and stories of love, is about frustrated or unrequited love, engaged in by immature individuals.  These are not good models for our own love lives. If we want to be happy in love, we have to look beyond these juvenile forms of obsessive and doomed love.  Or as John Armstrong (2003) writes:

“Real love is love that lasts and withstands the difficulties which a prolonged relationship inevitably brings.  The problems of love occur not when passion is rejected or when fate intervenes to cut off a relationship at the earliest stage.  It is ironically when we are loved back, when a relationship develops, that love is put to the test.  It is the long term that we want to understand; we are in search of a mature conception of love”. (Pages 6-7).

And that is what we address in this book: a mature conception of love; and the knowledge and skills – and habits – required to build a real, lasting, committed loving relationship.


Our target audiences

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We have written this book for anybody who wants to understand mature love, and to build a mature sex-love relationship.

But we also intend it to be a resource for those professionals who guide and counsel couples regarding how to resolve the problems they find themselves confronting in relationships which have run into difficulties.  This group includes: couple counsellors; psychologists; psychotherapists; psychiatrists; social workers; priests and vicars; and senior members of extended families, who may sometimes be called upon to advise members of their families.

Both of these target groups of readers need to understand:

(a) principles of happy relationships;

(b) problems of couple conflict;

(c) communication styles, strategies, and breakdowns; and:

(d) the basics of sexual satisfaction and sexual difficulties.

The final two chapters summarize the main learning points for those two key audiences:

– Chapter 12 is for individuals and couples; and:

– Chapter 13 for counselling and therapy professionals.

I hope you find this book very helpful for your purposes.


Jim Byrne, Doctor of Counselling, Hebden Bridge, August 2018


[i] What does it mean, to choose a partner non-consciously? It means that humans are ‘creatures of habit’.  Think about this: How did you decide to get out of bed this morning?  Which muscle did you decide to move first, and how did you tell it to move?  The truth is you took no conscious thought at all.  You got out of bed, and put some clothes on, without any need to take any conscious thought.  You travelled to the bathroom, without the need to consciously decide where you were going, or how to get there.  You are a creature of habit.  And you also choose your sex-love partners in the same way: non-consciously.  And the criteria you use to choose them are non-consciously available, as habit patterns, from your family of original – outside of your conscious awareness!  This is no different from driving (or cycling) to work without taking any conscious thought of where you are going, or which gear you are in, or how to steer the wheels!

[ii] Armstrong, J. (2003) Conditions of Love: The philosophy of intimacy.  London: Penguin Books.

[iii] Durbanville (2015) In Romeo and Juliet, Juliet is 13, but how old is Romeo? eNotes, 30 July 2015. Available online: https://www.enotes.com/homework-help/know-that-juliet-13-half-but-how-old-romeo-51141. Accessed 7 July 2018.


Here is the fourth of the (revised) Contents pages:

Chapter 4: Communication skills for couples 69

4.1 Introduction 69

4.2 What is communication? 69

4.3 Forms of listening 71

4.4 Roadblocks to communication 72

4.5 Active Listening 81

4.6 Listening Time 82

4.6.1 Normal communication_ 82

4.6.2 Formal ´listening time´ 83

4.7 ´Barriers´ and ´boundaries´ in couple relationships 85

4.7.1 Defining barriers to communication_ 85

4.7.2 Defining personal boundaries in relationship_ 89

4.7.2(a) The feeling and attitude components of a boundary_ 91

4.7.2(b) The behavioural and values components of a boundary_ 91

4.7.2(c) The thought and desire components of a boundary_ 92

4.7.2(d) The ability to give and receive love_ 93

4.8 The laws of boundary management 93

4.9 Conclusion 94


Extract from Chapter 1:

Chapter 1: Understanding love and relationship



“For one human being to love another, that is perhaps the most difficult of all our tasks… the work for which all other work is but preparation.”

Rilke (2011)


Only about two percent of couples, who find themselves in an unhappy marriage, will ever consult a marriage guidance counsellor or couple’s therapist: (Agnew, 1996)[i].

And most of them leave it till the eleventh hour before they seek help.

This makes it very difficult for the profession of couple’s therapy to get a fighting chance of succeeding in saving very many marriages.

I have been more fortunate than most couple therapists, in that I get a good ratio of salvageable marriages to ‘lost causes’. And I have had a high rate of success, and lots of feedback from satisfied clients, who managed, with my help, to turn their relationships around – from terminal to thriving.

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I have been helping couples – and individuals within couples – for about twenty years.  Mostly they consult me after their relationship has been declining in happiness and satisfaction for a number of years.  And mostly they have very little idea why their relationship has gone wrong, or what they could possibly do about it.

I have learned how to be a successful couple’s therapist as a result of reading lots of books on love, relationship, communication and sex.  I have also been through a successful course of couple’s therapy with my wife – and I have been through relationships skills courses – to improve my own marriage.  And I have applied my learning – from books and courses and personal experience – to the challenges of helping hundreds of couples to improve their relationships.

Over the years, I have identified eighteen important principles of happy relationships, which I teach to all of my couple’s therapy clients.  And I will present the first six of those principles in this volume.

I have also identified a range of communication skills which you need to master if you want to have a happy couple relationship; and I teach those skills in this book.


[i] “According to the British Social Attitudes Survey, only 2 per cent of couples would approach a marriage guidance counsellor when they first ran into problems.  By the time most of us get around to saving our marriage, it’s too late”. Agnew (1996).


In this chapter, I want to talk about love and relationships, in ways which are not common in our western (or eastern) cultures.

Love (when it’s good) is a wonderful state of being.

Steinbeck on love

This wonderful state of being is expressed well by John Steinbeck, the author of The Grapes of Wrath, in a letter to his son, Thom:

“New York, November 10, 1958

“Dear Thom:

“We had your letter this morning. I will answer it from my point of view …

“First — if you are in love — that’s a good thing — that’s about the best thing that can happen to anyone. Don’t let anyone make it small or light to you.

“Second — There are several kinds of love. One is a selfish, mean, grasping, egotistical thing which uses love for self-importance. This is the ugly and crippling kind. The other is an outpouring of everything good in you — of kindness and consideration and respect — not only the social respect of manners but the greater respect which is recognition of another person as unique and valuable. The first kind can make you sick and small and weak but the second can release in you strength, and courage and goodness and even wisdom you didn’t know you had”. (From Steinbeck and Wallsten, 1989)[i].

So there is the point.  Love can be good, or bad.  When it’s good, it’s truly magnificent, uplifting. A taste of the divine.

But when it’s bad, it’s horrid.  An example would be the existence of domestic violence in your relationship.  Or various forms of mental cruelty.  Or a totally cold hearted ‘bond’.  Or inequality (meaning the relationship is ‘designed’ to benefit one partner more than the other!)

Jim.Nata.Couples.pg.jpg.w300h245 (1)Humans have a capacity to be both good and evil.  (See Appendix F, below, for a description of our tendencies towards acting like a ‘Good Wolf’ or a ‘Bad Wolf’).  We have to work hard to grow our ‘Good Wolf’ side, and to shrink our ‘Bad Wolf’ tendencies.  This book aims to teach you how to love, based on growing your Good Wolf.  But to begin, we have to explore what we mean by love, when we speak of good love!

