Encyclopedia of Couple and Family Therapy

2019 Edition
| Editors: Jay L. Lebow, Anthony L. Chambers, Douglas C. Breunlin

Symmetrical Relationships in Couples and Families

  • J. Gregory BriggsEmail author
  • Michelle A. Finley
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-49425-8_310

Name of Concept

Symmetrical Relationships


Symmetrical relationships are those in which partners’ behaviors parallel one another (Watzwalick et al. 1967). The fact that the behavior of individuals in symmetrical relationships is identical implies neither health nor dysfunction in the relationship. Individuals who show and reciprocate the same acts of kindness and love are in a symmetrical relationship. Enemies who are engaged in an exchange of identical acts of violence and hatred are also in a symmetrical relationship. When problems do occur in symmetrical relationships, they are often the result of the absence of restraining factors that prevent escalation, instability, or a breakdown in the relationship. For example, if the symmetrical relationship between boxers (i.e., each boxer punches the other) were not restrained by rules (e.g., no punching below the belt), the referee, and the bell that marks the end of a round of fighting, their interactions would more closely...

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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Psychology, Counseling, and Family ScienceLipscomb UniversityNashvilleUSA
  2. 2.Antioch University SeattleSeattleUSA

Section editors and affiliations

  • Eli Karam
    • 1
  1. 1.University of LouisvilleLouisvilleUSA