Gila Belfair is the author of the book "The Connective Tissues of Relationships" and creator of a relationship model based on the functionality of the human body's connective tissue; Gila is a therapist, both for couples and individuals, and a public speaker.
My name is Gila Belfair. For over 30 years now I have dedicated myself to listening to people, with the aim of having
them reach a better place in their own life.
Through the years, I have focused on the field of relationships, in general, and more specifically, intimate relationships, out of the understanding and belief that an intimate relationship (being the immense challenge that it is) might also be the most important one, allowing for important personal and interpersonal growth. That is why anyone involved in creating better relationships (with oneself, with siblings, family, friends or community), and more specifically an intimate relationship, eventually contributes to the creation of a better world.
My professional job is social work, and I have been working in the public service for about 20 years, during which I have worked with families, children and adolescents. I have initiated and led community projects and established and managed the welfare department of a regional council in the south of Israel.
I have taught NLP and guided imagery. I have been working privately, for over a decade now, supporting individuals and couples in their journey of development and growth in their relationships and personal life.
I have a B.S.W degree from the School of Social Work in Bar-Ilan University and an M.A. degree in Comparative Communication from Ben Gurion University. Graduate of the Tel-Aviv University Gestalt Therapy Program, graduate of couple's therapy course at "SHINUI" Institute and I hold the highest NLP qualification level: NLP Trainer.
The Connective Tissues of Relationships
For nearly 30 years my husband and I have been working at connecting our edges, smoothing our thorns, calming our fears, our resistance, our difficulties, but most of all, constructing our space of coexistence. I call this our Connective Tissue, and I am always very eager to talk and share on the subject.
The human body has a connective tissue, responsible for the 'relationships' between the body's organs. It connects the organs and separates them too. We, much like the organs in the human body, are connected by an invisible connective tissue, a tissue that connects us, but that also sets us apart.
This understanding has led my husband and me to set out on a process in which we transitioned from a place of total lack of confidence in the success of our life as a couple, to a fierce will to share and help others to build the best relationship for them (if they choose to do so).
I have revisited the path we went through, in retrospect, reading, investigating, studying the world of intimate
relationships, and eventually developed the Connective Tissue of Relationships model, of which you can read, in depth, here. I have written a chapter about it with Jack Canfield in his book "The Soul of Success" ("Chicken Soup for the Soul", "The Success Principles") which became an Amazon Best-Seller in the United States and Canada! I published my first book titled "The Connective Tissues of our Relationships", which you can purchase here on the website, and I give talks on the subjects, on which you can read more here.
My vision is to help people develop and sustain significant, great-quality relationships, while empowering their own ability of self-expression in all walks of life.
"No man is an island", wrote the poet John Donne, and Walt Whitman similarly wrote "I contain multitudes".
"Good relationships, whether these are on the community level, within the family or with an intimate partner, are the crucial basis for predicting an individual's ability to be happy". (excerpt from Happily ever after, Dr. Tal Ben-Shahar).
The talk is titled "The Connective Tissues of Relationships" and it is focused on intimate relationships. I give the talk along with my husband, Nadav, an ophthalmologist in the "Soroka" University Medical Center. Together we present the model I developed, based on the physical connective tissue in the human body. We draw an analogy between the function and importance of the connective tissue and forming meaningful relationships of value between partners. In short, we can learn from the human body on how to build meaningful, quality relationships.
Getting to know the physical connective tissue and its roles, and comparing it to the structure of inter-personal relationships, contributes immensely to recognizing the inter-personal space and to understanding how crucial it is for forming successful relationships.
There are many talks in the market, and even more workshops. You two managed to bring something new to the table, something different. A kind of dance, fluttering over issues such as pain, expectation, disappointment, questioning, but mostly – betterment. Your choreography for two is so beautiful because it is profound but light-footed, piercing and humorous, warm, and above all, uncompromising. Thank you for allowing me to take part. Looking forward for more. – Liat Brand
An important talk and a most indispensable information. A great treasure was delivered at our doorstep.