In modern Britain, as in the USA, there are probably several generations of married individuals who had some kind of basic (technical) sex education in school.  However, that sex education was probably a tiny portion of their learning about sexual relationships; most of which came from:

(1) Conversations with (ill-informed) peers;

(2) Reading misleading books (for men) about male sexual prowess (like the myth of the ‘Big Steel Cock’);

(3) And books (for women) which overly-romanticized the process of engaging in a lifelong sex-love relationship;

(4) And watching soap operas on TV which model totally unrealistic, and mainly undesirable relationships.

Gay-male-coupleBut perhaps the main vehicle for learning about sex-love relationships, in the round, is observing what went on between your parents when you were very young – too young to remember[ii].  For it was at that time that you most likely chose one of your parents to be your role model – or exemplar – for how you would live when you were fully grown up.  And you would have chosen the other parent to be a template, or pattern for the marriage partner you would choose.  And then you would have taken that script into your adult life, below the level of conscious awareness, and acted it out since that time.  We will return to this subject later, in Chapter 11.

For now, to set the scene, let us look at one of the main reinforcers of our couple-script from childhood: the lyrics and emotional tones of popular love songs. Popular music is both positive and negative.

  1. Some of it proves very helpful for young people to process their difficult emotions about love and relationships. (For example, when my first marriage broke down, I found myself often listening to, and revelling in, the lyrics of 10cc’s song, ‘I’m Not in Love!’ The emotional tone of that song put me in touch with my feelings of grief about my ex-wife, and allowed me to process those very difficult emotions).
  2. Some songs put us in touch with our positive emotions of love for our current partner. One of my female friends recently told me that the song that most aptly expressed her love for her partner was Millie Small’s song, from 1964, titled ‘My Boy Lollipop’.
  3. But some pop music teaches unrealistic expectations of love and relationships; and helps people to crank their emotions up too high, into anxious or angry jealousy; or down too low, into a sense of depressed abandonment.

Some unrealistic love songs

Let us take a look at the top three wedding songs, as at 6th December 2017, which we can assume to be widely influential.  The titles and artists’ names (according to ‘Spotify’) were:

…End of extract.


[i] Steinbeck, E. and Wallsten, R. (eds) (1989) Steinbeck: A Life in Letters. London: Penguin Books. (Reproduced in Popova, M. (2018) John Steinbeck on Falling in Love: A 1958 Letter of Advice to His Lovesick Teenage Son.  In the BrainPickings blog: https://www.brainpickings.org/?mc_cid=40c48c0405&mc_eid =204f4a8f33.  Accessed: 28th June 2018.)

[ii] Teachworth, A. (1999) Why we Pick the Mates we do: A step-by-step program to select a better partner or improve the relationship you’re already in. Metairie, Louisiana: The Gestalt Press.


And here is the fifth of the Contents pages:

Chapter 5: Kitty and Billy in search of love 95

5.1 Background 95

5.2 Kitty´s story 95

5.3 Billy´s story 96

5.4 Billy and Kitty get together…and fall apart 97

5.5 Kitty and Billy go to marriage guidance counselling 98


Extract from Chapter 2:

Chapter 2: Some common myths about relationships

2.1 Background

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Only about two or three percent of couples, who find themselves in an unhappy marriage, will ever consult a marriage guidance counsellor or couple’s therapist.

And most of them leave it till the eleventh hour before they seek help.

This makes it very difficult for the profession of couple’s therapy to get a fighting chance of succeeding in saving very many marriages.

I have been more fortunate than most couple therapists, in that I get a good ratio of salvageable marriages to ‘lost causes’. And I have had a high rate of success, and lots of feedback from satisfied clients, who managed, with my help, to turn their relationships around – from terminal to thriving.

I have been helping couples – and individuals within couples – for about twenty years.  Mostly they consult me after their relationship has been declining in happiness and satisfaction for a number of years.  And mostly they have very little idea why their relationship has gone wrong, or what they could possibly do about it.

I have learned how to be a successful couple’s therapist as a result of reading lots of books on love, relationship, communication and sex.  I have also been through a successful course of couple’s therapy, and relationships skills development, to improve my own marriage.  And I have applied my learning – from books and personal experience – to the challenges of helping hundreds of couples to improve their relationships.

Over the years, I have identified eighteen important principles of happy relationships, which I teach to all of my couple’s therapy clients.  And I will present the first six of those principles in this volume.

I have also identified a range of communication skills which you need to master if you want to have a happy couple relationship; and I teach those skills in this book.

And, finally, I have observed the behaviours of many couples, and asked myself this question: “What must this person believe – what must be their attitude – in order to account for their spectacularly unworkable behaviour in relation to their marriage partner?”

What I discovered from asking myself that question is that most people behave as if they are driven – compulsively and persistently – by one or more of the nine myths about relationships which are described in the next section.

2.2 Common myths about relationships

Of course, it is not the case that everybody carries the same myths about relationships.  Some have extremely passive attitudes, encapsulated within a myth; while others have extremely aggressive attitudes.  Some have fairy tale myths, while others have disaster myths.

Where do these myths come from?  They seem to mainly link back to the early childhood experiences of the individual, who often copied them from their parents.  And/or they get instilled into the child and adult person via the mass media; especially films/movies, love stories, novels, women’s magazines, macho male stereotypes, and so on.

We would expect that, an individual from an emotionally healthy and emotionally intelligent family background would have a set of reasonable expectations of romantic relationships. And, conversely, individuals who come from emotionally unhealthy or emotionally unintelligent families will normally be found to have unreasonable and unrealistic expectations of, and myths about, couple relationships.

So let us take a look at the fourteen most common myths about romantic relationships that I have encountered in my work with couples:

Myth No.1: Getting married is the solution to all my personal, emotional and practical problems.

This myth leads to the individual ‘going to sleep’ in their relationship, as if they were a baby in their mother’s arms.  We could call this the Sleeping Baby syndrome.

Why is that a problem?  Because, in order to build a successful relationship, both partners have to be wide awake, and alert to what is happening.

When something begins to feel ‘wrong’, it is important to start asking questions:

‘Are you unhappy about something?’ 

‘Have I done something to upset you?’ 

‘I have a feeling something is bugging you.  Can we talk about it?’  ‘Is there something you are not telling me?’

Those kinds of questions can be thought of as ‘negative enquiry’, and reflect an active, assertive approach to relationships, and a ‘levelling’ or honest approach to direct communication.

Getting married – or entering into a committed couple relationship – is the solution to one problem, and one problem alone. And that is the problem of …

…End of extract.


Here is the sixth of the Contents pages:

Chapter 6: A marriage is not a possession 103

6.1 Prelude 103

6.2 Unhappy couples 104

6.3 Looking at the research 105

6.4 Initial conclusion – Marriage is good for you… 107

6.5 Humans as interpreting machines (or organisms) 108

6.6 Learning to relate more successfully 109

6.7 The mistake of claiming ownership of one´s partner 110

6.8 A marriage is built by two people, and is ephemeral 111

6.8.1 The shape of the house of marriage_ 112

6.8.2 The dynamics of couple relationships 113

6.9 How to build the house of your relationship 114

6.9.1 Showing you care_ 114

6.9.2 Showing that you respect your partner 115

6.9.3 Taking responsibility_ 115

6.9.4 Knowledge: Build up your Love Maps 117

6.9.5 Don´t nag your partner. 117

6.10 Secure and insecure attachments in relationships 118

6.10.1 The avoidant attachment style_ 119

6.10.2 The anxious-ambivalent attachment style_ 120

6.10.3 Secure attachment 120

6.10.4 The need for love_ 121

6.11 Difficult relationship combinations 121

6.12(a) Attachment theory and couples problems 122

6.12(b) Levine and Heller on mismatched styles 123

6.13 Back to principles of couple relationships 124

6.14 How to re-wire your brain for better relationships 125

6.15 Introduction to my eighteen principles 126


Chapter 3: The case of Ken Clark and his family of origin


In this chapter we outline a case study of a man who, because of his family of origin, had a disastrous approach to relationships.  He spent many years in total unhappiness.  But he persisted in trying to find a way forward, and at last he did succeed.

