Rabbi Yehoshua ben Pirchya in Pirkei Avos 1:6 says “Assume for yourself a master (Rav), acquire for yourself a friend (Chaver), and judge every man (alternate translation: judge the entire person) to the side of merit.” This Mishna very succinctly and accurately reflects the essence of an approach to couples therapy rooted in what Dr. Murray Bowen described as Differentiation. Short version of diff.

“Assume for yourself a master” or “Aseh Lecha Rav” can be translated as “Go get yourself a Rabbi” — but I like to see it as telling us: “Make yourself ‘Rav'”. ‘Rav’ can mean ‘Rabbi’ but it can also mean ‘Great’ or ‘Grand’. Someone who seeks out and cultivates their own latent and innate greatness, necessarily evolves themselves into someone greater than they were yesterday, last year, or when they were a child. The greater a person becomes, the greater their ability to meaningfully connect with other people; people who are always different and often difficult. The Hebrew word for ‘connect’ is ‘Chibur’ – which shares a root with the word for ‘Friend’ or ‘Chaver’. The more I grow my solid-self towards greatness, the greater my ability to connect to those who are different and difficult. As my ability to work with the inevitable ‘difficult’ in others grows along with my ever solidifying greater self, so too grows my ability and desire to ‘judge favorably’ the whole person with whom I seek to evolve a connection – while my evolving “greatness” enables me a greater tolerance for the humanity I encounter in that person’s entirety – and myself – in the human process of connection. While some may say that increasing our “greatness” risks pulling us into arrogance, my experience with clients shows that it actually leads to a profound humility, which itself is one of the hallmarks of Moshe who was also the greatest who ever lived.

Greatness-induced humility is a great way of driving marriage and intimacy towards the innate potential which awaits those couples who are ready to make that move. The differentiation-based paradigm in which I work is uniquely suited to harness this potential which is innate to every human being.