Healthy Styles of Happy Couples Part 4 & 5


The Naturally Elegant Dance of “Moving Close and Moving Away,” that leads to…


A new level is reached through synergy, where we find “One Plus One is Greater than Two!”

THE PREPARATION FOR THE BEING STAGE:   When we move through the DOING stage well with our partner, that opens new levels of health, where we can be even more of ourselves, separately or together.    We emerge from successful DOING years with our separate areas where we each have a sense of self-esteem, apart from the way the marriage is going.   This can come about through many channels:  it might be through career expansion, volunteer work, or creative pursuits.

We are now entering THE BEING STAGE OF OUR COUPLE LIFE.    Here, we thoroughly enjoy those parts of ourselves and feel really good about who we are, without creating destructive distance in our relationship.

THE COMPONENTS OF THE BEING STAGE:  This is what Couple Development experts, Ellyn Bader and Peter Pearson call “Rapprochement.”   They describe this mature phase of couple growth this way:


Moving close, moving away Solidifying the ability to move close and move apart Spending more time together again Deepening sexual connection Developing security in allowing partner to make decisions for you Giving to the partner even when it is inconvenient Shifting back to the relationship for more intimacy and emotional sustenance (Ellyn Bader & Peter Pearson, The Couples Institute)


In this balancing time, there is a deep ongoing palpable maturing of the personality’s instinctual value system “stack” – a style of body intelligence that flavors my Enneagram personality type.    These are usually unquestioned judgments that erupt from my gut about things that feel like survival needs in couple life.   Interestingly, they breathe more as we both expand into this stage of growth, and breathing our instinctual stacks helps us move forward toward this developmental goal, as a couple.

Whether my dominant focus is:

  1. SP)  Self-Preservation issues like comfort, financial well-being, steady support, etc.
  2. SX)  Sexual issues like the excitement in life, the pull of the “fire” that consumes us for a worthwhile expansion of ourselves, chemistry and the like
  3. SOC)   Social issues like bonding and nurturing, an active social life, investing in community, and so on…

I can open my auto-pilot value system up to the other two instinctual awarenesses in powerful ways in the relaxed, secure growth environment of THE BEING STAGE!   

The place where I have the lowest instinctual energy (my “blind spot” in my “instinctual stack”) becomes a place where I can play and practice new skills, without fear of being shamed by my ego or by my partner.   This can bring incredible energy to our life together, as well as to my experience of myself as the big “I,” a whole person, beyond my personality.    My strongest instinct (my “dominant” in my “instinctual stack”)  can now be a place my partner can go for expansion, and their strongest instinct is that for me as well; instead of being a narrow lens through which I judge the actions of my partner and others around me.

From this altitude, amazing things can be accomplished.  

This is the rich soil that gives birth to THE TEAM!


Bader & Pearson call this stage of Couple Development “Synergy & Mutual Interdependence.”  Here, we are greater than the sum of our personalities!    “One plus one is greater than two!”

Synergy/Mutual Interdependence:

Couples can move forward and start reconnecting and following more dependence but it’s not the kind of dependence that’s smothering.

It’s the kind of dependence that recognizes, ‘I love you, I need you, my life would be awful without you

but I also have a solid core of who I am as an individual.’

Couples who get there have a different way to bond than they do in the beginning.

It’s a bond that’s based on synergy, shared values and activities, what they mean to each other

and what they are going to lose when one of them dies. 

(Ellyn Bader & Peter Pearson, The Couples Institute)

TEAMING IS A CAPSTONE EXPERIENCE:  Being able to live in this stage means our intimacy is being woven into our ongoing life calling and sexuality.   We are truly what scripture and great wisdom traditions refer to as a “heads of household.”    We can commit to joint projects, work together, leave a legacy, and, as Henri Nouwen always suggested, be a presence for our circle of contact that creates an invitation to come “home.”    The TEAM couple provides a kind of authentic “hub” of healing, safety, and growth for so many weary travelers in the generations, in the family, in the community, in the world.


When your partner is your “team-mate” in life, you are more able to put aside those reactive unproductive behaviors for the real good of the team, and for the sake of your own enlightened self-interest.  You fight together for the things that really matter in life, instead of fighting with each other.   Couples who do the work to get to this stage enjoy married life more, and get more done in world than ever before!   One great example of that teaming is when we recognize how important it is to support each other in staying healthy and physically active throughout the life-cycle.    And that it is important to go ahead with our own wellness program regardless of our partner’s level of parallel investment in their wellness program.  The latest data?   The very best lifestyle change a person can make in midlife to protect against cognitive decline later is taking time to exercise.  Check out this important study published in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, and summarized in PsyBlog  (Szoeke et al., 2016):

You should start as early as possible, Dr Szoeke said:

‘We expected it was the healthy habits later in life that would make a difference but we were surprised to find that the effect of exercise was cumulative.

So every one of those 20 years mattered.

If you don’t start at 40, you could miss one or two decades of improvement to your cognition because every bit helps.

That said, even once you’re 50 you can make up for lost time.’


Excellent couples’ coaching strengthens attachment and promotes healthy, effective differentiation and individuation!   It supports your individual personality development as well as your couple dynamic development.    It’s a process, not a magic pill; but one that can get you on the road to enjoying each other and teaming with each other, instead of stifling or destroying each other.   It’s why I do what I do, here at The Relationship Doctor!   So you can…

Get There!

Dr. Ronna