Relationship Building - Paul Ruffer

Relationship Building

Relationship Building is a relational paradigm that recognizes that we are all creations and creators of relationship. Because life is lived with people in relationship, our identities are shaped by our experiences in those relationships.

In the main, I work with highly functioning adults who do not suffer from major psychopathology or psychological disorders. Rather, most of the issues with which my clients struggle are functions of ruptures in relationship. That being said, repairing and healing those ruptures is best done in relationship. Relationship building recognizes that our greatest human drive is our need to be connected to others. We now know, through neuroscience and spectrometry (the ability to image the brain) that we are wired to be in connection, and thrive when in that state, secreting dopamine and norepinephrine. We also know the antithesis, that we suffer most when in disconnection and secrete cortisol, which is the hormone that activates our fight or flight response and make us hypervigilant to the danger looming around us.

Relationship building invites us to understand how the resilient adaptations we developed as children and adolescents allowed us to survive hardship and vulnerability. Indeed, we often unconsciously felt as if we were thriving at those challenging junctures. The problem, however, with those resilient adaptations is that they camouflaged unmet needs and wounds inflicted upon us. Relationship building suggests that the conflicts we experience with our partners alert us to those unmet needs and wounds. We are invited to consider that what worked for us as children and adolescents no longer works for us as adults in relationships of close proximity. Conflict in relationship with our partners comes to force us to notice, name and address the unfinished business we carry from childhood. Relationship building normalizes conflict in relationships and offers an approach to unpack, understand and give meaning to that conflict, using that meaning to promote growth.

Relationship building focuses on developing communication skills most of us never learned. It teaches us how to listen, reflect back what we hear, and validate and empathize with our partner’s feelings. By following this unnatural, forced and inefficient method of structured communication, we slow down, listen and become more attuned and intentional as we interact. This approach is most helpful when we disagree with our partner and wish to truly hear and understand what is being said. The more we practice this mode of communication, the more able we will be to transform tension, disconnection and isolation into a shared feeling of safety, compassion and intimacy, which is needed to create common ground and promote connection

What Can Relationship Building Do For You

Relationship building cultivates the virtues of noticing, reflecting and understanding, as we acquire the insights and skills to better manage our lives and learn to live and relate more fully. Specifically, relationship building will help you enhance the following:

  • Communication skills, so that you can listen to your partner’s point of view, enter their world, and invite them into yours.
  • Insight into and appreciation of how your biography both enhances and interferes with your ability to relate and connect.
  • Safety, by discovering that hearing and validating your partner is easier than fighting and essential to growing and thriving.
  • Awareness of how our natural impulse to survive can thwart our natural impulse to thrive.
  • Joy, by realizing how you and your partner can co-create your dream relationship.