Family of origin

Ken Clark had the great misfortune of being born to a couple who had an arranged marriage.  They had not loved each other.  They had not been friends.  They were brought together by a ‘match maker’.  They had a marriage of convenience.  His mother wanted a home and a breadwinner, and his father had a small farm.  His father wanted sex, and the comforts of home, and his mother had been a domestic servant and knew how to keep a home.

When Ken was growing up, he was unaware of the nature of his home life.  It was just home life; just the way it was; just the norm.  He did not know that there were families where mother and father liked each other; loved each other; kissed each other; held hands; cuddled; and enjoyed each other’s company.

He did not know that there were families where the parents took a delight in their children’s individuality; their vitality; their sense of fun.

He thought misery and coldness were the norm.

But, at some level, he knew he was unhappy.  He knew he did not enjoy being at home.  So, from his early teens, he arranged to be out of the house all day, and most of the evening, most days of the week.

Then, at the age of eighteen years, he left home, and moved to a city about two hundred miles from his parents’ home town.  He was determined never to go back again.

‘Escaping’ from home

Ken got himself a job, and a place to live.  Then he found places to dance at the weekend, where he hoped to find a girl who would like him.  He had been attending dance halls in his town of origin, since the age of sixteen or seventeen, without much luck with the girls.  He had had a few dates, but they tended to peter out after the first or second date.

Now he was trying again, in a new city.  And again, he had a few, occasional dates, but nothing came of them.  He did not seem to be able to attract a steady date.

He joined the army, and met lots of girls through his work.  But nobody seemed to be keen on him.  He was not a bad looking young man.  He looked a bit shy and he had no small talk.  But he always dressed in a fashionable way, and tried to be friendly.

He did manage to establish a steady dating arrangement with one of his fellow soldiers; a girl about two years younger than himself; and she took him home for Christmas.  But during that holiday, something went wrong, which resulted from his inability to be genuine, honest, consistent in the self-story that he told her.  He did not have a solid sense of self; and he was not self-accepting.  He ‘put on a show’; or had a ‘false self’.

He came out of the army prematurely, because he hit a major social-emotional crisis; a serious rejection by his male peers. He licked his wounds, and moved on to a new town.  There he met a woman six years older than himself, and they established a sexual relationship.  She told him up front that she tended to fall in love with a man, to love him exclusively for about six or eight weeks, and then to fall in love with somebody else.  Ken assured her that this would not happen in his case.  (This is an indication of the power of self-delusion).

About eight weeks after their relationship began, she was, as predicted, unfaithful to him.

This was a strong echo of how her mother had been with his father.  But he did not pause long enough to enquire into the possible connection between those two facts.

But if Werner Erhard had been present, he would have told Ken…

…End of extract.


And now for the seventh Contents page:

Chapter 7: How to act constructively, using loving-and-kind assertiveness 129

7.1 Introduction 129

7.2 Passivity, assertion and aggression 131

7.3 Realistic and reasonable assertion 133

7.3.1. Asking for what you want 133

7.3.2. Saying no to what you do not want 133

7.3.3. Negotiating fairly_ 134

7.3.4. ´Owning your own viewpoint´ 134

7.3.5. Expressing appreciation_ 135

7.3.6. Using conditional appreciation messages 136

7.3.7. The power of operating from the ´I´m OK – You´re OK´ position   136

7.3.8. Use of assertive body language_ 138

7.4 What´s wrong with passivity and aggression 140

7.5 An assertiveness questionnaire 141

7.6 The mark scheme and the definition of assertiveness 142


Chapter 4: Communication skills for couples

Copyright (c) Jim Byrne and Renata Taylor-Byrne, 2018


One of the main things that we (Jim and Renata) agree upon, as a couple, is this: Human communication is very difficult; and most people are not particularly good at doing it.

In the next section we will begin to define communication; and then move on to forms of listening.  After that we will look at some of the things that people say and do that block the communication between one person and their partner.  We will then look at ‘active listening’, as opposed to merely ‘hearing’ your partner’s words.  Then we will introduce a helpful process for facilitating communication between couples, called ‘formal listening time’.

And finally, we will take a look at ‘barriers’ and ‘boundaries’ in couple relationships.

What is communication?

Communication is about ‘creating experiences for others’. If I smile at you and say, “I’d really appreciate it if you could pass the salt”, I am creating an experience for you.  Most people receiving that communication will tend to respond positively: happy to cooperate.  But not everyone will be happy – because this communication – this created experience – does not go directly to the listener’s ‘receiver of information’.  In fact, it has to pass through two barriers.  The first is ambient noise.  And the second is the listener’s own interpretation filters.

(1) Ambient noise.  All communication messages are affected by some degree of noise.  Anything that distracts the listener from hearing the message, or hearing it clearly, or hearing it fully – counts as ‘noise’ or interference. If loud rock music is playing in the background, the person to whom I spoke might not hear the word ‘salt’; or might not realize I am speaking to them; or might be so irritated by the rock music that they cannot pay attention to anything else.  Also, if they are emotionally preoccupied by some negative experience in their own life, then that may block their ability to hear me, or to understand ‘where I am coming from’.

(2) Interpretation. Every attempt to communicate anything to anybody must pass through their ‘interpretation filters’, which are shaped by that person’s social experience, from childhood onwards.  If the person to whom I am addressing my communication shares a common background with me, and we have had a lengthy relationship, there is a very good chance that they will most often understand what I am saying in pretty much the way I intended it to be understood.  However, if we have divergent backgrounds; or the person is under a lot of stress; they are much more likely to misunderstand what I’m trying to communicate.

What kind of experiences should we try to create for our sex-love partners?  Some theorists, especially within Attachment theory and Affect regulation theory would argue that you should try to help your partner to “feel felt”.  That means that you create for them the experience that you have a good idea what they are feeling, and you validate those feelings; often by ‘feeling along with them’, which is one definition of empathy.

Somewhere, Oprah Winfrey has argued that there are three questions your partner has always in mind when evaluating how you are relating to them, and those questions seem to be:

  1. Did you hear me?
  2. Did you see me?
  3. And did my statement(s) mean anything to you?

And I would add these questions:

  1. Do you love me?
  2. Do you care for me?
  3. Do you respect me?
  4. Are you on my side?
  5. And, are you safe to relate to? Can I risk saying what is in my heart? Or will you step on my feelings without knowing the pain you can cause me to feel?

