H. Laurence Schwab, M.F.T.

Navigating Your Relationship


Relationship Advice from H. Laurence Schwab, M.F.T.: Support for Couples

How navigating your partnership is like sailing your own boat

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Perhaps it has become clear to you that for your relationship to thrive you need to collaborate, handle surprises, and communicate well with each other. That may be harder than you expected, but it is true. Everyone’s relationship gets tippy or sails through choppy waters at some point. As author H. Laurence Schwab, M.F.T., tells us, it may be very helpful to equate this challenging journey with owning and sailing your own boat, and sharing the ups and downs together. He suggests that if you both take care of yourselves effectively, see yourselves as captains, listen to each other, and share a journey of exploration and authenticity, you can reach the destination you desire and need.

Thanks to a compelling childhood experience around his father’s love of sailboats, a family emphasis on art that made it seem natural to think in metaphors, and nearly thirty years as a marriage and family therapist, Schwab offers a journey of self-exploration and imagination that is intended to reduce tension in your relationship.

Written with the comforting tone and the warmth of a validating therapy session, the text balances your need for a better understanding of what has happened to your relationship and your need for bracing solutions that help you feel like things are under control, while offering multiple opportunities for a private ah-hah moment as a particular metaphor or story resonates with your experience.

This unique look at what intimacy really means is rich and compelling. For couples struggling, this book offers valuable tools to take a fresh look at their relationship.

Daniel Gottlieb Ph.D., family therapist and author of The Wisdom We’re Born with: Restoring Faith in Ourselves

Feeling small AND looking big

One of the keys to self-control and serenity within a partnership, according to Schwab, is to recognize that we are constantly faced with a “crazy normal” distortion. In intimate partnerships, when the other person looks big to us, we feel small and need to take responsibility for the way we take care of ourselves through our behavior, our recognition of our feelings, empathy and mindfulness. In fact, the same sensation and confusion is happening to our partner at the same time. They are also feeling small, even though they look big to us, and we are looking big to them. This dynamic is explored throughout the book, illustrated with metaphors and offering concise solutions to this universal emotional dilemma. The author has discovered that critical moments in relationships have four distinctive characteristics that, if properly understood, can provide relief, hope, and control for each individual. In a nutshell, relationships are confounding and include these reliable dimensions:

This natural distortion makes us feel like we need control, and there are ways to meet that need and enhance a relationship, rather than making it more toxic.

Groundbreaking! In Navigating Your Relationship: A Voyage for Couples, Schwab illustrates how many live their relationship “feeling small AND looking big.” He empowers couples to create their unique roadmap for discovery and dialogue.

R. Dandridge Collins, Ph. D., author of the non-fiction classic The Trauma Zone: Trusting God for Emotional Healing

Intimate relationships can also be confusing

It is very likely that there are tense moments for you as a couple. These are uncomfortable and challenging. Perhaps you would rather avoid them completely, but they keep coming back. In Navigating Your Relationship: A Voyage for Couples, you will be gently guided to get used to navigating a boat together, find plenty of metaphors and stories to talk about, and have the opportunity to learn not only what your emotional needs are but how to address them. Assuming it is the relationships we have with each other that determine our peace of mind and quality of life, then it is through relating more clearly with each other that we can improve our lives. The book teaches both of you to transform emotional pain into emotional connection by trusting feelings and intuitions, expressing yourself openly, understanding responses to emotions, learning to take responsibility for the way things turn out, and taking control of the normal confusion that’s part of being intimate. If you feel your relationship is important and meaningful, it is worth working on, whether you are married or not, and whether you are currently living together or not. It is an emotional connection, reactions happen quickly, and sometimes you need to be able to slow them down in order to hold on to your partnership. By reading this book in a collaborative way, you can learn to:

This is a practical, systemically oriented guide that couples and clinicians working with couples will find helpful in navigating the complex, often turbulent, waters of intimate relationships. Through his creative use of metaphor- building and steering a boat- Schwab targets significant aspects of relationships, such as defining each partner’s limits of responsibility, viewing intimacy as a celebration of differences, accepting our own vulnerability, and bringing personal integrity to our interactions in the present. The focus on viewing challenges and conflicts as opportunities to experiment with new skills and remaining open to new ways of thinking is a refreshing shift from the conventional way of looking at human behavior in terms of fixed realities and pathology.

John Brendler, MSW, ACSW, LMFT, family and marital therapist, and founder of Building Bridges, a multidisciplinary, holistic healing context in Media, PA Co-author of Madness, Chaos, and Violence: Therapy with Families at the Brink. – Teacher, leader of supervision groups, and international seminar leader in family therapy. – Recognized expert in dealing with dangerous symptoms, destructive relationships, and families in serious trouble.