Working with Conflicted and Devitalised Couples (Part 2)

The PREPARE/ENRICH Couple Typology is based on patterns in couple’s scores across nine relationship areas. Statistical analysis has identified four types of premarital couples and five types of married couples. These types are labeled in order from healthiest to least healthy:

  1. Vitalised
  2. Harmonious
  3. Conventional
  4. Conflicted
  5. Devitalised (married couples only)

Counselling Tips with Conflicted and Devitalised Couples:

Avoid labeling a couple as “conflicted” or “devitalized.” These “couple types” may be helpful for you as Facilitator but may be demoralising for a couple and limit their vision of change (use discretion in deciding whether or not the “Couple Report” should be given to a conflicted or devitalised couple).

Therapy is often thought about as alternating sequences of affect expression followed by affect analysis and integration. If the experience of expressing emotions becomes too intense, it may be best to wait until these feelings are more manageable (and defensiveness diminishes) before you ask couples to continue with this process. At this point you may decide to shift to positive reflections, such as, “Tell me about the time you first met”, or “What did you like about each other when you were first dating”?

Focus on both the content of what this couple says as well as their interactions with each other (e.g. what do you notice about their body language; does one partner “speak for the other”, etc.). Tell the couple what you notice and ask them to think about the meaning of their interaction pattern (is it a pattern they have developed over time; how does it serve or not serve-the relationship, etc.)

Questions to ask Conflicted and Devitalised couples (to increase empathy and facilitate self and relationship awareness):

  1. What made it possible for you to share __________ (feelings, thoughts, and experiences) today with one another?
  2. How did you anticipate ___________ (partner) would respond when ________ (e.g. “you said ________”)?
  3. Are there any questions you have about how _____________ (partner) responded?
  4. In what ways do you imagine your perception of ___________ (event) may be different than your partners?
  5. What do you (one partner) suspect was the motivation for __________ (other partner’s) actions?
  6. What are successes you have had in your relationship?
  7. What are 3 goals you have for your relationship?

References: Waite, L., Browning, D., Doherty, W.J., Gallagher, M., Luo, Y., Stanley, S. (2002). USA Today article: Does Divorce Make People Happy?

PREPARE/ENRICH is a customised online assessment tool that identifies each couples unique strength and growth areas. Based on their assessment results, a facilitator provides feedback sessions, helping couples to discuss and understand their results while teaching them proven relationship skills.

For more information on the use and analysis of the inventory and couple workbooks or to simply set up a couple on the tool, please contact: or call today (02) 9520 4049 #prepareenrichIMG_0002.PNG

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