Forms of listening

There is also the problem that listening takes different forms.  The three most obvious forms are these:

  1. Passive listening, or merely hearing, with no real engagement with the content of the speech.
  2. ‘Leading responses’, which occur when the listener insists upon imposing their own agenda upon the speaker’s life. These responses are often referred to as ‘roadblocks to communication’, because they effectively prevent an ongoing stream of communication. But worse than that, they normally result in a breakdown of communication, attended by negative feelings. And:
  3. ‘Active listening’, in which the listener responds to the speaker by ‘reflecting’ back the meaning of what the speaker said, or the emotional content of what the speaker said.

Passive listening is destructive of relationships, because…

…End of extract.


And here is the eighth Contents page:

Chapter 8: Boundary management issues – Including case studies 145

8.1 Introduction 145

8.2 Part 1: The origin of boundaries in childhood 145

8.2.1 The mother-baby relationship is where we all begin_ 146

8.2.2 Separation is the origin of boundaries 146

8.2.3 The ´Inner Couple´, and their model of boundaries 147

8.3 Part 2: Case studies of troubled couples with poor boundaries 148

8.3.1 The Law of Karma (or reaping and sowing) 149

8.3.1(a) Couple 1: Debby and Tom_ 150

8.3.1(b) Couple 2: Una and Nigel 152

8.3.1(c) Couple 3: Tanya and Tara_ 156

8.3.2 The law of responsibility_ 159

8.3.2(a) Couple 4: Sheepish Shawn and Parental Patty_ 160

8.3.2(b) Couple 5: Kenny H and the ´irresistible sex offering´ 163

8.3.2(c) Couple 6: Dotty and Ted, and the predatory Jezebel 168

8.3.3 The law of walking your talk_ 170

8.3.3(a) Couple 7: Simon and Erica_ 170

8.3.3(b) Couple 8: Monica and Louis are both disappointed_ 173

8.3.3(c) Couple 9: Mark and Karen and their undeclared boundaries  176


Here’s an extract from Chapter 5:

Chapter 5: Kitty and Billy in search of love


Human beings have some degree of conscious awareness; and we can consciously access some remembered images of relationships, marriages, couples, from our past; but we do not know what goes on the in the basement of our minds.  We do not know what our ‘script for relationship’ happens to be.  We get that from our family of origin (and/or we construct it in our family of origin), and it goes in subliminally, non-consciously; and it runs our relationships in the present.

We drift through our teens and, most often, into our twenties, until we meet the ‘perfect match’ to play out the script of relationship which we formed in the first few years of our life.  In this new relationship, we either act as if we have ‘modelled’ ourselves upon our parent of the same sex, or the parent of the opposite sex. (Teachworth, 1999/2005). (And when I say we ‘modelled ourselves’ on somebody, I mean we ‘copied their ways of being’, including their ways of relating to their partner: verbally and non-verbally).

And very often, this leads us into a great deal of misery (because many of us – perhaps 40% of us – had parents who were engaged in a miserable, insecure relationship; perhaps volatile, or silently anxious-hostile; or a mixture of the two).

Kitty’s story

Kitty was born into a family that was loveless.  Her parents were dutiful but cold.  She studied hard at school, and got a good job, which introduced her to travel, which got her away from her family.

She drifted for many years, got married at the age of twenty-four years, and then spent the next five years reproducing her parents cold and unfulfilling, loveless marriage.  Eventually she realized that her husband, Russ, (who was a bossy blamer: [See Appendix D}), was having an affair with their next-door neighbour.  She tried to get Russ to put a stop to this, but he said he couldn’t.  Then he told her his ‘mistress’ was pregnant with his child, and he wanted to keep his marriage to Kitty, but to spend half his time with his mistress and his baby.

Kitty, (who was a passive placator: [See Appendix D]), came close to having a nervous breakdown in the months that followed, and eventually the enmeshment with Russ came to a bitter end; and Kitty moved on.  She travelled abroad for a couple of years, and then settled in a new city, far from Russ.

Her position now was that marriage was hell; monogamous sex-love relationships were impossible; and she was determined that she would remain single, forever.

On the other hand, her body craved the comfort of a close relationship.

Billy’s story

Billy’s early years were delightful.  His mother was warm and loving, and she also loved Billy’s father, Kirk. Kirk was reasonably close to Billy, but he preferred his two daughters, who were older than Billy. Kirk and his daughters had a musical band, and there was no role in the band for Billy.

Billy’s mother and father both preferred girls to boys, and so Billy felt like a slight outsider.  But he found that he could get the attention and affection of his family by being the ‘cute kid’ of the family.  (He was a passive placator: [See Appendix D]).

Billy’s father had served in the Second World War, and he was shot down over Germany, and detained in a prisoner of war camp for almost five years.  This had a negative effect upon him, which somehow impacted his relationship with Billy.  However, Kirk was a bit of a philosopher, and this rubbed off on Billy, who could not only play ‘cute kid’, to keep people on his side; but also he was able to intellectually rationalize his experiences, so that the negative ones didn’t hurt so much. (In this sense, his secondary style of conflict management was as a ‘Computer’: [See Appendix D]).

Billy did well in school, and then joined the Civil Service, where he worked hard, and got promoted.  Then he met a girl and tried to settle down.  But he found that his winning formula, of playing ‘cute kid’, could not placate his partner, Joyce (who was a bossy blamer: [See Appendix D]), who was very critical of the ‘sloppy way’ he dressed, and his ‘unkempt hairstyle’.

After a couple of years, Billy got out of this relationship with Joyce, and fell for a new young woman, Wanda, who looked sad and forlorn, with big sleepy eyes.  They got married and bought a flat.  But this relationship did not bring satisfaction, because Wanda was not inclined to easily commit to monogamy.  She said she wanted to be exclusively involved with Billy, but she had a wandering eye, and liked to flirt with the men who drank in their local pub.  When Billy tried to raise any problems with Wanda, she would just ignore his concerns (which is a roadblock to communication; and also an expression of the distractor approach to conflict management: [See Appendix D]).

Wanda also thought Billy was ‘a bit weird’ because of his interest in philosophy, and his speculating about the nature of reality.

Billy’s marriage was on the rocks almost from the beginning, and it was on its last legs, five years later, when Billy ran into Kitty, in the lounge bar of their local hotel.

Billy and Kitty get together…and fall apart

Billy and Kitty liked each other from the moment they met.  There was no romantic element to it, but they became very good friends – best friends, almost from the beginning.

The weeks went by, and Kitty continued to crave a sense of physical intimacy, but she had no luck finding a suitable date. Meanwhile, she enjoyed her occasional…

…End of extract.


And here is the ninth Contents page:

Chapter 9: Six ways to build a happy relationship 181

9.1 Introduction 181

9.2 Principles, insights and techniques for successful relating 181

9.2.1 Exercise 1: Week One_ 181

9.2.1(a) Principle No.1: Building the ´house´ of your relationship_ 181

9.2.1(b) Principle No.2. Keep your relationship positive_ 183

9.2.1(c) Principle No.3. Engage in exchanges of love_ 184

9.2.2 Review_ 185

9.2.3 Exercise 2: Week Two_ 185

9.2.3(a) Principle No.4. Love is an other-directed action in the world. 186

9.2.3(b) Principle No.5. Do not conflate (or combine) your partner with some of their questionable habits  187

9.2.3(c) Principle No.6. Desiring versus demanding love_ 188

9.2.4 Review_ 189


An extract from Chapter 6:

Chapter 6: A marriage is not a possession


One of the problems we all face in understanding and adjusting to a marriage – or marriage-like, couple relationship – is that we are used to thinking of ‘things’, rather than ‘processes’.