Thank you very much, Gila and Nadav, for a most wonderful talk. – Danny Perry
A very interesting, educating talk, pushing one to examine, question and view relationships in a beautiful and original light.
As one of the participants said "Why isn't this taught in school? In university?" Why indeed? – Meirav Damari
An important talk for any couple! Observe and examine our relationship's connective tissue, ask questions and arrive at empowering, advancing insights. – Mira Kahlon-Akermann
Such an enriching talk. Perfect for any couple, at any stage of their life, pre-chapter, mid-chapter… relationship-intensifying. I recommend heartily. – Sigalit Lahav
"Thank you very much for the interesting talk about relationship as a connective tissue… This is an intriguing, touching and thought-provoking interpretation. Left me wanting more" – Orly Elyakim
"Courageous Gila, you took a such a run-of-the-mill subject and brightly lit it up, aiming a spotlight from new, intriguing and thought-provoking angles. Well done!" – Etti Albogen
"Since last night I have been pensive, can't stop reflecting on the model. It has touched me so deeply, and continues to do so, and I can't say exactly in what way. This will stay with me. Thank you very much for sharing with courage and honesty." – Tirza
"Fascinating, diverse talk, I enjoyed every moment. Well done." – Orly Fresh
"The material was delivered pleasantly, clearly and interestingly, well done." – Abigail Katz
The Connective Tissue of Relationships
"I stormed into our bedroom and slammed the door behind me. I was shaken, the doorframe cracked. He comes home late without telling me first; leaves me alone with the kids day after day. He promises one thing and does something completely different. I had no idea how to relieve the pain and frustration that I felt at that moment. I had basically given up… I've been repeating myself over and over again for the last ten years and nothing ever changes. It's like talking to a wall. I've had enough. I don't know what to do with him. I hear myself yelling and don't recognize myself anymore… Sometimes I think that I would be better off alone; I can't carry his weight on my shoulders any longer. I can raise our children without him; I don't want to feel this pain anymore… I sat down on the bed and took a deep breath. I need to get back to the children as soon as I can. It's bad enough that they hear me yelling so often lately… Then he comes into the room and doesn't say a word, which drives me completely mad. He just looks at me. My first instinct is to tell him to get out of the room. I almost say it, but when I look at him, I can see that he's tired too, perhaps even desperate, and something feels different this time. Instead of yelling and trying to explain my perspective, I just sit there silently. We sit in silence… The anger subsides and I'm surprised to discover that it has been replaced with something new, something softer, like a wave that washes over us. I let it happen, it calmed me down. For a moment I wanted to get angry at him again, to make him understand. But something in my body's reaction changed…"
I listen to her speak. Michal and her husband Raz are sitting together in my clinic and I know that we have reached a turning point. It is clear by the expression on Raz's face. He seems less startled by Michal's booming voice and his silence is accompanied by a smile this time. It is a closed-of smile but definitely a smile. It is our fourth session together. The first one was very tumultuous with Michal being very dominant and taking up a lot of room. In these sessions we worked mainly on the "how": how to listen, how to convey a message, how to escape from the chaos and emotional mess. It enabled Michal to let go, open up and be aware not only of Raz's physical presence, but also of his feelings; that is the moment of connection.
The moment something changes and there is even the smallest sign of emotional availability towards the other person ("I can see that he's tired too") connections are made, and the more connection are formed – the stronger the relationship becomes. The process begins when we step outside of our individual stories and allow ourselves to receive something from the person in front of us. A connection is formed, one of the many connections that already exist in the relationship, and more connections to come. I call this series of connections the connectivity tissue of relationships. Not only do they enhance a relationship, they also help develop the individual personality of each person in the relationship. Forming and maintaining a good relationship is an enormous challenge. Naturally, many points of contentions arise that force us to leave our comfort zone, which enables us to enhance our attributes and qualities to a higher level of functioning and we become more flexible, creative, patient, forgiving, enabling, and so forth.
