- Holly Sullivan
3 Unexpected Ways Couples Therapy Can Help Your Relationship
Are you struggling in your relationship? Do you crave more emotional closeness with your partner? Perhaps you’re considering couples counseling but feel uncertain about it. You might wonder: “Can couples therapy really help us?” Read on and discover some unexpected ways
to improve your relationship with couples therapy.
Unravel the Mystery
During conflict, does your partner’s behavior seem baffling at times? Perhaps they pull away from you when you want closeness? Or maybe they insist on talking it out when you want space in the relationship? This can feel frustrating and confusing. You might be scratching your head, wondering why your partner acts a certain way. It might feel like your partner is the problem, making matters worse for the two of you. “If only they would change,” you might say to yourself, feeling discouraged.
In couples counseling, we will figure out what’s happening between the two of you. We will discover why you’re each doing what you’re doing, eliminating the mystery and head-scratching. When behaviors start to make sense, even if those behaviors aren’t effective at relationship improvement, our empathy grows for our partner. We can begin to soften our stance when we see the good intentions.
It’s You, Not Me
It’s easy to point blame at our partner for problems. It’s you, not me. Taking accountability is difficult when we are in the midst of relationship problems. However, taking responsibility for our part in the dynamic is essential to change. Sometimes, we need a little help in seeing our contributions to the issues.
A skilled couples therapist can help you realize how you come across toward your partner. For example, you may not realize how your tone seems aggressive or your body language appears judgmental to your partner. In sessions, the therapist is a “process consultant” who notices and highlights relationship dynamics as they occur. When we start unraveling dynamics and helping you understand yourself better, you can start having conversations with your partner about what’s happening--rather than just allowing issues to escalate and break down communication.
What Are We Really Fighting About?
Is it the 20th time you and your mate are arguing about the dishes or taking out the trash? Or maybe the fight is about who is going to drop off the children at school. Whatever the topic, things might escalate quickly. Sometimes, you both may even forget what you’re arguing about. After all, the dishes aren’t that big a deal--yet you both find yourself upset at each other and thinking, “here-we-go-again.”
In couples therapy, the therapist can help figure out what the two of you are really upset about and what’s underneath the anger or frustration. For example, you might feel hurt and disappointed that your partner forgot to take out the trash again. You might think, “I don’t matter to my partner,” or “I’m unimportant to my partner.” Your feelings and thoughts may build, and you end up showing your frustration to your partner instead of the hurt, which leads to an argument. A therapist can help slow down the disagreements, helping you and your mate have more vulnerable conversations with each other--conversations that reach the heart of the matter. After all, you’re not just fighting about the trash. You’re fighting about your relationship. You may need a little help in communicating this to each other.
Couples therapy may feel like a scary step, but it can benefit your relationship in many ways. We all need some help sometimes. Couples counseling may be the answer to learning to communicate better and creating a happier, healthier relationship.