We are used to thinking about ‘objects’ rather than ‘events’

We are used to desiring things, and acquiring things.

But a marriage is not a thing, and a marriage cannot be a possession.

A marriage is a process; an ongoing process; that only exists when both partners participate in its repeated construction, reconstruction and repair.

As a metaphor, we could say (tentatively) that a marriage is a house that is built every day, and unless you commence building yours, every morning, when you wake up, it is likely to fall into ruinous decay!

But, again, we think of ‘building’ as a process of constructing a bigger thing (like a house) from smaller things (like bricks and mortar; wood, glass and slates; etc.

But a marriage, or couple relationship is not like that.

It is actually an organic process, constructed from ‘events’, rather than ‘objects’ – although some objects are required to make a relationship work.  There is normally a marital home; furniture; food; and so on.  But these objects are not central to the definition of, or the experience of, the relationship as such.

A marital relationship is made up of a continuous sequence of events which are either experienced as loving or non-loving; caring or on-caring; and respectful or disrespectful.

If you want to learn how to build a happy marriage, or a happy couple relationship, then this book will provide you with a roadmap and a set of building strategies, and a blueprint for happy relationship!

Unhappy couples

“A strong relationship adheres to principles of social equality and respect for the individual in which everyone has an equal right to have their voice heard”. Max Frost

I see a lot of couples in my counselling practice – sometimes both partners together; and sometimes one of the partners on their own. And they often have lots of pain in their lives. Pain which they could have avoided if they had studied the subject of ‘how to love’, and/or ‘how to communicate’.  But they were too busy running away from their lives; running away from the evidence that they hadn’t a clue how to manage a relationship.

They took driving lessons to master their motor car; they bought DIY magazines to learn how to use putty, and wallpaper paste, and paint.  But they assumed that everybody is born with a capacity to love and to be married.

This is not true!  Learning how to be a successful couple is a steep learning curve.

And about 50% of couples fail.  They score an ‘F’ (for Fail) on their couples test; and another ‘F’ on their stress management test.

I want to spread happiness, to individuals and couples.  And part of my belief system says that, if I want to spread happiness to individuals, I have, inevitably, to teach them how to become couples.

Why so?

Because being married, or enrolled in a stable couple relationship, seems to be important for reasonable levels of happiness.

But let us check that out with some researchers in the field of Happiness Research.

Looking at the research

According to Professor Jonathan Haidt (2006)[i]:

“A good marriage is one of the life-factors most strongly and consistently associated with happiness[ii]. Part of this apparent benefit comes from ‘reverse correlation’.  Happiness causes marriage.  Happy people marry sooner and stay married longer than people with a lower happiness set point, both because they are more appealing as dating partners and because they are easier to live with, as spouses[iii]. But much of the apparent benefit is a real and lasting benefit of dependable companionship, which is a basic need; we never fully adapt either to it or to its absence[iv]”. (Page 88).

In addition to these conclusions by Jonathan Haidt, more recent research shows that…

…End of extract.


[i] Haidt, J. (2006) The Happiness Hypothesis: Putting ancient wisdom and philosophy to the test of modern science.  London: Arrow Books.

[ii] Diener et al, 1999; Mastekaasa, 1994; Waite and Gallagher, 2000.  However it is not clear that married people are, on average, happier than those who never married, because unhappily married people are the least happy group of all and they pull down the average; see DePaulo and Morris, 2005, for a critique of research on the benefits of marriage. &

Diener, E., Suh, E.M., Lucas, R.E. & Smith, H.L. (1999) Subjective wellbeing.  Three decades of progress.  Psychological Bulletin, 125: 120-129. &

Mastekaasa, A. (1994) Marital status, distress, and well-being.  An international comparison.  Journal of Comparative Family Studies, 25: 183-205. &

Waite. L.J. and Gallagher, M. (2000) The case for marriage: Why married people are happier, healthier, and better off financially. New York: Doubleday. &

DePaulo, B.M. and Morris, W.L. (2005) Singles in society and science.  Psychological Inquiry, 16:  57-83.

[iii] Harker and Keltner, 2001; Lyubomirsky, King and Diener, in press. &

Harker, L. and Keltner, D. (2001) Expressions of positive emotion in women’s college yearbook pictures and their relationship to personality and life outcomes across adulthood.  Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 80:  112-124. &

Lyubomirsky, S., King, L., and Diener, E. (in press) The benefits of frequent positive affect: Does happiness lead to success? Psychological Bulletin.

[iv] Baumeister and Leary, 1995.  However, it is not certain that marriage itself is more beneficial than other kinds of companionship.  Much evidence says yes, particularly for health, wealth, and longevity (reviewed in Waite and Gallagher 2000); but a large longitudinal study failed to find a long-lasting benefit of marriage on reports of well-being (Lucas et al., 2003). &

Baumeister, R.F. and Leary, M.R. (1995) The need to belong: Desire for interpersonal attachment as a fundamental human emotion.  Psychological Bulletin, 117:  497-529. &

Waite and Gallagher (2000) see earlier footnote, above. &

Lucas, R.E., Clark, A.E., Georgellis, Y. and Diener, E. (2003) Re-examining adaptation and the set point model of happiness: Reactions to changes in marital status.  Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84:  527-539. &


An extract from the tenth Contents page follows:

Chapter 10: Managing your body-brain-mind for successful relationship 191

10.1 Introduction 191

10.2 Relating from Adult to Adult 191

10.3 Coping with unavoidable problems in your relationship 193

10.3.1 Introduction to the Six Windows for re-framing problems 194

10.4 Taking care of your physical and mental health 198

10.4.1. Diet 198

10.4.2. Exercise_ 198

10.4.3. Sleep_ 199

10.4.4. Self-talk, or philosophy of life_ 199


And here’s an extract from Chapter 7:

Chapter 7: How to act constructively, using non-aggressive or loving-and-kind assertiveness


Top Secrets Cover, New
Couples therapy and happy relationships

In this chapter I have set out to introduce you to the most basic level of self-assertion skills.  This is because it can be profoundly demotivating to be introduced to skills which are just too difficult – as in ‘too scary’! – to be implemented.  So, instead, I am going to teach you a range of knowledge and skills which can fairly easily be implemented by almost any reader of this book.

Then, in Volume 2, I will present slightly more challenging skills, which you should by then be able to take in your stride.

If you have any difficulty implementing any of the ideas in this chapter, you could discuss how to proceed with a good coach, counsellor or psychotherapist, who can guide you through any difficulties that you experience.

However, my expectation is that you will find this material easy to work with, and experience no significant difficulty applying the knowledge and skills described below.

Passivity, assertion and aggression

If you want to be clear about the distinction between passivity, assertion and aggression, as forms of human behaviour, then the best model to use is this:

All human behaviour can be mapped on a continuum from passive to aggressive, via assertive.