I borrowed the concept of "connective tissue" from the field of medicine, specifically biology. I have adapted this concept to describe the process of building understanding and awareness in inter-personal relationships. There is much to be learned from the role of the connective tissue, which is a perfect demonstration of the saying that "the whole is greater than the sum of its parts". This tissue maintains the "relationship" between the various organs in our bodies. Developing the connective tissue between two people can create something more complete than each of you on your own. This is no easy task.
Here I offer a brief description of the role of connective tissue in the human body and explain how one can deduce from it about connections between couples, or any other type of inter-personal relationships, for that matter. Try to imagine the relationship as a virtual body with its own qualities and characteristics. This may ease the understanding of the important role of the connective tissue.
Connective tissue is supporting tissue that connects and delineates different parts of our bodies. Changes to the chemical composition of the basic tissue and the ratio and quantity of cells and fibers create connective tissue with varying characteristics. Connective tissue is designed to support, serve and protect other organs.
The skeleton is connective tissue that provides osseous and mechanical support for the body. This firm connective tissue maintains the shape and form of our body and protects vital organs such as the brain, heart and lungs.
The skeleton represents the foundations of your relationship. What are the things that are most important to you? Which values guide you in your relationship? What can maintain and stabilize your relationship? In order to identify these things, you will have to consider which aspects of your relationship are most important to both of you. The answers may include openness, loyalty, mutuality, love, sharing, caring, success, personal space, security, prosperity, communication, honesty and more.
Tendons, ligaments and cartilage are parts of tissue that connects the muscles to the skeleton and joins the various parts of the skeleton. This connective tissue enables movement, and therefore is somewhat agile.
Once you have identified the foundations of your relationship, the next step is to understand how to apply those foundations. What actions do you choose to take that are congruent with the foundations of your relationship? How do you express and implement the things that are most important to you as part of your daily routine? Needless to emphasize, you are two different people and each has their own practical understanding of those foundations. Do your actions correspond with one another? For example, some may express love through emotional discourse while others express it through physical contact (though the two can certainly be combined…work it out between the two of you).
Your fundamental values, like your actions, are consciously determined, but the success of those actions depends on your beliefs, which are less obvious and accessible as they are based in your subconscious. Be conscious of your internal dialogue because it will determine the ultimate outcome. Your beliefs about yourselves are a form of energetic communication. In his fascinating work Biology of Belief, Dr. Lipton reminds us that atoms are comprised of invisible energy and that every structure in the universe, including human beings, emits unique energy. But he goes far beyond this to prove, as an epigenetics researcher, that our emotional system, our beliefs and our consciousness affect the genetic code of the cell! The membranes that form the cell wall receive signals that can alter behavior. He writes that "the true secret of life lies in understanding the elegantly simple biological mechanism of the magical membrane – the mechanisms by which your body translates environmental signals into behavior" (pg. 45).
Soft connective tissue: this liquid tissue serves and protects other organs. This connective tissue defines the boundaries of the various cells by transmitting signals. In other words, it enables passage of communication substances (such as hormones), in order to share information, and also supports the body by passing nourishment and waste from one location in which high concentrations exist, to low-concentration areas, and even helps renew tissue and perverse balance within the body.
Soft tissue reflects something deep within you. It is intimacy itself. It is the sanctified place that exists between you, which goes beyond your external image and is in fact a deep, spiritual and emotional journey. It has its own unique pace and holds the key to revealing and understanding your true self. This intimacy is manifested in many different ways. Unlike your foundations and actions which are often manifested externally so that people who are close to you can say "we know them and they are this and that", this is a private, intimate world that belongs to you and you alone. If you succeed in building this ever-so-delicate "tissue", you will benefit from a deep and profound relationship. You will each express your true inner selves through the ,delicate and attentive interaction that you share. This occurs in the most hidden and vulnerable layers of your existence; in the most delicate and sensitive part of your souls. This process becomes possible through attentiveness and a deep commitment to your partner. Trust is built up over the years as you learn to confidently entrust yourself to another person who observes you and reflects something of yourself. This actual tissue in the body is so delicate that it is almost invisible. It hints at aspects of your relationship that are hidden from the public eye. It is assembled by the small codes, communication, acts of love, giving, caring, commitment and responsibilities that you share. Developing this "tissue" involves discomfort, contention, power struggles and pain, but this cathartic process unravels the deepest qualities that we possess.
