Every couple occasionally runs into difficulties or obstacles in their relationship. Often these are inconsequential and can be worked about without outside assistance or support. Other times the same type of problems keep coming up over and over again creating conflict that over time can erode trust and connection in the relationship.
Couples counseling can help when both partners are committed to improving the relationship and want to do their part to make things work. Other times couples arrive at a place when they are not sure if they want to put more energy into reconciling what they see as insurmountable differences. Counseling can help to honestly evaluate their relationship problems with the help of a trained professional.
From the time we are born we are influenced by our relationship with another. In fact, our earliest relationships provide unconscious templates of how we will perceive and interact in intimate relationships. In therapy we can explore how these implicit patterns show up in the present and play into our current relationships.
Places where we have been hurt or disappointed in the past often become part of our unconscious working models of relationships. When something happens that feels familiar to our unconscious mind, we may find ourselves reacting with much bigger responses than are called for in the present moment. What has happened is that our implicit memories of past failures in relationships or past hurts get activated. In other words, old hurts have been triggered. Often over time our partners can trigger us like no one else. In couple’s therapy, learning about our own triggers as well as our partners’ can help us to regulate our emotions and responses. We can also learn to recognize when our partners are emotionally triggered and help them to soothe themselves. At the very least we can learn not to engage when someone is activated and therefore unlikely to be able to engage in a logical manner.
Couples therapy can also help to learn what makes our partners feel loved and appreciated. Too often attempts to be loving are missed because we have different ways in which we show and receive love and appreciation. Sometimes, simply talking about what is important to each other can help us to be mindful of what our partners need in order to feel loved.
There are other times too when couples have fallen into living like roommates or business partners. Couples who have children sometimes have become so child-centered that they leave little or no time for themselves as a couple. Even without children, couples can become so busy that they neglect the relationship and each other. In therapy, couples can begin to focus on bringing back the intimacy and joy that brought them together in the first place.
Many issues bring couples into therapy. Issues ranging from communication, financial stress, and child rearing to infidelity, abuse and sexual issues fall within the scope of what can be addressed in couple’s therapy. Making a commitment to couple’s therapy not only shows a commitment to the relationship but also can serve to let your partner know that things must change. When couples do work through serious issues together, often their commitment becomes even stronger. Going through this process together is a testament that the relationship is worth it.
Each relationship is different and will come with its own set of challenges. Some can be worked out within the couple. When challenges do not seem to be improving or seem to be getting worse couples therapy may be an answer. If you have invested time in your relationship, why not invest time to get help?