Passive Assertive Aggressive
Passive behaviour involves putting up with aggressive or bullying behaviour by others.  Failing to ask for what you want. Giving in to others and being overly-compliant. Using flowery and diplomatic language to placate others. And being unwillingness to pursue your own needs and interests. Asking for what you want.  Saying no to what you do not want.  Negotiating fairly about differences of opinion or clashes of interests. Owning their own viewpoint – “I wish…”; “I want..”; “I would like…”; etc.  Rather than You-Statements.  Expressing appreciation for what is given; expressing conditional appreciation for what is requested. Aggressive behaviour involves treating others unfairly, by intimidating them, or demanding that they comply with your wishes. Offends against others in pursuit of their own interests. Often involves anger and verbal hostility. Can include physical violence. Blames others and fails to take any responsibility for their own actions. Points finger of blame, and over-uses You-Statements: “You should…”; “You must…”; “You have to…”; etc.

Table 7.1: Some indicators of passive, aggressive and assertive behaviour

Putting up with unfair treatment by one’s partner is not a good way to build a happy sex-love relationship, since the conformity and compliance will build up into resentment of the dominator.  It is much better for both parties to the relationship, and for the relationship as an institution, for both partners to behave in an assertive way with each other.  This book will help you to learn how to do just that.

One of the problems that was identified by Gestalt Therapy is that many couples tend to play an unhealthy psychological ‘game’, called Top-Dog/Under-Dog.  I have dealt with many couples where this game was played from week to week.  At the first session of couple’s therapy, the couple would come in, and one of them would be ‘inflated’ (or ‘puffed up’) and the other would be ‘deflated’ (or depressed).  Before the second session, I would anticipate how that new session might go, but my guesses would be wrong, because this time the previously deflated partner would be puffed up, and the previous ‘Top-dog’ would now be the ‘Under-dog’!

It was a war in the name of relationship!  A sick game of “I’m the King (or Queen) of the castle. Get down you Dirty Rascal!”

If this is the kind of relationship (or, rather, ‘involvement’) that you have – or some variation on the gender war (or the partner war, in the case of gay relationships) – then the solution is to adopt the position, in principle, of Equal Dog – Equal Dog.  Refuse to entertain the idea that your partner could ever be reduced in status or worth in your relationship.  Insist upon total equality for the two of you – no exception; no debate!

Make a commitment to end the war.  Commit to total equality.  Commit to fair fighting about interests, and not positions. Commit to assertive communication; win-win encounters; and Equal Dog to Equal Dog relationship.

Realistic and reasonable assertion

What is legitimate assertion of your wants and needs, and what is excessive aggression in pursuit of a win-lose strategy of relating?

Table 7.1 above contains the answers, which I will elaborate here: …

…End of extract.


Here is the contents list for Chapter 11:

Chapter 11: How you were shaped by observing your parent´s relationship 201

11.1 The Inner Couple model 201

11.1.1 Stage 1 – Collecting the childhood data_ 202

11.1.2 Stage 2 – Creating a Revised Inner Couple_ 204


And here’s an extract from Chapter 8:

Chapter 8: Boundary management issues – Some case studies


Top Secrets Cover, New
Couples therapy and happy relationships

This chapter consists of two parts.

Part 1 deals with the origin and development of boundaries in relationships.  It looks at the questions: What are boundaries? And where do they come from?

Part 2 deals with ways in which boundaries malfunction in relationships, causing emotional misery.  This is explored through the lens of a number of case studies of former couple-clients of mine. In particular, I will look at ways in which those cases illustrate problems to do with maintaining reasonable, assertive, constructive, healthy, happy boundaries between the two members of the couple.

I will consider these illustrations under the following three headings:

  1. Boundary violations that are related to the ‘law of karma’; or the law of reaping and sowing.
  2. Boundary problems related to the ‘law of responsibility’; and:
  3. Those related to the law of ‘declared boundaries’.

Part 1: The origin of boundaries in childhood

Melanie Klein (1940)[i] was probably the first major theorist of childhood development to be able to empathically enter the mind of a child, and to infer what the child’s early emotional and perceptual experiences probably look like.  And, in her view, young babies feel as if they are connected to everything; part of everything; that everything is them.  Gradually they became aware of ‘things’, or ‘objects’: a breast; a face; a hand.  Also, an absent (‘bad’) breast.  It probably feels as if ‘mother’ is an extension of themselves, which serves them (‘good mother’) and frustrates them (‘bad mother’).  These would be more felt-evaluative labels, and not linguistic word-labels.

For her own part, a good mother has a weak boundary with her baby, in the sense that she will often – or most often – put the baby’s needs before her own needs; to a degree that she would never do with another adult, or somebody else’s child.  It feels, to the good mother, as if the baby is ‘part of her’, and she herself part of the baby’s life.

The mother-baby relationship is where we all begin

It is now widely agreed among psychologist, psychiatrists and psycho-therapists that, in the first five to six months of life, every baby’s perceptions and emotions are fragmented, and disconnected from each other.  And the baby’s mother (carer) is probably perceived by the baby as disconnected parts, or objects: face, breast, eyes, voice, arms, and so on.

However, we all know from our own experience that the mother and child will have to separate at some point, so the child can become autonomous, and live its own life, often far from the mother and father’s home.

And this separation process begins – slowly, gradually – in the second six months of the baby’s life.  In this period of development, the baby learns to connect the various bits of mother together, to make a whole person.  At the same time, in this period of development, every baby begins to perceive him/her-self as a whole.

If the parents are reasonably emotionally healthy, then this process will continue at a rapid pace between six months of age and about three years of age.  Of course, some parents are not able to handle this separation process, and so they find ways to thwart the baby’s development, resulting in a sense of ‘confluence’, where parent and child feel as if they ‘flow together’; or in a sense of ‘symbiosis’, in which the mother and baby between them form one complete human!  (More later on these two concepts).

Separation is the origin of boundaries

As the baby grows and develops, progressing from six months to twelve months of age, he/she begins to learn to balance negative and positive feelings about mother and about life as a baby.  The extremes of love and hate (for the same person/object [meaning mother]) and joy and rage, begin to moderate each other, and the baby develops more self-control.

Babies also stop splitting their mother into ‘good mother’ and ‘bad mother’, as they come to realize that the good one and the bad one are the same person.  This process of giving up splitting the mother into good and bad probably results from the realization described by Dr Robin Skynner:

“It’s very difficult to discover that you hate someone you love”[ii].

So, at this stage, the baby is beginning to feel the first steps towards developing loving concern for its mother. And loving concern means that…

…End of extract.


[i] Klein, M. (1940) Mourning and its relation to manic-depressive states, in The Selected Melanie Klein. Edited by Mitchell, J. (1986). London: Penguin Books.

[ii] Skynner, R. and Cleese, J. (1987) Families and How to Survive Them.  London: Methuen.


And now for the contents of Chapter 12:

Chapter 12: Summary 1 – How to build a successful couple relationship 207

12.1 Introduction 207

12.2 Key learning points for individuals and couples 207

12.3 Concluding statement 218


Next I will present an extract from Chapter 9:

Chapter 9: Six ways to build a happy relationship


Top Secrets Cover, New
Couples therapy and happy relationships

Over the course of the first ten years of my twenty years as a couple’s therapist, I collected, evolved or created eighteen principles, or guidelines, which I teach to my couple clients.  These principles have proved their potency over and over again, as guides to action for troubled couples.

In this chapter, I will present the first six of those eighteen principles.  The remainder will appear in Volumes 2 and 3 of this series of books.

