In a healthy relationship each partner feels a sense of safety and trust knowing that the other person “has my back”. Affection is given and received both physically and in caring behaviors. Intimacy is expressed in sexual interactions as well as in sharing personal experiences and emotions. In a relationship that works effectively partners can express their needs and feel that needs are met on a regular basis. Having good communication skills, partners listen to each other and feel heard. Differences can be expressed and negotiated, often resulting in viable compromises .No matter where a couple is at the beginning of therapy, this is the direction and hope for our work together.
Couples come for therapy with varying levels of conflict and pain.Typical relationship issues may include lack of communication skills, financial pressures, lives that are overstressed with work and children or a loss of romantic interest. Beyond this, relationships may be in crisis because of jealousy or infidelity, out of control anger on the part of one or both partners, addictions (e.g. sexual addiction, workaholic patterns, gambling) or serious emotional issues affecting one member of the couple (e.g. depression, anxiety, OCD .)
I often begin a therapy sessions asking each member of the couple to offer one to three statements of appreciation for the other person. This can be difficult for some, as we too often get lost in the chaos of negative feelings, blame and criticism. During a session we typically spend time in active listening skills, a time during which one puts aside ones own reactions and defenses and tries to be present to the other person.
Anger, frustration, rejection, lack of boundaries are common themes that arise in therapy While arguing is normal and quite acceptable between partners, ground rules for fair fighting are essential to avoid destructive interactions. As therapy progresses couples develop more effective ways of communicating and relating. Couples learn to be assertive, to take responsibility for their actions and for getting needs met. In many cases therapy may focus on helping establish priorities so that quality time is built into their lives.
Finally, it is worth mentioning that when both members of a couple are committed to working towards a more harmonious, loving relationship, a positive outcome is more readily achieved.
Even if you are near separation or divorce, your relationship can dramatically change.