Relationships can be a lot of fun, but they may also be challenging and require work at times. When we meet someone and fall in love, we tend to see only their endearing qualities. After the honeymoon phase is over, some of the things that may have drawn us to them may begin to irritate us instead. We may find ourselves venturing outside our relationship to get certain needs met.
Maintaining and growing a relationship is not easy. We need to continually invest time and energy to keep it going strong. Finding new ways to nurture the relationship or get it back on track can be difficult on our own. We can get stuck in unhelpful patterns or simply not know the best way forward.
Here are some ways couples counseling can help:
- Understanding your partner better. We all have different styles of interacting with others, and yours may differ from your partner’s. If you are operating on different wavelengths, getting your needs met in the relationship may be challenging. A counselor can work with you to recognize and overcome natural differences. Learning about how your partner engages with the world (and why they engage the way they do) can help you develop empathy for them. Empathy is key to relationship success.
- Improving your communication skills. One of the common misconceptions in relationships is when one partner believes the other should automatically know what they want or need from them. Learning to communicate openly and clearly in therapy about your emotional needs can help to enhance your connection.
- Discovering ways to have constructive (rather than destructive) arguments. There can be lasting damage when relationship conflict gets out of hand. If anger is not kept under control, it can lead to contempt, resentment, blaming, yelling, name-calling, even domestic violence in extreme cases. In counseling, you can become aware of more productive ways to listen to one another and be heard. Learning anger management skills, effective time-out techniques, and how to use I-statements to express feelings can lead to an increase in respect and satisfaction.
In counseling, you can become aware of more productive ways to listen to one another and be heard.
- Addressing underlying issues that may be negatively impacting the relationship. If one person in the relationship has issues that are affecting their well-being, chances are their partner is experiencing tension and/or stress. Talking through these issues in couples counseling can be helpful. In some instances, the counselor may recommend individual therapy for one or both partners (with a different therapist).
- Finding new ways to connect and build intimacy. At times, relationships may become entrenched in routines and responsibilities. Couples with children may start to view one another only in their roles as parents, rather than as romantic partners. Others may begin to take things for granted and stop nurturing their relationship. A therapist can offer strategies for reconnecting on an emotional level and rekindling passion and intimacy.
- Rebuilding trust in the relationship. If there has been infidelity or betrayal but the couple is willing to work on the relationship, a counselor can help them to explore any underlying issues that may have led to the problem. Partners can safely express their fears and concerns, and they can work together with the nonjudgmental therapist to rebuild trust.
- Determining whether to stay in the relationship. Some challenges may simply be too daunting. Only you and your partner can decide that. If both partners are willing to work at it, a therapist will hold space for the promise of your relationship. If, however, one or both partners are determined to end the relationship, a counselor can help find an amicable way to handle the breakup or separation/divorce.
All relationships go through difficult times and can benefit from couples counseling. We all want to feel loved, appreciated, and understood by our partners. We all want to make a good thing better. If your relationship feels off course or could simply use some fine-tuning, give couples counseling a try.
© Copyright 2018 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Wendy Salazar, MFT, therapist in San Diego, California
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