Principles, insights and techniques for successful relating

The following six principles will transform your feelings and thoughts about your partner, or future partner, if you learn them thoroughly.  It will also improve your skills and behaviours in relationships.  But to learn these principles thoroughly, you have to review them over and over and over again; to get them into durable, long-term memory.

Exercise 1: Week One

During the first week of this re-learning program, please read (review) Principles 1-3, below, every day, and discuss them with your partner.  It would be ideal if your partner was also engaged in this re-learning program, and reading the principles for themselves, as well as discussing them with you.

Principle No.1: Building the ´house´ of your relationship

One of the first principles that I teach is this:

A marriage (or marriage-like relationship) is like a “house” that is built every day.

The most important question for you (dear reader) to consider in this connection is this: What actions did you consciously take to build the “house” of your marriage (or marriage-like relationship) today?

Did you smile and kiss your partner? Did you embrace them, or hug them? Did you greet them as warmly as you did on your first date, or the first day of your honeymoon?  (If not, why not?  Don’t you think it’s important to keep up the quality of your interactions?)

When you wake up in the morning, remind yourself that all you have are ‘the foundations’ of a relationship.  You now have to build that relationship all over again; every single day.  The house of your relationship is never complete.  You can never ‘clock off’.

A relationship is not something you HAVE, it is something you DO!  It is a process rather than a thing.

If you go to sleep in your relationship, you will wake up to find it has collapsed from want of repair.

Having destructive arguments with your partner about who is right and who is wrong, and especially who is the ‘top-dog’ and who is the ‘under-dog’, is equivalent to trying to polish the walls of your “house” with sledge hammers!  You will wreck it in no time.

So I ask again:

What actions did you consciously take today to build the “house” of your relationship?

What actions did you take to stop swinging the wrecking ball against the walls of your relationship?

Have you made time for leisure activities together?  Have you listened to your partner?  Have you treated them with care and respect?  Have you avoided allowing familiarity to breed indifference or contempt?


The second principle is this:

Principle No.2. Keep your relationship positive

If you want your relationship to survive, then you need to maintain a 5:1 ratio of positive to negative moments.

If you fail to do this, then your relationship is heading for disintegration.

“But what more can I do?”, I hear you ask.

Try this:

Hug your partner every morning.

Avoid discussing heavy topics – including bad news about bills and expenses – in the early morning.  Leave serious conversations for an appointed time after your evening meal.

Find out how well they slept; and how they feel today.

Share mealtimes, and keep those mealtimes peaceful and happy.

Avoid criticizing your partner.  Criticism is corrosive and destroys self-esteem and good feelings in a relationship.  (Use reasonable ‘assertive complaints’ about behaviours, when necessary.  These are not ‘criticisms’, because they are not about your partner’s essence, or personhood.  [See Chapter 7]).

Remember to set up dates and assignations with your partner, for friendly talk, walks, outings and sex-love encounters.  High quality time together counts towards the…

…End of extract.


Chapter 13’s contents:

Chapter 13: Summary 2 – How to teach individuals and couples to have happy and successful couple relationships 221

13.1 Introduction 221

13.2 Principal Guidelines for Therapists who want to use this system_ 222


What follows is an extract from Chapter 10:

Chapter 10: Managing your body-brain-mind for successful relationship


Top Secrets Cover, New
Couples therapy and happy relationships

To be a good, effective, loving, caring, supportive marriage partner, or sex-love relationship partner, you have to be in a good state of physical and mental health; emotional wellbeing; and with a good – (meaning happy and resilient) – philosophy of life.

In this chapter, I want to run through some general guiding principles about how to relate to your partner from your Adult ego state to their Adult ego state.

Then I will guide you through a process for coping with unavoidable problems in your life, which could have a negative effect on you and your relationship, if you do not manage them well.

And finally, I will briefly review the importance of diet and nutrition; sleep and relaxation; physical activity and exercise; and self-talk or philosophy of life.

Relating from Adult to Adult

If you – (whether you are a husband or a wife) – knew yourself well enough, you would have the courage to let whatever happens in your relationship happen, and to deal with the consequences; instead of trying to control your partner in a vain effort to ensure that certain things won’t happen. This kind of attempt to control your partner, to guide them to your desired outcome, is subject to the law of paradoxical effect: which means, it normally produces the very result you are trying to avoid!

I am not thereby saying that you should let your partner mess you around; abuse you; or to be unfaithful to you.  No! In such circumstances you should end the relationship, on the basis that this person could not possibly treat you like this if they really loved you; and you should not stay in a relationship with a loveless sadist!  You are worth more than that.  You have a right to be loved; cherished; and treated well as an equal partner in your relationship.

You should respond appropriately to whatever happens, after the event.  Do not try to anticipate negative outcomes!

You and your partner should have agreed upon goals, and you should trust them to honour your joint agreements.

You should have boundaries, which you communicate to your partner, so your partner knows who you are and what you are attracted to and what you are repelled by.  This would allow them to choose their own actions accordingly.  If they displeased you enough, you should have a boundary which states, “I will walk away if X happens”.

You are not a child.  You do not need to cling to your partner like a baby to its mother.

But you also are not your partner’s boss.  You do not have the right to control your partner.

To have a happy marriage you must both be free to choose each other, over and over and over again. And the right to stop choosing your partner is enshrined in the Protestant reformation – the right to divorce!  It seems to me highly likely that no other single innovation has contributed half as much to the quality of married life as the right to divorce has!

The more you try to manipulate your partner from Parent or Child ego states; and the more you try to dominate your partner from Parent or Child states; the more your partner will be obliged to leave you, in order to be free!

The more freedom you can offer your partner within your marriage, (and within reason!), the more your partner will be free to see your generous heart, and to be drawn to it.  When your partner understands how you feel about them exercising certain freedoms, they are likely to adjust their behaviour to cause you less unhappiness.  That is a freely chosen act on their part, and not something you have achieved by coercion.  (But beware of using manipulation of their emotions to control them indirectly!  Fair influence is not the same thing as control!)

Your love for your partner should include a good deal of…

…End of extract.


And here is the remainder of the Contents pages:

>>> Refs, appendices, etc.


And, now, an extract from Chapter 11.

Chapter 11: How you were shaped by observing your parent’s relationship

The Inner Couple model

While Werner Erhard emphasises the fact that we each carry around a definition of relationship, and that we measure our current relationship against that non-conscious definition; Anne Teachworth (1999) emphasises the fact that we learn what a relationship is by watching our mother and father relating to each other, when we are very young.

By watching your mother and father relating to each other, when you were an infant, and up to the age of ten years, you formed an Inner Couple image, as a guide to action in your adult life.

Whatever you saw your mother and father doing with and to each other, in the first ten years of your life, become your non-conscious wiring for your relationship knowledge/skills/attitudes.

It seems when we are young, we decide that one of our parents (our favourite) will be our role-model for How to Be an Adult.  This is our Adult Role Model.  The other parent then becomes our Mate Model; or the image we will pursue in (non-consciously) seeking a mate when we grow up.

You can test this idea for yourself like this:

In your current (or most recent) adult couple relationship, do you, or did you, often find yourself acting as if you were copying one of your parents?  If so, which one? Mother or father?  The answers to these questions should tell you who your inner Adult Role Model is.  (And thus, your Inner Mate Model must be the other parent).

In your current (or most recent) adult couple relationship, do you, or did you, tend to relate to your partner as if they were your Inner Mate Model.

