There are many people advertising themselves as Experts in many categories of skill and knowledge. Relationship experts are all over the internet providing advice to people who are heavily invested in making a particular relationship work, or finding and sustaining a healthy relationship. But did you know many of these so-called Experts do not know much about what makes a good relationship? Many of them are actually re-quoting things they read in pop psychology books, or other sources online. Many of these experts are better at marketing themselves as experts then developing and sharing any expertise. When you go to a relationship expert for advice, ask yourself, or maybe even them, from what pool of knowledge do they draw their expertise?
Recently I presented at a conference on Healthy Relationships. The research I reviewed for this presentation was broad and not easy to interpret. Vague categories emerged like "Quality Time" and "Communication". We all know that a good relationship requires enjoying the other person's company, trust and feeling understood. What is not as easily unpacked is how to create these factors.
Psychotherapists trained in Marraige and Family Counselling should have knowledge of the skills that build a healthy relationship. For example, when I work with clients in relationships, I teach them different ways to talk to each other to reduce defensiveness and allow for expressions of empathy, and active listening.
Trust and fulfillment in relationships, however, is not just skill based. Its often emotional and neuro-biologically influenced. What we learn in early childhood can wire our brains to react certain ways in significant adult relationships. Any trauma or unhealthy early lessons about love, emotion and trust will often carry itself into adult relationships. That is where an Expert needs to understand psychological theory and research as well as be adept at helping people see patterns, as well as make and sustain changes.
Ultimately, you are your own expert on your own relationship. The way you feel, whether directly influenced by the actions of another person towards you, or triggered by early learning - is going to determine the quality of the relationship. The way you identify, understand and manage your own emotions is also going to have a huge impact on not only the relationship itself, but how you negotiate your way through it, and what kind of relationships you value or are attracted to. This is all "work" that can be done with an "Expert" in human change. So if you are seeking change in the area of relationships, make sure that the person you go to for help has a thorough knowledge and background in working with emotions, early learning and change itself.