Romance is not the end of it all with Silvia Dutchevici – Love Vitamins for Relationships
Silvia M. Dutchevici, MA, LCSW, is president and founder of the Critical Therapy Institute. A trained psychotherapist, Dutchevici (pronounced “doot-KAY-vitch”), created critical therapy on perceiving a need for the theory and practice of psychology to reflect how race, class, gender, and religion intersect with psychological conflicts.
Therapy to understand our Partners along with Ourselves
With more than 20 years experience working with individuals and couples Silvia engaged with us in conversations around relationships, intimacy and how to survive a long term partnership.
One of the things that I realize, and this is one of the reasons I created critical therapy that’s a little different than traditional therapy, is that most people go to therapy and because of the way therapists have been trained, it’s usually only a one-sided relationship. So you go to therapy, you talk about yourself, and you know it’s great. You have all this insight and now and then, Wow, I think I’m healed now. I’m ready to have a relationship. And then you go out there and you can’t have a good relationship because nowhere else in the world is it all about you. So I think part of good therapy is to teach us and to teach our patients how to be in relationship with another, how to share space, how to share power. I think power is the biggest thing that happens in relationship dynamics. and it is really not analyzed, it’s not talked about it. We kind of shy away from power. We don’t wanna look at it, which, is the missed opportunity. So therapy can offer you the space to learn how to be with another and a blueprint for a relationship where you learn how to communicate, you learn how to ask questions, you learn about your partner’s desires, you learn about your own desires, you learn how to negotiate.
Silvia shares her insights on how power shows up in relationships
To go back to power, so power is a very important aspect of critical therapy. And the reason is that there’s power in every relationship. Especially couples, couples, always wanna be equal. Everything’s equal. Nothing is ever equal ever in our world, but power is not a bad thing. What makes power a bad thing is that the models that we’ve seen in our society are always models of power over someone. I have power. I’m going to use it to manipulate you. I have power. I’m your boss. You have to do that. I have power, usually traditionally as I’m your husband, a heterosexual relationship, I get you to do this for me. But power can be something that we share together. And depending on our race, class or gender, our relationship to power inside the world and outside is different. So we’ll always be more or less powerful than others. We need to learn how to negotiate that. So because of that, I figured therapy should be one place where people investigate, interrogate, and learn how to share power.
One other thing to be cognizant of is that, especially for people who have been disempowered, power is not something that’s given to you. Power is something that you have to claim. You have to assert, you have to learn how to reckon with it. So in critical therapy, part of the dynamic that happens between the therapist and the patient is we have these conversations. We look at our identities, my identity, your identity as a patient inside and outside the clinical hour, and how that influences who we are and how we show up. And after we do all that, and we question why you believe the things that you do and how do you use power, and how do those beliefs impact your daily life? Then we learn how to create a more collaborative space. And as I often say, if you are able to do it in here, then you’re able to do it out there in your life.
Our conversation drifts towards what can Partners in a relationship can do to become aware of their power statuses and their power struggles so that they can lead into power negotiations.
- Shift our understanding of power is not something bad
Cuz if it’s something bad, it’s something we don’t wanna have. And then when we have it, we pretend we don’t have it. And that gets really problematic, especially for couples
- Power means responsibility
I have a responsibility to you rather than I have power, I exert it over you.
- Shift the way we talk
Language is powerful. Pay attention to how you talk. Rather than saying I’m doing this for you, try I’m doing this cause I love you or as a gift to you.
People hiding behind Culture
We discuss about how communication plays into effect when, there are people coming from different races or different backgrounds, with different communication styles. Silvia shares her wisdom on how to embrace the differences and goes on to talk about what role society plays into it.
I often say people hide behind culture. So a couple of things. We all have very different identities and we all have very different intersectionality of our experience in the world. Whether you are a woman, whether you are a person of color, whether you’re heterosexual, whether you are rich or not, and all those things matter in relationships, and by talking about them, by not erasing the differences but embracing them.
Silvia addresses another layer, which is how society views us. She thinks it’s important to always question ourselves, what are the traditions we want to keep that enhance our lives? This is what makes us lovable that builds community rather than these traditions that we’re keeping, that actually impact the way we show up in a very negative way. Our discussion goes into the process for negotiation these traditions with your partner. Below is our takeaway from the conversation:
the prerequisite to even getting to negotiation is being able to have a dialogue and the prerequisite to being able to have a dialogue is realizing that you’re on the same team and being charitable to your partner and knowing that they are coming from this understanding that they’re on your side, they’re not against you. We are having a moment of difficulty here, but it doesn’t have to be the end of the world. This ties back to something Silvia mentioned earlier, which is that we really have to change the language that we’re using at home because that distills down into all of the smaller interactions that we have in the day. Using the concept of an emotional bank account: All of these little transactions either add to your emotional bank account and then you can leverage that shared foundation to continue having some more difficult conversations leading into negotiation otherwise, a lot of the times we’re chipping away at that bank account without even realizing it, and then we enter into this deficit. So it’s absolutely a fundamental way of, starting this, this much longer, maybe slightly more difficult process called negotiation, but the prerequisite for it is our bread and butter or everyday aspect of living in a relationship.
Shared Vision and Goals
Can it help couples communicate better when they have a shared vision or goals that they would be talking towards. Silvia shares what she has discovered.
What I discovered about couples is this opposites attract, but they may not stay together. what’s important is not that you are similar in what you do and how you do things, what’s important is that you have similar values, and this is how sometimes you get people who seem like opposites but actually make it work. And that’s because deep down they have the same vision of the world and the world they wanna live in. So what’s important is how do you see the world? What does happiness look like for you? Because if you’re someone who’s like, well, happiness for me is having a stable home and doing, taking vacations, if we could do that and so forth that’s great. If you find someone who’s like, happiness for me is having tons of money and going to 5,000 parties, throughout the year, then it’s probably not gonna work out because you have very different ideas of what you want in life and I think it’s important for people to talk about those things and to sort of like when they start dating.
We tried to peel apart what Silvia said, that, opposites attract, but they don’t usually last forever.”
The first one is I believe that the people we choose in relationships reflect something about ourselves. We’re working through. So whenever someone says, well, I’m in this relationship and it’s all their problem, I’m great. I remind people, but you picked this person for a reason. And the reason is because we’re attracted to those things that we haven’t quite mastered, or understood. And this is one of the reasons I say it’s important that you reckon with yourself and know who you are, because the healthier you are, the healthier your relationship is. It’s a dynamic. It’s always between two or more people. It’s never just, it’s me. I’m great. This person’s the problem. You are in it.
What I often also say to people is that what makes a good relationship. It’s not the absence of conflict that’s not possible.
Practice to Fail
Something that we practice is that in moments of conflict, to revisit the conversation from a healthier place, from a healthier emotional state because there’s still some work that needs to be done there. Silvia shares her practice
It’s lovely and I think when you’re in the midst of conflict, if you are so activated, I think it’s your responsibility to also say, this is too much for me right now. I need a timeout. And then to really reckon with yourself what is happening for me? Cuz sometimes it’s not even about what is happening in the moment. It’s about, again, all your history and all the things that you are associating with this conflict. So if you have that space, you can realize, well, maybe this is not really about you. Maybe this is about how, when I was 12 my mom said this and you sound just like her right now. And I never resolved that. Because I think it puts a different spin on things. And it’s important to take a pause and come back and also be open to being wrong.
What does Silvia do to build a healthier relationship?
Therapy and many failed relationships were a couple Silvia shared. Listen to the full episode to learn more.