Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist

Relationships Deciphered

The purpose of this blog is to bring some clarity to the enigmatic nature of relationships through the in-depth examination of common relational impasses with the goal of increasing insight into our behavior and thought processes*.

In addition, this blog will discuss relevant topics in the field of psychotherapy in an attempt to educate and reduce stigma around mental health and psychotherapy in general.

*This blog is NOT focused solely on romantic relationships.


 Photo by  Riley McCullough  on  Unsplash

I use a lot of analogies when I am doing therapy!!!! I find them helpful in assisting with understanding somewhat complex concepts. 

Quarterbacking is a concept I came up with while working with a couple some years ago and have seen play itself out in other couples I've worked with since. The couple I was seeing at the time was having some difficulty with their relationship in the area of the husband stepping up and making more decisions or being the "lead". However, what I observed was the wife having a desire and expectation for the husband to lead, being frustrated that he wasn't doing so, but behaving in a way that suggested that she wanted to lead and make the decisions. 

I talk about quarterbacking as a way of getting the wife, in this instance, to recognize that if she wants to play a different position, let's say wide receiver, then she can't also play quarterback at the same time. That is, she can't lead and follow at the same time. The husbands in these situations seem to operate from a very collaborative space and are comfortable playing a supportive role or executing plays called for them. The women in these situations tended to have a history where they had to be more independent at a very young age. In several cases they were the oldest sibling, or a latch-key kid, making it necessary for them to take on a decision-making role. A majority of the work focused on building the husband's confidence to play quarterback and simultaneously coaching the wife on playing the more supportive role she indicated she wanted.

Something else that I would discuss with them was the idea of how they behave in the huddle when the husband is playing quarterback and making the call. That is, is she complaining about the play and waiting for it to fall apart, or was she more supportive, and if the play didn't go well encouraging him to keep throwing the ball? An example might be if the husband planned a date and it didn't go as well as expected did his wife chastise him for the choices or did she talk about how much she appreciated the attempt and normalize how she may have picked restaurants he didn't enjoy in the past. Did she focus on the quality of the companionship and time spent together or did she focus on how bad the service was and how she wouldn't have ever chosen to eat there?

Once these couples learned how to operate as a team, with each player playing the position they wanted, their relationships improved tremendously. Unmet expectations or disappointment disappeared because each member had a reference point for their behavior and a way of reminding one another if they began to play out of position.

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