Can the meaning-making within an intercultural couple, and between this couple and their therapist, help us to understand the couple’s bitter conflict and the difficulties of dealing with it in therapy? This single case study answers this question, presenting a semantic analysis inspired by Ugazio’s model of family semantic polarities. The analysis was carried out by applying the family semantic grid II to 140 min from three video-recorded and transcribed sessions with the couple. The result suggests that the misunderstandings and disappointments that fed the couple’s conflict were connected with the lack of semantic cohesion within the couple. They constructed meanings during the therapeutic conversation using two different semantic worlds: the semantics of power and of freedom. The analysis also suggests some possible strategies to overcome the couple’s conflict, and raises some questions about how to address racial differences during therapy.
An intercultural couple’s bitter conflict is clarified by a semantic analysis (SA) which highlights the couple’s low semantic cohesion.
The SA suggests focusing on the emotions – shame and courage – underlying the partners’ dominant semantics – power and freedom – and anchoring the meanings to all the family members.
Therapists should address ‘race’ and racism with intercultural couples, even if such conversations do not emerge spontaneously in their narrated stories.