A Distinct Form of Therapy The couple relationship has its own very specific dynamics, and couple or marital therapy is a distinct form of therapy. To begin with, in a significant couple relationship, something "new" is created in the combination of two personalities. So while relational therapy does attend to the interaction between the two persons, it also keeps in mind the unique "third" reality - the couple identity itself.
Jungian Typology Jung found that typology - or psychological types - was very helpful in understanding the couple identity, and how partners interact. He discerned basic polarities within consciousness - the thinking vs. feeling function, and the sensation vs. the intuitive function, and then the opposite attitudes of extraversion and introversion. He found that in relationship, couples almost always combine opposite types. In other words, a thinking type might be attracted to a feeling type, or a sensation type to an intuitive type. Extraverts could be attracted to introverts, or if two introverts come together, one or the other eventually becomes the "extraverted one" for their couple identity, and vice versa.
Movement Towards Individuation In the early stage of a relationship, those opposites can be complementary, and give the couple a sense of completeness. "Where I might be lacking, you seem to be more advanced, and where I am more accomplished, you depend on me." Couples often speak of finding their "other halves" in their partners.
At the beginning, there is invariably some "fit" of the two personalities which bring them together. That combination may become a more permanent union, or it may simply be a transitional "fit", important psychologically for one or both for a distinct period or phase of development.
This sense of "feeling completed" is important in establishing the initial couple identity. Eventually, however, there is an inner need for each person to become more complete in him or herself. This usually shows up in some dissatisfaction with the relationship or marriage. "What was once the very thing that attracted me to you is now the thing that drives me crazy."
Couples can typically seek counseling at this stage, often with the hope that their partners would change, and the expectation that the therapist will help them "fix" or "change" their partners. More often than not, this dissatisfaction with one's partner is as much or even more about needed changes in oneself, rather than in one's partner.
Healing and Growth In Relationship Couple therapy can never be effective until each partner has some insight into his or her own part in the relational dance. We seem to be attracted to partners who evoke or call forth some necessary development in ourselves. Sometimes that development is part of a natural unfolding of our personality, and the relationship seems to grow in more or less continuous fashion, with sometimes difficult but negotiable bumps and trials. This would be a couple relationship where there is a strong underlying compatibility.
But even in healthy couple relationships, we tend to replicate earlier "unhealthy" patterns of relating. This seems to be the psyche's way of giving us opportunities to "correct" that attitude or pattern in oneselves. And it is common for a person to repeat one "bad" relationship after another, with very similar type partners. Here there is something that the psyche is trying to force into consciousness through the repetition. So an increase in consciousness is the psyche's goal. Often, though, the "light bulb doesn't go on" and the pattern is repeated.
Therapy here is important is identifying those patterns, and then in identifying those attitudes within oneself that continue to contribute to the pattern.
Trauma in Couple Life The couple relationship can experience trauma in a variety of ways. Sometimes it is outer life and fate that send the difficulties. Often it is the "unfaced" negative or one-sided factors in one's personality or in the relationship which develop into more prominent patterns that are ultimately damaging to the couple relationship.
One common destructive pattern is infidelity. No couple which experiences infidelity is ever the same; and perhaps most marriages do not effectively survive it. If the two persons manage a reconciliation, they must also create a new couple identity, in which both partners must examine the part played in the larger pattern of separation. Often the full blame is placed on the "unfaithful" partner - it is generally more helpful to look at where life had become stuck or was unlived for one or both partners.
Unlived life has a way of breaking apart rigid patterns of relating - where disruption of the status quo occurs, some "blame" must always be reserved for the urge to individuation and wholeness.
Core Polarity - Anima and Animus Jung found that within men is a feminine dimension which he called the anima. Within women, he found a masculine dimension he called the animus. A man tends to be attracted to women who are an outer expression of his inner anima, and a woman tends to be attracted to men who are an outer expression of her inner animus. In popular parlance, we speak of "soulmates".
So in the couple relationship, there is the outer relationship of the two persons, but also inner relationships between them, involving the anima and animus. This can certainly complicate matters in relationship, but because the anima and animus are archetypal, and function in some typical ways, there are some typical interactions which these inner figures evoke.
By knowing some of these typical patterns of anima and animus, and by becoming more conscious of my inner anima or animus, the relationship dynamics can be better understood and managed.
Individuation Marriage Jung found that it is through relationship that our deepest selves are evoked and ultimately lived out. With this in mind, furthering the development of one's true self and that of one's partner is the ultimate goal of marriage from a Jungian perspective. This is where the love of the couple enters in. It is in the love relationship that our deepest selves are activated, and that third - the divine element - is constellated between the two.
Couple therapy that goes beyond the first stage of relational dynamics and communication skills, and then proceeds through the healing of the the "unhealthy patterns", can move more into a focus on the individuation of each partner. In actual fact, it is the urge towards individuation which accounts for each step along the way - from the initial attraction to a particular partner and the constellation of an image of wholeness, to the evocation of the unhealed aspects of personality to be worked through, to the ultimate quest for one's fuller and more complete identity, lived out within the context and container of the couple relationship. It is the urge towards individuation which is the hidden "cause" of each of these stages or steps.