The Relationship Blog

Couples Therapy Technique: Agreements & The Four Yeses – Dr. Bruce Derman – The Relationship Doctor

What is the biggest mistakes that couples make in a relationship?

Dr. Bruce Derman: Being in a long term committed relationship is extremely challenging. It asks you to face and come to agreement and thousands and thousands of agreements. Some big, some small, yet no one tells us, at least they never told me, what a real agreement is.

Marla Gorlick: So ask yourself, have you made agreements in your life where you ended up feeling resentful, frustrated, and disappointed? Well guess what, you’re not alone. This is so common. Couples make agreements with just one yes. But a real agreement is with four yesses. A mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual yes.

Dr. Bruce Derman: You may be asking, what’s involved in these yesses? Mentally it means that your thoughts beliefs and values are in line. Emotionally, that you’re feeling say yes. Physically, that you have the energy to support that agreement. And spiritually, that it meets a higher purpose in the relationship.

Marla Gorlick: So each of us has had experience with past relationships where they were just partial yesses. And the result was chaos, turmoil, discontent.

Dr. Bruce Derman: In a previous relationship of mine, I knew from the very beginning that I didn’t have an emotional yes. I didn’t feel safe, I didn’t feel solid, yet my insecurity led me to go ahead anyway.

Marla Gorlick: And for me, I wanted to wait before taking a relationship further. I needed more psychological development. I needed to be older. But I didn’t do that. I went along instead with my partner’s desire. Truly that was not a mental yes. And the result of that was a very functional relationship but it was an immature one that a lot of hiding, avoiding, and sweeping issues under the rug.

Dr. Bruce Derman: In contrast in our marriage we had a full agreement on all four levels from the very beginning and as a result, we’ve both experienced the most nourishing, most mature, conflict free relationship that we’ve ever had in our life.

Marla Gorlick: So real agreements take a lot more time energy, energy discussion, and the willingness to listen to your partner. So look at three past agreements that you’ve made with your partner were they real agreements, or were they sloppy ones?

Dr. Bruce Derman: With this tool that we’re giving you, with the four yesses, you can go back to those agreements and look at them through the eyes and the lens of the four yesses. That will enable you to turn around sloppy agreements, know what the gaps are, and end up making full agreements. If you just are committed to that process.

For more information on couples therapy, contact Dr. Bruce Derman PH.D. at or Marla Gorlick at

Author: Bruce Derman Ph.D. is a licensed clinical psychologist in private practice in Woodland Hills and Santa Monica, California who specializes in working with people in all stages of relationships. You may reach Dr. Derman by calling (818) 375-7194.

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