Each couple is different and often faces a unique set of circumstances. Some couples come into couples therapy to deal with specific difficulties early in their relationship, while others search out couples therapy when the relationship has turned negative and the concerns are more entrenched. Finally, some seek couples therapy in the process of ending their relationship.
During couples therapy, the therapist will also look for individual concerns. It is important to be aware of specific individual difficulties that have become part of the current relational or marriage difficulties. We often see relationships that are struggling where one or sometimes even both individuals also are suffering from depression or anxiety. Similarly with outside stressors. Difficulties in careers, living situations, culturally dependent stressors, and so on, can cause significant stress on the couple as well. In couples therapy it is vital to understand and treat all these difficulties, concurrently.
Goals of Couples Therapy:
- Identify negative patterns that are hindering the quality of your friendship with your partner
- Stop blaming each other so you can work through problems without power struggles
- Disarm conflicting verbal communications
- Increase intimacy, respect, and affection
- Remove barriers that create a feeling of stagnancy in conflicting situations
- Recognize the damaging cyclical patterns in your relationship
- Handle daily stressors that interfere with romance and intimacy
- Repair your relationship after a breach of trust
- Aside from the work in session, you will often be given homework so that you can continue the work throughout the week.
Target Areas for Change
While all couples argue, it’s not so much the conflicts themselves that indicate a bad relationship, but instead the manner in which the arguments are communicated. Some of the big communication offenders are defensiveness, criticism, contempt, and stonewalling. Most relationships will have some of these, but healthy relationships don’t use them nearly as often and do more to repair them when they are used. When we criticize, use contempt, become defensive, or stonewall, we are not creating a healthy place from which to discuss issues and consequently will not be heard or listened to. In couples counseling, we will help you to see how the unhealthy patterns have affected your relationship; we will assist you in implementing changes.
How to manage conflict
Many couples make the mistake of assuming that conflict is bad when it really isn’t; it’s a natural, unavoidable part of a relationship. In fact, conflicts, when communicated in healthy ways, can result in increased growth and greater closeness with your partner. However, it is often not possible, or even important, to solve every problem that comes along. Actual solutions to problems are less important than the manner in which they are communicated. In the therapy sessions, the couples therapist will work with you to develop new skills around conflict processing.
Types of arguments
Perpetual problems are issues that will never go away because they come from differences in personality, innate values, or lifestyle needs. These are the types of problems that result in “argument loops” that go nowhere but cause a lot of havoc in relationships. Couples unable to manage perpetual problems often end up calling it quits, only to get into new relationships and trade one set of perpetual problems for a different one. All couples have these perpetual problems. In couples therapy, when you learn to identify them and discuss them properly, the amount of unnecessary conflict will considerably lessen.
Solvable problems, on the other hand, are often situational issues such as child care, intimacy, chores, etc., and a solution to those can be agreed upon and maintained. The key to managing them without unnecessary arguing is to learn how to avoid using the offenders mentioned above. Within the couples therapy session, the therapist will work with you, in the moment, to improve communication with each other, and to focus on these challenges in proactive ways.
How to repair your relationship after an affair
Repairing a relationship or marriage after an affair can be one of the hardest things to do and often requires significant commitment and work. You may no longer be working on the old relationship, but instead on a new way of being together; the relationship is no longer the way it was. That can be a daunting task, but after the work is done, the relationship can become closer and more intimate than it ever was before the affair. In couples therapy we will help you to think about the work after an affair in 3 phases:
The Atonement phase focuses on processing emotions from the betrayed partner as well as the betrayer. This can be a lengthy process but is important work to do, and the “bones” of recovering from infidelity.
The Attunement phase is when a narrative is created about how or why the affair came about and this is when the couple learns to reconnect emotionally. In couples therapy, the couple also focuses on replacing negative, contemptuous talk with appreciation for each other.
Attachment is about re-learning intimacy and trust. We will help you develop skills to deal with perpetual issues that have become gridlocked, and to implement these skills in order to have new, intimate conversations. In couples therapy, you will also learn more about shared meanings and strengthening your friendship with your partner.
Feel free to get in contact with us if you have any questions.