According to Anne Teachworth, you will always seek to find a perfect match, in your adult relationships, to fit your Inner Couple.  That is to say, unless and until you can re-wire yourself with an Improved or Reformed Inner Couple, you will keep replicating your parent’s marriage.

So how can you re-wire yourself for an Improved Inner Couple?

There are two stages to this process:

Stage 1: Collect all the relevant data that you need in order to think your way through to what would need to change in your Inner Couple, to produce a better relationship for you in your adult life.

Stage 2: Run a little psycho-drama in your mind, to change how your Inner Couple relate to each other; and to your Inner Child.


Stage 1 – Collecting the childhood data

Here is a series of questions to help you to collect the data you will need to revise your Inner Couple:

# 1: Think back to your earliest memories.  What were you like as a child, in the first ten years of your life?  Happy or sad? Angry or anxious?  Introverted or extraverted?



# 2: What did your mother look like, and how did she behave, in her adult relationships with others (like father, friends, shop keepers, etc.) when you were a child, under the age of ten years?  How would you describe her personality back then?  Introverted or extraverted?  Loving or indifferent?  Angry or passively withdrawn? Depressive?  Etc.



# 3: What did your father look like, and how did he behave, in his adult relationships with others (like mother, friends, shop keepers, etc.) when you were a child, under the age of ten years?  How would you describe his personality back then?  Introverted or extraverted?  Loving or indifferent?  Angry or passively withdrawn? Depressive?  Etc.


# 4. What was your mother like…


…End of extract.


Chapter 12: Summary 1 – How to build a successful and happy couple relationship


In this chapter, we set out to teach couples how to improve their existing relationship, or how to build a new relationship which is happy and successful.

We went back over the territory we covered in the main chapters, and pulled out the key learning points that we want to emphasize; and also looked for ways in which you can apply those key points to enhance your own learning about your own relationship, and how to improve it.

We have listed advice that seems reasonable, in an effort to maximize the usefulness of this book to all those readers who want to learn to be happier and more successful in their own couple relationships.

End of extract.


Chapter 13: Summary 2 – How to teach individuals and couples to have happy and successful couple relationships


In this chapter, we present a range of guidelines which can be used by counsellors, psychotherapists, psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers and others, to guide individual clients or patients towards a better understanding of the nature of couple relationships; and how to improve a relationship which is not working well.

We have gone back over the territory we covered in the main body of this book, and pulled out the key learning points that are relevant to professional helpers; and also looked for ways in which you can apply those key points to enhance your own professional practice.

We have listed advice and guidelines that seem most helpful and usable, in an effort to maximize the usefulness of this book to all those professional readers who want to learn to be more helpful and effective in dealing with troubled couple relationships.

End of extract.


The balance of the Contents:

References 231

Appendix A: The twenty core beliefs of our emotive-cognitive philosophy of counselling  241

A1 Twenty core principles 241

Appendix B: How to understand and apply Transactional Analysis 253

B1 Introduction 253

B2 Origins 253

B3 The development of ego states over time 254

B4 A review of the ego-state model of TA 257

B4.1 Exactly what is an ego state?_ 257

B4.2 A description of the ego states 258

B4.3 Revision: 261

B4.4 Revision exercises: 262

B4.5 ‘Parent-stoppers’ as self-protection_ 263

B4.6 Staying in Your Adult ego state_ 264

B4.7 What are games and how do people develop them?_ 264

B4.8 TA in E-CENT counselling_ 267

Figure 2 – The good and bad sides of each ego state_ 268

Figure 3 – The OK-corral showing the four life positions 269

B4.9 Scripts and stories 270

B4.9.1 What is a script?_ 271

B4.9.2 Script analysis 271

B4.9.3 Writing key developmental stories 273

B4.9.4 Some reflections, by Jim Byrne, upon Eric Berne’s key ideas 273

B4.9.5 How to break out of a script 275

Appendix C: A description of the skill of fogging 279

Appendix D: Handling conflict skilfully – Knowing your personal style 283

D1 Introduction 283

D2 Five ways of handling conflict 284

D3 The Personal Styles Quiz: 286

D4 The quiz mark sheet 288

D5 Scoring 289

D6 Exploring the conflict styles 290

D6.1 Placating_ 290

D6.2 Blaming_ 290

D6.3 Distracting_ 291

D6.4 Computing_ 291

D6.5 Levelling_ 291

D6.6 Learning to level 292

D6.7 Some tips on the various styles 293

D7 Conclusion: Learning new behaviours 295

Appendix E: How to understand and manage human emotions 297

E1 Introduction 297

E2 Managing human emotions 297

E3 Managing anger, anxiety and depression 300

E3.1 Anger: 300

E3.1.1 Managing anger with diet and nutrition_ 303

E3.1.2 How anger can be reduced by exercise: 305

E3.2 Anxiety: 306

E3.2.1 Anxiety management: The impact of diet and nutrition_ 309

E3.2.2 Anxiety management: How anxiety can be reduced by exercise: 312

E3.3 Depression: 313

E3.3.1 Depression: How diet and nutrition can reduce and eliminate it  315

E3.3.2 Depression: How it can be reduced by exercise_ 317

Appendix F: The Good and Bad sides of human nature: (´Good & Bad Wolf´ ) 321

F1 Introduction 321

F2 The E-CENT theory of good and evil 322

F3 The concepts of selfishness and altruism_ 323

F4 Altruism and egoism_ 323

F5 Sociological evidence 324

F6 Acceptance or non-acceptance of immorality 325

F7 Conclusion 327

Appendix G: The importance of the clitoris 329

G1 The myth of the vaginal orgasm_ 329

G2 ´Rubbing the clitoris´ is necessary but not sufficient 329

G3 Learning how to love 330

G4 Postscript 332

Appendix H: Daniel´s piecemeal sex education 337

H1 Introduction 337

H2 Irish, British and American social views of sex, by Daniel O´Beeve 337

H3a My own personal experience 339

H3b My learning from an accidental meeting 341

H4 First love, and first sexual experience 342

H5 Second love and more setbacks 343

H6 Learning how to love 343

H7 Finding my soul-mate, at last 344

H8 Final notes of guidance: Key learning points 344

Appendix J: Brief introduction to One-Conditional Self-Acceptance 349

J1 The need for appropriate guilt as a moral emotion 349

J2 Defining ´unconditional self-acceptance´ 351

J3 We reject un-conditional self-acceptance and unconditional positive regard, and substitute one-conditional acceptance  353

Appendix K: How to study this book in order to change your relationship behaviours and skills 355

Introduction 355

The importance of review_ 355

My recommendations 356

Construct your own personal Index of this book 357

Summary 359

Appendix L: Construct your own index of this book 361

Appendix M: How to change your relationship habits 365

M1 Introduction 365

M2 Some extracts on habit change from our book on diet and exercise 365

Our approach to behaviour change_ 365

A personal example_ 366

A second example: Using rewards and penalties 368

M3 – Section 2: How to change your negative habits 369

The nature of habits 369

The structure of a habit 370

The importance of craving! 371

Duhigg´s own experiment 372

The importance of substitution_ 373

Stopping addictions 373

The rewards of drinking_ 374

The result of one experiment 375

Analysing your own habits 375

Creating ´keystone habits´ 376

Habit reversal 376

Endnotes 379