This is where the rubber meets the road. Isn’t it? All of who we are shows up in the face of those closest to us. Couples therapy is my favorite work. Couples deeply desire to improve their relationship. We really want to be happy. In order to do this we have to balance our experience of what we think we need with what is possible in this relationship. If each partner would focus on loving their partner instead of being loved, we would all be loved.
The things that I see that come up in relationships include first, communication breakdown. We really need to have a functional way to talk to the particular person we are with. We need to talk in a way we know they can hear. The best relationships have the following two components. An ability to listen. This means to really hear what our partner is saying. To be able to put down our judgements and reactions so we can hear the truth of what our partner is saying. The second is to speak vulnerably. This means to be honest, thoughtful and speak with feeling. We need to remember that we are talking to our closest relation. If we really want to be seen and known, we better find a way to speak in a way that we can be seen, and understood.
Couples typically confront a few issues in their marriage. First is intimacy. I mean both sexual and emotional intimacy. How does a couple maintain this closeness throughout their many years together? Some people have a hard time talking about this. If it is a problem, it needs to be talked about. Sex can be an expression of the love and closeness we feel.
The second is money. When we live together we are vulnerable to loss of control of how our money is spent and saved. Again, if it is a problem, it needs to be talked about. Financial stability is a pillar of a strong realtionship. We are all subject to outer forces throwing our financial stability off. But if we are clear with each other, we can pass through this time with peace and harmony.
Third is children. I don’t see any issue more charged than when a couple has different ways of seeing child rearing. This is crucial to overcome. A couple needs to be united in their parenting. This doesn’t mean there only is one way to do it. Different approaches are good and need to be implemented with respect and a united front.
Fourth is family of origin issues. Most of us experienced our families differently. How does a couple incorporate in-laws, family vacations, inheritances…?
Then there exists the big problems, infidelity, betrayal, addictions, rage, and others. These do not need to ever exist. But they often do. For me in my practice, I work to see if and how this can be overcome and healed. Healing can happen. Most marriages I know have gone through a very tough issue. Do we want to work through it? If so, I strongly believe we can, and can be better for it.
How this all looks in the therapy room is that we set up a safe environment to process through all that needs to come up. I am very involved but it is up to you to do the work. You need to start talking to each other differently and be willing to feel deeply, look at yourself clearly, take responsibility for your part and be willing to change.