Exploring the ebb and flow of a relationship

  • Ebb and flow: Jacqueline Olds and Richard Schwartz explore the shifting connections of romantic life (Photograph supplied)

    Ebb and flow: Jacqueline Olds and Richard Schwartz explore the shifting connections of romantic life (Photograph supplied)


There is a natural ebb and flow in long lasting relationships that should not be confused with rejection according to a successful husband and wife psychology duo.

Psychiatrists and psychoanalysts Jacqueline Olds and Richard Schwartz explored the issue at this weekend’s TEDx Bermuda conference.

“Two people in romantic relationships are always moving closer together or further apart,” Mr Schwartz explained, in an advance interview with The Royal Gazette.

“Misunderstandings of that is something that leads to a lot of marriages coming apart when they were actually very healthy and could easily go on.”

The duo has published three books including Marriage in Motion: The Natural Ebb and Flow of Lasting Relationships.

Mr Schwartz said: “It is not an imperfection, it is part of what is good about life that the very closeness after a certain point leads your interest and attention to shift outward to other things and people.

“You have to be able to recognise that not as a sign of love being lost, but a sign that you need to eventually figure out a way to reconnect and move things back towards each other again.”

Ms Olds likened it to the attention needed by young children.

“We compare it with that phase when you are taking care of a toddler who needs to come in for a hug before they can take a wide circle to play and explore. Eventually they have to come back to refuel with another snuggle.

“It’s a bit like that with romantic partners, if you miss it for a while you start to feel estranged.”

Ms Olds and Mr Schwartz are both associate clinical professors of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.

They are on the faculty of the McLean Hospital Psychiatry Residency Programme at Massachusetts General Hospital, as well as the Boston Psychoanalytic Institute and Society, and the Psychoanalytic Family and Couples Institute of New England.

Their talk yesterday also touched on the difficulties of creating new relationships or maintaining old ones over time — and the epidemic of loneliness in today’s society.

Mr Schwartz said: “It is sort of the bread and butter of our everyday life in practice — you have people who are worried about their relationships and feeling disconnected and it is pretty much universal.”

The pair joined eight other presenters at the Fairmont Southampton, including experts in the area of artificial intelligence, molecular medicine and neuroscience.

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Published Oct 6, 2018 at 12:01 am (Updated Oct 7, 2018 at 1:51 pm)

Exploring the ebb and flow of a relationship

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