Normal people 

Couple fit: Marianne and Connell 

When I first meet a couple for an initial consultation, one of the thoughts I hold in mind are ‘why did this couple choose each other’ 

As a couple therapist, understanding the ‘couple fit’ is an important part of the work. This is to do with the unconscious reasons couples gravitate towards each other and it explains that feeling of connection that is often felt when potential lovers ‘click’. 

Recently, two of my clients told me I should watch the BBC series Normal People, so how could I resist, especially as it’s about a couple and the trajectory of their relationship. 

One of the compelling themes in Normal People is the deep bond that Marianne and Connell share.  On more than one occasion Marianne says ‘it’s not like this with other people’ when referring to their sexual connection. The strong chemistry between these young lovers is partly due to their couple fit but how that chemistry is maintained through the years is about distance and individuation. I will come back to this later. 

First, let’s explore their couple fit. As with most couples, Marianne and Connell’s couple fit is a promising combination of similarities and differences. They share the absence of a father figure yet their maternal relationships couldn’t be more different. Marianne comes from an affluent yet dysfunctional family with a critical and cold mother, and a brother who torments her. In contrast, Connell’s from a working class family with a warm and loving single mum.

They have just enough for some common ground but their opposite experiences spark an intrigue and curiosity in each other.  Most importantly, however, they both struggle with feelings of self worth and confidence. Early on, in their brief exchanges, there is an unconscious recognition that they share a feeling of ‘not quite fitting in’ and a self consciousness (e.g. Marianne notices how Connell has a tendency to blush). So here we have the foundation of unconscious attraction that acts as a ‘hook’. It’s that curious feeling when you’ve met someone that for some reason continues to linger in your head. 

So how do our protagonists maintain their chemistry throughout the years? One can say that distance maintains their connection, but it’s also about individuation. As much as we want Connell and Marianne to go to the debs together and live happily ever after, it’s developmental that they break up and go on to date other people as this facilities them to individuate. When meeting couples in therapy who have been together for several years from a young age, it is common that I experience them as ‘merged’, as if they have become one person. Relationships tread a fine line between separateness and closeness, with often tensions and differences about how much space is ‘allowed’ in the relationship.

I won’t go into detail as I wouldn’t want to spoil the story for anyone who hasn’t seen the series or read the book. But there is a moment when Marianne and Connell make a choice about their future which again, allows for growth, not just for their relationship but them as individuals. All too often, and with good intentions, promises of forever are made but this type of ‘rescuing’ can backfire in the long run because as the fabulous Esther Perel says in Mating in Captivity:

‘Introducing uncertainty sometimes requires nothing more than letting go of the illusion of certitude’.


Relationships therapy east london

Relationship and Couple Therapy

Sometimes relationships may undergo periods of stress and it may feel as if they are a source of unhappiness or confusion. Relationship counselling helps couples and individuals explore problematic patterns that may be affecting their quality of life. The problem may be recurring or after an event or series of events.

We work with a wide range of couples from different cultural backgrounds and sexual orientations

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Psychosexual Therapy

Psychosexual therapy is an integrative approach which combines talking therapy with behavioural therapy. It can take place on an individual basis or with a partner. It will involve an assessment of the sexual issue (including any associated medical factors) whilst exploring further how the relationship, sexual development and personal history may be affecting the sexual issue. Behavioural exercises may be discussed in the sessions, which will then be carried out at home to help the individual or couple address their sexual difficulties.

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Psychosexual Therapists East London

East London Individual Counselling

Individual Counselling

Individual counselling is a joint process between a therapist and client. Common goals of therapy may be to motivate change or improve quality of life. Therapy can help people overcome obstacles to emotional and mental well-being.

It can also increase positive feelings, such as compassion and self-esteem. People in therapy can learn healthy skills for managing difficult situations, making positive decisions, and reaching goals.

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