It’s common for relationships to hit rough patches. Maybe you’re arguing more over the “little things,” and what used to be minor frustrations are now full-blown disagreements. Maybe one or both of you is extra busy with work or school and that stress is seeping into your interactions with each other. Or maybe you realize the problems are deeper—personality differences, influences of family or friends, not enough time together, or not enough time apart.
After you realize the relationship is in trouble, you may not be sure what to do next. Here are four questions to ask yourself:
1. Who are your role models for good relationships?
Think about the couples in your life who are your role models for healthy relationships. How do they speak to one another, particularly when they’re upset or stressed? How do they speak about one another to others, even when they may not be getting along? What are their strategies to spend time together despite the demands of work? Your mentor couples provide a living example of the kind of relationship you want for yourself, and adopting their healthy behaviors is a good start toward getting unstuck.
2. Have you felt this way in other important relationships?
Think about your previous romantic relationships. Have you felt this way before? Relationship conflict is often made up of bad habits—we start reacting to a partner’s behaviors without thinking the situation through. For example, you’re waiting for your partner to meet up with you at a coffee shop but there’s been no text about running late. When they walk in the door, how do you feel? Instead of being curious about what happened or worried if they are okay, perhaps you feel frustrated and disrespected. Because waiting on a late partner is something that happened in a previous relationship, you may be primed to react negatively to lateness in your current relationship.
Married couples aren’t the only ones who can benefit from couples therapy. Experienced couples therapists are trained to help couples at every stage of a relationship: dating, committed, engaged, married, separating, even divorced.
3. Are you sure you want to stay together?
Commitment to the relationship is an important part of the success of improving relationship habits. Wanting to stay together is sometimes one of the only threads by which a relationship hangs. When you tell the story of how you met and your first months together, do you talk about positive interactions, respectful communication, and joyful memories? When you think about the desired future with your partner, are you excited and hopeful? Assuring one another that this relationship is important deepens trust and motivates change that could make it better.
4. Have you considered counseling?
Married couples aren’t the only ones who can benefit from couples therapy. Experienced couples therapists are trained to help couples at every stage of a relationship: dating, committed, engaged, married, separating, even divorced. Couples therapy helps you and your partner communicate more effectively without triggering unhealthy dynamics or rehashing old arguments. It helps you and your partner increase connection by facilitating a deeper understanding of emotions, meanings, and perceptions. Couples therapy is a safe space to share worries, fears, hurts, hopes, and dreams.
When you have commitment to each other, a clear picture from your role models of the kind of relationship you want, and a growing understanding of your relationship patterns, couples therapy can be the difference between staying together or breaking up.
© Copyright 2016 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Emily Cook, PhD, LCMFT, GoodTherapy.org Topic Expert
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