by our guest-blogger Christiane Waterson


Over the past year I have been introduced to the “Circle of Relating”, Bob and Rita Resnick’s model that illustrates the dynamic stages of connecting and withdrawing within a relationship. Many others will have got to know their work over the years, and I am wondering if I am the only one who can no longer watch any television without feeling an irrepressible urge to apply the Resnick model to any two living beings who interact on the screen.

Take the recent Winter Olympics, for example. As I was immersing myself in the beauty of ice dancing (despite the protestations of my children who believe that the only sports worth watching are those in which human beings reach a speed of at least 50 km/h) my thoughts invariably turned to the “Circle of Relating”.

The model describes any healthy relationship as being defined by four processes that the couple will live through recurrently, with contact and confluence being two of them. Contact is defined by both partners moving independently of each other but staying in touch, while confluence describes them as (re-)acting as one.

On the ice rink the dance couples act it out perfectly: Contact – yes (I noted that myself)! The performance wouldn’t be half as impressive if they drew a line across the rink and went about doing their twizzles and step sequences each in their own space. For a start, the audience wouldn’t know which way to look! A fluent display of touching and releasing each other, only to find one another again moments later emphasises the strength of the couple’s connection.

And then: Confluence – yes! The way in which those pairs perform their programmes seems to be all about sensing what your partner does, producing exact movements simultaneously and moving as one to the same tune. It makes for compelling viewing.

Obviously some manage it better than others. So what makes the difference?

Take the German pair, for example. Both were clearly gifted ice dancers and together they put on an entertaining, funny show (who says that Germans have no humour!), but, as the commentator remarked, despite well-executed dance components they never seemed to move as one. Clearly lots of contact here, but not enough in the way of confluence.

The young Russian pair made a better job out of dancing as one. They floated effortlessly across the ice and seemed linked to each other by invisible elastic bands. I’d personally say that it helped the overall impression that they wore costumes of the same colour, but surely a more experienced critic than I am would be able to see past that!

And indeed, both top-ranked couples appeared on the ice in non-matching outfits and still enchanted the audience (and judges) with a flawlessly (con)fluent interpretation of their chosen piece of music. After each independently executed movement, they reconnected visibly through their touch and gaze. These couples seemed completely tuned into one another and connected through their identical interpretation of the same tune.

I was left wondering how many hours of training had gone into performances like these. Hours spent practising moves, but also getting to know your partner inside and out, and learning to sense their movement and mirror them in the exact same way. How amazingly well you must know each other in order to move in such complete unison!

In the end, the American couple went home with the gold medal. And with Bob and Rita Resnick being their compatriots, it just goes to show that collectively the Americans must know a thing or two about the processes of relating!!