Do we need couples therapy?
We argue nonstop! Did I marry the wrong person?
Not necessarily. Your relationship might have seemed perfect until recently, but it is normal for that time of bliss to fade. In the beginning of love relationships, we minimize differences and highlight similarities. We feel enchanted by the person we love. And then … the reality emerges and relationships get hard. They all do.
The extent of the difficulty usually has more to do with the lack of communication tools for couples; need for self-soothing; and the degree to which we cling to defenses rather than let down our guard and get vulnerable. The beauty of having the tools to get through the stage where we get “real” with each other, is that hard work makes fertile ground for true and ever-lasting love. Often times, when people split just as the relationship gets hard, they find themselves in the same scenario with a different person … again and again.
How can I change my partner? If she/he would just change, everything would be OK.
The reality is that marriage therapy works best when each person is willing to look in the mirror and change. In fact, couples work requires many to stop thinking “I’ll change just as soon as s/he changes … ” and to start thinking, “I will change because, together or apart, I will be better for it.” A big part of the job of a marriage therapist is helping clients shift focus from blame and fault-listing to themselves. Couples therapists help each person tune in to feelings, thoughts, wants, and needs. Couples therapists also help clients take responsibility for meeting their own needs. Sometimes this can be as simple as giving couples permission to ask directly for what they want and need, rather than expecting the other person to mind read.
All we have to do is show up and couples therapy will work.
Not so. Couples therapy often involves reading, exercises, questionnaires, and the practice of new skills. The work takes place in the relationship–not just in the counseling room. You will receive assignments. They are not busy work. They are effective ways of gathering information and inspiring insight into problems in an efficient manner.
If I can remember every detail of last week’s fight, I can win the marriage therapist to my side and prove to my partner that I was right.
Your couples therapist not take sides. In fact, we don’t need to know the details of the fights. Together, we will learn the patterns of communication and feeling, and as a couple, you will learn to change these patterns. To us, there is no right or wrong side. There is one client: the couple.
My partner makes me feel/do …
Throughout our work together we will invite you to adopt language that accounts for the responsibility you have in your life. For instance, rather than saying “S/he makes me feel so mad,” I will invite you to say, “I feel so mad when … .” Otherwise, you are discounting your ability to change yourself and you are viewing your actions as an automatic consequence of someone else’s actions. The truth is, you are in charge of you.
We don’t need couples therapy! This is just a stage.
There are a lot of stages in life. One popular stage is the “terrible twos” … kids eventually grow up, but do they stop throwing tantrums? That depends a lot on whether or not tantrums actually work within that home.
There are tough stages in marriages. For instance, many couples report less sex when they are raising young children. Eventually, the children grow up. If the couple isn’t reconnecting then, maybe being exhausted from the children helped cover up deeper issues related to intimacy. There are challenges to relationships, they don’t have to become excuses for not connecting. There are ways to connect: physically, emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually throughout all of life’s stages.
There is no spark! I must have picked the wrong person.
Romance Gone? You are Not Necessarily with the Wrong Person. Most couples fondly remember the romantic stage of their relationship. This was a time when they thought, “Alas, this is my soul mate.” Eventually, couples move from the “soul mate” to the “not so great” stage. This stage of growth demands self-reflection, self-growth, vulnerability, and a willingness to expand and try new things. Many couples think, at this point, that they are with the wrong person. Often, though, they are not. They are with the wrong skill set … self-defeating patterns of communication between people, fear of being vulnerable, feeling like they need to be right, etc.
Don’t keep “waiting for things to change.” They may stay the same for a long time, and, yet, the excuses keep coming until it’s too late. The road ahead might be tough, but it isn’t impossible. The sooner you get started, the easier it will be!
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