Another connective tissue is the fat tissue that pads the organs and stores energy (when there is inadequate available food, the body will derive energy from the stores in fat tissue). It also isolates body heat and serves as a shock absorber.
The fat tissue in your relationship is your "savings account". It is the credit that you give to each other, the reserves of your shared commitment that can protect you during times of crisis– whether external (illness, termination of employment, loss of any kind), or something that occurs between you such as burnout and routine. If these reserves exist, there will be more reasons to try to breathe new life into your relationship rather than give up on it.
It is important to realize that these are not "different stages" in the development of the relationship. It does not mean that once you identify the foundations of your relationship, you can sit back and relax. It is important to remain constantly aware of and attentive to all that happens to you as individuals and as a couple. The issues in relationships are as alive as connective tissue. There is constant movement, communication, diffusion, signaling, holding; it is like a dance.
It is imperative to view the success of your intimate relationship as a process that is constantly growing and deepening.
Connective tissue exists between organs. Each organ interacts with other organs while the connective tissue maintains the boundaries between them so that each can perform optimally and contribute its part to the function of the entire body. The heart, for example, has one distinct role and the lungs have another; their roles are not confounded, each knows its place and its responsibility within the complete system that forms the human body. In order to develop a healthy and satisfying relationship, each individual must remain authentic and unique. They must know who they are, acknowledge their value and be aware of their individual existence within their relationship. Maintaining personal space and recognizing your value as an individual is your responsibility to yourself and as part of a couple. This awareness strengthens and vitalizes the connective tissue between you to facilitate an ongoing, genuine and healthy mutual communication.
In conclusion, I believe in the upmost importance of sharing this model and raising the attention to it. In this chapter, I have addressed relationships between couples, but this model applies to all kinds of relationships: parents and children, siblings, extended families, friends, professional teams, different nations, religions, enemies, the environment and more. Understanding and deepening our perception of the role of the connective tissue in the body, and projecting it to our own lives, will enable us to create a more tolerant world. "Enable" is a key word in understanding the connective tissue, because that is its main role: to enable all of the organs to fulfil their roles, their purpose. An enabling world – that is the heart and soul of humans' success; this will enable us to comprehend the bonds between us while respecting the individuals' uniqueness.
Individual and Couple's
As a therapist, I help my patients achieve their personal and interpersonal goals.
Over a decade ago I established my private clinic, in which I provide individual and couple's therapy via NLP and guided imagery, Gestalt therapy, communication skills etc.
I treat cases that are mainly about relationships people have with their partners, friends, managers, with children and with themselves. Good relationships raise one's self-worth and self-confidence, and thus promote and advance one's own personal development.
My treatment method is based on the model I developed, according to which the means to build and nourish relationships as analogous to that of the connective tissues supporting the organs and other tissues in the human body. Just as the connective tissues are vital to the body's proper function, so are relationships vital to a person's proper function. Sound, healthy connections between a person and their human surroundings and between a person and their own self raise that person's self-worth and allows them to express themselves, as an individual, at the highest level.
When I first contacted you, in spite of difficulties I was experiencing with the subjects of my therapy, you chose to see me – experienced, wise and insightful – with much love and affection, which I had needed as well. You took me down an intent, precise route towards diagnosing the goal, the dream, the difficulties and the means to resolve them.
Every session was meaningful and powerful, a combination of guided imagery, dealing with the subconscious, practical advice and exercise. Within a short while I found the solutions to my problem within myself, discovering powerful tools – like my own self-worth. If I used to see myself, throughout my childhood, as a "stupid" person, I left our session with a notion that keeps surfacing each and every single day, that I am very smart and intelligent. This is my current state of being.
