Your Relationship Dynamics | Prepare-Enrich

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NOTE: Couples in The Relationship Dynamics Series are composites of multiple people. Names and personal details have been changed to protect their identities.

Men and women are different. Always have been. Always will be. But you both want a healthy relationship. So how do your differences play out during coaching? All goals require clarity and vision, as well as a step-by-step plan to achieve the changes you desire. The same is true for your relationship. What do you want to improve? Communication? Conflict resolution? Relationship roles and responsibilities? The quality of Your Relationship Dynamics affects your ability to achieve what you want in your marriage.

In case we haven’t met, I’m Dr. Debi.

I love helping Christian couples and single adults find more effective ways to apply their biblical values and the findings of scientific research to everyday life.

While working as a Clinical Psychologist, I developed a program to help you do that in your marriage. Many men and women have made significant gains by following the program, with or without their mates direct involvement. And you don’t necessarily need a coach, unless you get stuck, or you want to accelerate the process.

Each of my Relationship Programs have three components:
evaluation, education, and skill development.

If you’d like to get started, take advantage of my free relationship assessment + personal consultation for individuals or couples. Begin your Free Assessment here.

Today we’re going to talk about PREPARE/ENRICH, which is one of the assessments I use with couples in my 12-week Coaching Programs.

I was trained as a PREPARE/ENRICH facilitator nearly two decades ago.

Then after their assessment became digital – around 2009, I also became a trainer. Subsequently, I helped launch numerous Marriage Programs at local churches, training pastors, marriage mentor couples, and mental health professionals who needed help learning to work more effectively with couples.

As with any program, PREPARE/ENRICH has its strengths and weaknesses.

I should note here that its founders replace the word “weaknesses” with “growth areas,” but everyone knows what they really are. Like when teachers put their students in red, blue, and yellow reading groups in the first grade. They aren’t fooling the kids, are they?

Prepare-Enrich has two components: assessment + skill building.

It’s greatest strength is in couple assessment. After more than 30 years of empirical research and data collected from 3 million couples, the assessment “has been scientifically developed and has high reliability, high validity, and large national norms with couples from various ethnic groups. Numerous studies demonstrate the rigor of the assessment and its relevance to couples from a variety of ethnic groups (Olson, 1998; Asai & Olson, 2004; Allen & Olson, 2001).”

In PREPARE/ENRICH words, the skill-building exercises are a “possible strength.”

Facilitators are trained in how to guide couples through only six of the more than 20 skill-building exercises. If and how those six exercises, as well as the additional exercises, are actually utilized during sessions varies greatly depending on the skill and experience of the facilitator. Nevertheless, each exercise is intentionally basic so they could be used by pastors and lay counselors. All you have to do is read the script.

The greatest weakness? PREPARE/ENRICH fails to address gender differences.

In that regard, they follow the path most researchers take. They attempt to level the playing field for men and women, which often leaves men out on a limb if they are unable to follow a feminine pattern of verbal and emotional expressions.

In one of the facilitator training videos, the facilitator is encouraging a woman to continue attacking her husband with no acknowledgment that that is what she is doing. Instead, the facilitator shames and silences the man for trying to defend himself. The man protests, but is left out on a limb emotionally. That bothers me. A lot. No one – male or female – should feel unsupported by someone who is supposed to be helping.

In fact, the lack of respect for male and female differences is the primary reason I continue to work with couples, supporting both the man and the woman in the process of personal development an relationship growth.

Since I closed my clinical practice in 2021, I no longer train facilitators. Nevertheless, I continue to use PREPARE/ENRICH because of its strength in assessing the couple’s relationship strengths, interpersonal dynamics, personality differences, and much more.

I love that it provides the data in easily understandable graphs. You know what your relationship feels like, of course. But most couples appreciate being able to see a snapshot of where they are now compared to where they want to be.

Especially in terms of relationship dynamics.

A skilled professional will be able to assess and describe your dynamics after about five minutes watching you interact with one another. Getting you to recognize your own dynamics takes a lot longer. Being able to picture it in quantifiable terms can help facilitate the process.

The Relationship Dynamics Scale evaluates four interpersonal characteristics as shown in this example. The first two, assertiveness and self-confidence, are positive. So the goal is that both partners score high on those characteristics. The second two, avoidance and partner dominance, are negative. Therefore, the goal is that both partners score low on those characteristics.

Assertiveness is defined as a person’s ability to express personal thoughts and feelings, and to ask for what he/she wants in the relationship. You may consider yourself assertive in other life situations, and you are probably right. What shows up here is how you are in the context of your romantic relationship. In a healthy relationship, both partners score high on assertiveness.

Self-confidence is defined as a person’s positive self-esteem. How good do you feel about your ability to accomplish what you want in life, especially in the context of your romantic relationship? In a healthy relationship, both partners score high on self-confidence.

Avoidance is defined as a person’s tendency to minimize problems and reluctance to deal directly with issues. In a healthy relationship, both partners score low on avoidance.

Finally, partner dominance is defined as the feeling that your partner is dominant, controlling, and interested in managing your life. Couples are often confused when they see this score. It does not mean that your partner is intentionally controlling. It’s about your felt experience and perception of your partner’s intentions. In a healthy relationship, both partners score low on partner dominance.

Understanding a couple’s relationship dynamics is essential to helping them formulate a plan for their next upgrade in connection and contentment.

Of course, there’s a lot more to personal and relational development. If you’re interested in learning more, be sure to like and comment on this video, then subscribe to my channel to learn even more about how to live in love.

Next, we’ll talk about the power of relationship dynamics and how different patterns facilitate or impede the process of growth. In this series, I’ll introduce you to 7 couples. Their names and specific details have been changed to disguise their identities and protect their privacy. I hope you’ll find this series on relationship dynamics informative, helpful, and encouraging. We’ll begin with Richard and Stacy’s story in the next post.

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