Tools for Couples Happiness — 11 July 2010
Use the placebo effect to heal your relationship

To establish the efficacy of new medication for certain conditions, medical researchers compare patients’ reactions to a new pill or procedure with those who receive a placebo, a dummy pill or a “fake” procedure.

It is also known that when a patient trusts the placebo as the real medication, he/she is more likely to improve, regardless of the true nature of the treatment.

Can the placebo effect also help couples in healing their relationship?

John Swartzberg, M.D., Chair, Editorial Board of UC Wellness Letter, states, “It’s believed that anywhere from 10% to 40% of people given a placebo show some improvement for a variety of conditions-notably pain, such as that from migraines or arthritis.”

In their study, “Placebo effect significant in treating depression,” Professor Irving Kirsch and Guy Saperstein found that, “Seventy-five percent of the response to medication for depression was a result of the patient being in treatment, while at the most 25 percent of the response was a true drug effect.”

It appears that attention, caring, and the physician/patient team efforts to alleviate the patient’s suffering are instrumental in healing. Dr. Swartzberg clarifies, “the ethical use of the placebo effect is an ally in healing. In a way, it’s just another name for trust, optimism, and hope.”

Trust, optimism and hope, combined with appropriate actions, can certainly aid couples in healing their relationship wounds and recover their happiness and wellbeing.

Placebo is the Latin term for “I will please.” There is nothing “fake” about this intent. Determining to please your mate will be reflected in your positive attitude and can change the tenor of your relationship. Your mate will sense your accommodating motivation and is likely feel pleased and reciprocate in kind.

Trust is essential to healing. Trust can be a trust in yourself, in your mate, in your relationship and in your mutual capacity for change. Those who give up or despair lose the resolve to recover.

For example, if you have had an unpleasant exchange, a misunderstanding or a fight, do not lose trust. Approach your mate with a pleasing attitude. “ I want to restore our connection that was briefly lost in last night’s argument.” Become accountable for your part in the spat. “ I regret that my tone was critical and my words were harsh.”

Trust in your mate requires that you extend your olive branch, respecting that he/she also wants to please you and recover from the pain. “I know you did not mean what you said, either, because you are a kind and sensitive person. You must have been very hurt and angry.” This empathic approach allows your partner to restore his/her esteem and integrity.

Trusting your relationship may prompt you to say, “I know we both value our relationship and want it restored.” Trusting the process of change may lead you to say, “Do we need to talk? Would a hug be helpful? What would you need to feel better about me and us?”

Optimism is the positive view of knowing that your rifts can be mended. “I know we both love each other and can work on any problem as a team. I can see us happily together for the rest of our lives.”

Hope is the visualized image of the relationship at its best. Describe to your partner your vision of the ideal connection you wish to attain. Ask your spouse for his/her version. Blend them into a unique scene that would be soothing to both of you.

Use the placebo effect to restore your loving bond:

• Focus on “I will please” my mate daily.
• Trust yourself, your mate and the unquestionable permanence of your union.
• Be optimistic about repairing your recurring issues and actualizing your harmonious dream.
• Use hope to visualize your mutual ideal image of your relationship as you walk toward it hand in hand.

Related Articles

About Author

Offra Gerstein, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in clinical practice in Santa Cruz, California for over 25 years, and specializes in relationship issues for couples and individuals for improved quality of life. Her work includes: mate selection, marriage, long term relationships, gay and lesbian couples, work relationships, parenting issues, family interactions, friendships, and conflict resolutions. Offra has lectured extensively to various groups, conducted support groups for several organizations, and has been writing a weekly column "Relationship Matters" for the Santa Cruz Sentinel since 2001.

(0) Readers Comments

Comments are closed.