Grasping the big picture of a relationship.

Just as every cause is a part of its effect and every effect a part of its cause, every underlying structure partakes of the peripheral and vice versa.
                                                                                             (Moreno 1941)

Paradoxically the big picture may be evident early on in couple therapy, even in the initial text, email or phone contact. There is a connection between visible and obvious level and the hidden “sociometric matrix” that is revealed upon investigation. The beginning of things is evident at the end, and the end is present at the beginning. That is a dialectical and holistic approach to the couple’s life and to the therapy itself.

The  birth of love
Couples come to therapy when the anti-climax has been reached — when the flow of feeling between them has dried up and the love which brought them together is in crisis.

It is powerful to turn to the moment of birth of the relationship, the status nascendi. When did they meet, when did they fall in love?

Social forces
Relationships are often shaped by cultural conserves of society, the social forces. This includes the class, gender and racial norms and conflicts that impact the couple.

In Practice
The birth story and the social forces are investigated dialectically, they are interconnected. Remember that the therapy too has its birth and end.


The above section in the Working with Couples Handbook I’m  writing is based on a passage written by Moreno, it is from The Foundations of Sociometry (Moreno, 1941).

I used a bit of AI, but I edited it to make it shorter and more purposeful, from the main text.

I did like it when Chat GPT said:

The edited passage looks good to me! It succinctly captures Moreno’s key points about the connection between the visible and hidden levels of couple dynamics, the importance of exploring the birth story of the relationship, and the impact of social forces on the couple. The last sentence also highlights the importance of understanding the life cycle of therapy itself. Well done!

Here is the Moreno passage:

“In the case of a social situation, such a love relationship, for instance, the status nascendi exists when the lovers meet and begin to warm up to one another. The last phase, the phase before the anti-climax, in a love-relationship (marriage, for example) is all too likely to be a stereotype, and in many social relationships similar stereotyped institutions are the end products, parallel to the cultural conserve stage in a work of art. Moreover, in the contemplation of, say, the marriage relationship between two people, the consideration of all the phases leading up to it is omitted. It is not to be assumed, however, that processes of human relations cease to exist when a cultural conserve or a stereotyped relationship enters the picture. In either case, a new social situation is begun which requires special methods of investigation. The social sciences have been too much preoccupied with studies of processes after they have become cold. The status nascendi has been neglected. Most of the studies of man-woman relationships occur when the anti-climax has been reached — when the flow of feeling between the man and woman has dried up and the love which brought them together is over. The study of finished products, of cultural conserves and of stereotypes has, of course, its place and its meaning in a system of social science. The preoccupation with them is not surprising. It is much easier to study a relationship when it is finished and established and when it has the deceptive appearance of being an end-result. Perhaps this is why sociology has been chiefly concerned with the study of the tangible structures in society. But it is from the social situations in statu nascendi that the more important inspirations and decisions come. Their deep impress upon all human interrelations has been demonstrated. The problem has been how to get at these intangible, esoteric phenomena — how to study them. It is, of course, important that they be studied systematically. A human society without these phenomena in statu nascendi would present a lifeless appearance. Therefore, social research which does not give its main attention to these phenomena must be sterile. Any plan for the betterment of society, for the improvement of human relations, is hopeless without them. Therefore, theories and methods had to be found. It is at this cardinal point that sociometric and psychodramatic studies have stepped into the breach. The results to date are meagre, it must be admitted, but the road is now open.

A study of human interrelations proceeding forward from their status nascendi, instead of proceeding backward from their end-product, has great theoretical advantages. A study of this sort is able to do away with the dualistic character ascribed to social processes. There is no true dichotomy between, for instance, underlying and surface structures, or between genetic phenomena and symptoms. Just as every cause is a part of its effect and every effect a part of its cause, every underlying structure partakes of the peripheral and vice versa.29 This is the case if we begin with the status nascendi of a situation and follow its warming up process through stage after stage. Dual constructions such as cause and effect become, then, illogical.

29. On the sociometric analysis of home groups, for instance, we find that some relationships on the formal level are identical with those on the underlying level and vice versa.

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