What Is Irrelationship?


Irrelationship is a jointly created psychological defense system that two or more people maintain in order to avoid awareness of the anxiety that’s a natural part of becoming close to others — especially anxiety about letting people see and know us for who we really are (i.e., intimacy). Irrelationship happens outside of awareness, working well to protect us from anxiety, intimacy, and emotional investment while blocking mutually satisfying relationships from developing.

Those in irrelationship generally tend to fall into the role of either Performer or Audience. The Performer desperately tries to take care of the Audience, and the Audience hangs back and lets the Performer try to rescue and fix him or her. By doing so, the Audience is also taking care of the Performer by giving her or him the opportunity to avoid anxiety by getting caught up in those same futile activities. While it fends off anxiety, it only leads to repetitive cycles of distancing and withdrawal.

Irrelationship is often seen in people drawn to one another in romance; but can just as easily affect friendships, work-life, family, and even society and culture.

While the basic idea of irrelationship is straightforward, getting a deeper understanding of how it works, what sustains it, the many ways it can manifest, and how to start finding ways out of irrelationship into real relationship is complex. These facets in particular are helpful starting points:


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The Book

Irrelationship: How We Use Dysfunctional Relationships to Hide from Intimacy

By: The Irrelationship Group
Published by Central Recovery Press, October of 2015.

Irrelationship explores how disquiet with caregivers in early childhood teaches us to get into chronic dysfunctional relationships in adulthood.

Irrelationship: How We Use Dysfunctional Relationships to Hide from Intimacy is a transformative exploration of the unconscious defense systems created by couples (and others) to avoid the vulnerability that comes with investment in others. Drawing from their extensive clinical experience, the authors explain the development of brainlock and irrelationship using the histories of numerous individuals and couples. Analysis of these histories draws the connection between early childhood experiences with dysfunctional caregivers and the anxiety that drives affected individuals (and couples) to devise roles for themselves (“song-and-dance routines”) to protect themselves from the risks inherent in close relationships; namely, empathy, intimacy, emotional risk and emotional investment.

But readers aren’t left wondering if they’re fated to repeat this pattern forever: the book takes us through the DREAM Sequence, a carefully crafted set of tools that guides us in the process of exploring the anxiety we experience when we find ourselves attracted to others. As we become accustomed to using the tools, we become able to transition from the controlled but unsatisfying roles (“song-and-dance routines”) we’re accustomed to and into the excitement and challenge of genuine openness and closeness to others.

The book’s accessible style makes it a “must-have” for anyone who wants to develop the skills needed for building or restoring genuine, loving relationships.

Get your copy in paperback or e-book here.