Once problems begin in a relationship, each partner begins to approach it like a commodity: "What am I getting out of this now?" "He's not doing anything for me, why should I do anything to help him?" They begin to see each other from the perspective of needs met and not from a desire to nurture, share and create the rich relationship that brought them together. Self preservation, emotionally hiding and distancing, looking for the other person to change, blaming, etc., become the new way of being in the relationship.
In couples and relationship counseling, the couple is viewed as a fluid "system" where each member affects the other, often in unknown ways or even deliberately. Relationships are much like a dance where one partner's movement influences that of the other partner. It is these dynamics or interactions (dance steps) that are the first area of focus. It's also where problems frequently begin and where partners begin to react to each other or simply begin to behave automatically and without real thought to how their behavior affects the other person.
Relationship busters include infidelity, an addiction, lying, trying to change your partner, finances, in-law problems, etc. For more details on this, see here.
Each dance step we explore looks at what each partner is doing, thinking and communicating: is it the mature, present-based part, which wants to understand and develop a stronger connection, or is it the more self-absorbed, self centered part, which demands to be heard and be right?
The self-centered part would rather to be right than be happy. It wants to control the conversation by criticizing, being defensive, finger pointing, stone-walling, and repeatedly venting frustration, anger, self righteousness, and contempt. In a moment of rushing emotion (when this part takes over), the one feeling injured for the moment may not be interested or may even ignore opportunities to solve a problem and reconnect. Instead, a specific agenda (blaming, anger) has hijacked the conversation and commitment. This is how it controls the conversation and why things just seem to spiral out of control.
Relationship & Marriage Counseling sessions are generally:
Solution Focused and designed to "re-engineer, re-design and re-create" the relationship as the couple would like it to be. Therapy is usually forward looking and focuses on solutions more than problems, finger-pointing and blame. At times, however, it's useful to see where the issues began, where deep seated pains have not healed, and where resentments have become ingrained.
Emotionally Focused and designed to increase emotional trust, the sense of safety, openness, and emotional connection. More specifically, to recreate the deep friendship, laughter, joy, and intimacy that once existed.
Behavioral and Specific since this focuses our work on behavioral changes. For example, what specific behaviors or actions will lead to changes in each partner and relationship improvements? The behavior is designed to reach attainable goals that can create lasting changes, and to change thoughts, habits and feelings--i.e., to change the dance steps .
No relationship is perfect and problem-free, and in over 40 years of experience, it's clear that all marriages take work, commitment, and effective communication of needs, expectations and desires. Marriage doesn't necessarily have to be hard, but it becomes much harder when people "go stupid". Essentially, when one or both partners behave out of anger, anxiety, hurt, defensiveness, or maliciousness, problems escalate quickly. Overall, there are common issues in most marriages where conflict is higher.
To get more information on the Top 10 Marriage Busters, see here (be sure to scroll to the bottom of the page).
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Saturday: By appointment