Do you feel like your spouse or partner is not hearing what you’re saying? Do you feel frustrated about your inability to express yourself accurately? Have you noticed every time you and your spouse talk about something important, you end up in a vicious cycle of mutual blame, defensiveness and accusation? Perhaps your hurts have become too painful or you no longer love or respect each other after weeks, months or even years of arguments. Alternately, if you or your partner avoids confrontation for too long you may begin to wonder how strong your relationship really is. Have you wondered whether your relationship can actually be saved?
Most Couples Don’t Address Their Challenges Until It Is Too Late
You may not be comfortable addressing conflict in your relationships. Because of the discomfort you feel, you might tend to sweep things under the rug; or maybe you’re in the habit of minimizing the importance of issues which could be symptoms of larger problems. We need to accurately evaluate the need to address a problem in any relationship. Finding the right balance will depend on your understanding of your partner or spouse: his or her needs, emotions, personality quirks and the emotional baggage he or she may have been carrying for a long time.
Let’s face facts. People don’t “grow out of” relationship problems. Most men don’t suddenly change when they become dads, and most women don’t just get over the trauma that follows a history of abuse. Time alone does not always heal all wounds. In difficult relationships, resentment and bitterness can fester, slowly eroding the love that you and your partner used to share. Emotions are not bio-degradable. The anger, tension, and sadness that go with bad relationships don’t go away if they are ignored.
Some individuals believe marriage counseling is a waste of time, thinking instead, “When it’s over, it’s over.” The best strategy is to address your problems before they get out of hand. The good news is, marriage counseling – or couples therapy – can help you reconnect with your partner, helping you strengthen your relationship.
Marriage Counseling Can Help You Build a Strong, Lasting Bond
In marriage counseling it is essential to look at the role both partners play in the relationship, even when one member seems to be ‘the problem’ or the ‘villain’ in the drama. Usually, there is more to the story than simply identifying the person who seems responsible for the problem. Your relationship operates by a set of rules; these may be open and clear, or assumed and unspoken. When you and your partner learn to be clear about your wants and needs in the relationship, you can both feel safe enough to speak freely and honestly.
When you set up appropriate boundaries you gain clarity about the separate responsibilities and a feeling of security for yourself in your relationship. Once these boundaries are established you can start to relax and enjoy your relationship again, not having to worry about walking on eggs or wondering whether the next thing you do or say will lead to conflict.
Without clear lines of communication, it can be hard to build trust; and trust is the basis of any close relationship. For this reason, our marriage counseling sessions often include communication coaching. But simply improving your communication skills, as important as it is, may not address the core issues that serve as the source of your relationship problems.
In couples and marital therapy I use a two-track approach. The focus of the first track is the welfare of the couple’s relationship, based on the assumption that both you and your partner want to preserve it. We do skill-building to help you communicate and resolve conflict effectively. We also identify unhealthy patterns of behavior that allow the problem to persist. The second track focuses on helping each individual accept responsibility for his or her role in the couple’s problems. We want each member to acknowledge the expectations, attitudes and “baggage” – or unfinished business – from the past. Unresolved issues inevitably impact our attitudes, beliefs and emotions, which directly influence our behavior in our relationships. You can learn effective ways to manage and cope with the frustrations that lead to your unwanted anger, sadness and anxiety.
Whether married, living together, just getting acquainted, or engaged, couples therapy can be challenging. Before we begin working together, there are a few more things you should know about marriage counseling and couples therapy.
- Progress might be uneven and unpredictable. The first few sessions will focus mainly on gathering information. However, I aim to give you something practical in every session that will help you toward a happier life.
- My goal is to be efficient as well as thorough: to make the best use of our time, and to follow through in addressing every issue you wish to address.
- I commit 100 percent to helping you strengthen your relationship, and I ask the same of you. The couples therapy process is most productive when you come prepared, knowing what you wish to work on at each session.
For many couples, the ultimate goal is to live a happy, balanced and rewarding life. You might begin the process of transforming your relationship and yourselves by having a conversation about what happiness means to each of you, and what it takes to create the happy life you want. With guidance and support, you can overcome your marriage challenges and begin building the life you both want and need.
But, you may still have questions about marriage counseling…
Can I get counseling for my relationship by coming on my own, or do we both have to be there at all times?
In general it is best for both members of the couple to be present at all sessions. If one of you needs to talk individually, or if an issue is identified that requires more one-on-one support, it might be best for that person to seek out another therapist for that purpose. Your healing and well-being are most important, and I am happy to refer you to a colleague where necessary.
My partner is willing to come with me, but not to stop the harmful behavior. Should we make an appointment?
An unwillingness to change can become a significant problem in your marriage if the issue isn’t addressed. Your partner may have an addiction or he or she may be suffering from a compulsive pattern. I would suggest that you come in at least for an evaluation and to determine how strongly he is motivated to your marriage.
I suspect my partner may have had an affair. She says I don’t know how to have fun and we should go to counseling to help me loosen up, not to help her in any way. Is this a valid reason to do marriage counseling?
Your feelings and views are no more or less valid than your partner’s, and vice versa. If you are unable to agree on what the problem is in your relationship but you are both completely committed to preserving your marriage, counseling can offer the guidance and clarity you need to overcome your current difficulties.
You Can Reconnect With Your Partner
To schedule an appointment or to discuss any questions you may have about marriage counseling or couples therapy, I invite you to call (219) 309-3928 for a free 15-minute phone consultation.