Couples Therapy as a Tool Rather Than a Means to an End
Tending to the state of your relationship is similar to maintaining your body at the gym. The more out of shape your body becomes, the harder it is to sustain good health. Well, the same goes for romantic relationships! The more distance that is created, the more difficult it may be to come back together. The good news is: Our “emotional muscle” is as flexible as the muscles in our bodies; capable of contracting and expanding. In couples therapy, partners can actively work on bending without breaking and condition themselves toward strengthening their relationship.
You DO NOT have to wait until things have gone terribly wrong (old grudges, deep resentments, infidelity, and/or last straws) before seeking couples therapy. It is an old myth that seeing a therapist means that there is something “tragically flawed” in your relationship but I am here to tell you…. FEAR THE STIGMA OF THERAPY NO MORE. Rather, embrace the opportunity to potentially become closer to your partner and hear them in a way that you may not have before.
What is Couples Therapy?
Couple’s therapy involves building communication skills, listening to your partner and understanding their perspective (although it may differ from your own), sharing vulnerable feelings, discussing past hurts and resentments, valuing each other, embracing your differences, challenging distorted thinking, increasing level of intimacy, regaining trust, recovering from infidelity, reinvigorating your sex life, learning how to be best friends (again), and so much more.
What Types of Challenges do Couples Face?
Are you familiar with the question: “Do you think with your heart or your head (brain)?”
In my experience, this concept has been a source of contention for some couples. One partner may be more logical while the other is guided by their emotions. It could be difficult to understand your partner’s perspective when it is so completely different from your own. The thought, “He/she just doesn’t understand me,” may begin to manifest. This frustration may ultimately lead to feelings of isolation and cause distance in the emotional component of the relationship.
Does your partner constantly provide possible solutions rather than actively listening? Do they lecture, judge, shame, or even come off as way too sympathetic? If so, he/she is not promoting positive communication. This type of behavior may cause one partner to feel guilty, worthless, inferior, or in some cases not responsible for their actions. These communication roadblocks can quickly stunt a potentially healthy relationship.
Some people find that it is easier to lie than to tell the truth. Even white lies can be detrimental to the trust level in a relationship. Imagine that a worn rubber band is barely staying together while being aggressively pulled apart. This is how fragile the concept of trust is: intact one minute and ripped apart the next. Distrust leads to jealousy, low self-esteem, and resentment.
Therapy as a Tool
There is still HOPE! Committing to couples therapy in the early stages of your relationship can provide much needed insight into how your partner thinks and why they behave the way they do. Couples therapy can also provide each partner with skills on how to communicate effectively, resolve differences in a healthy way, and reinforce the positive aspects of the relationship. Committing to therapy when things first start going sour can also be extremely productive, as long-lasting grudges have typically not set in yet. So, workout that relationship just as you would your body and do not wait until you have gained too much “baggage.”