I came to you bowed down and left walking upright. My relationship took a turn towards a clear path of growth, in which I know how to conduct myself and one which I can work on and improve. I thank you from the bottom of my heart".
We came to see you for couple's therapy at a time when I was broken into a million small pieces, scattered miles apart. We came to check the box, to be able to say "here, we tried everything" but it still doesn't work out between us, it's over. We started therapy, both individual sessions as well as joint sessions. I never imagined anything would be able to change the dire state our marriage was in.
I was very pessimistic, to say the least. Obviously, one hour of therapy can't possibly make a change. I was wrong. Change came very fast. I felt something was going on, bringing calm to my mind, healing the ever-present pain I was carrying within me for such a long time.
I was looking forward to our meetings with anticipation, I fell in love with them: with the small, cozy room, the candles, books and gemstones, the smell, the ambience, our conversation (or should I say, my monologues). Gila, you found all my scattered shards, collected them and glued them back together in wonderful order.
By doing so, you have also glued our relationship back together. I was reluctant, time and time again, to end our sessions. I would count the days until our next meetings. I grew stronger, so did my marriage.
I am writing you because it has been 8 years, and we still use the "toolkit" you gave us. And most importantly – we're still together, and we wouldn't have it any other way.
Gila, you're not just our therapist, you're a part of the family. I feel lucky to have met you along life's winding road, and I thank you for every moment you gave us, for all your help and support.
Thank you very, very much, I love you deeply."
I just wanted to say that, through my life, I have tried all sorts of therapists: all kinds of counselors, shrinks, sadly, nothing worked.
I saw that my brother went through a major change in his life – for the better, naturally – and I have decided to try it as well, to see who you are and what makes you so unique.
At first, I must admit, I was taken aback. I didn't feel I connect with your methods and I offered limited cooperation. Several sessions later, I started to open up, let things flow and recognized that you have a special way of helping others.
As you may recall, I was a very angry, short-tempered person, I had lots of relationship issues. Thanks to your pleasant ease, your patience and willingness, I changed for the better. Our relationship is blossoming and I am much more relaxed.
Thank you, Gila, for not giving up on me, and got me to not give up on myself".
From the press
Sunday, February 26th, 2016
Eventually I invited him to visit and be loudly present in my professional realm.He is my husband, my so very personal partner, and I bring him, us, out in the public's eye. Within, I privately shuddered, I was somewhat confused. What had happened to that independent lady I always wanted to be? What is this reaching out for help all about? Take ownership over your own creation, take responsibility...Read more
A List of Faults
Sunday, October 9th, 2016
The following is intended for all sexes and inclinations… it truly is!You feel like you chose the right person to live with...And then something about your relationship is out of sorts… and before you know it, he's changed unrecognizably. Look: his gentle voice has turned grumpy and aggressive, he disregards your enthusiasm when you come home from work, and, incredibly,...Read more
'What is the definition of intimacy,' she asked me.'Definition?' I said, 'of intimacy?' How would one define intimacy? Whereas to me, intimacy is an ocean, a journey among the waves. Sometimes it is a desert, a primordial touch, it is living resources deep within the foundation of the earth. It is the winds, and the blazing sun, sometimes scorching my skin, sometimes...Read more
Every person has a name
Thursday, December 26th, 2013
How does one begin writing something when within me more than a thousand words are striving to get out? I have waited too long.And yet, one has to start somewhere, so even if it seems very narcissistic, I will start with my name: Gila, because all in all, this is important both for the goal as well as the means for which I write. Do you think you'll read through?So, as it was, I was almost...Read more
Saturday, January 4th, 2014
About a decade ago, just prior to opening my private clinic, a patient came to me, saying 'I came to you because I would like to encounter, through you, some simple wisdom'. I was surprised, I could have taken offense; after all, I did study a thing or two to become suitable for treating my patients…Instead of doing that, I heard myself saying 'You've come to the right...Read more