Most relationships go through tough times. Relationships can bring us love and joy but sometimes when there are tough times, it can lead to frustration and disappointment. It can be such a lonely feeling when you are not getting along with your partner. You can get confused and overwhelmed. You try to figure your partner out. Why are they so cold or angry all the time? You just don’t know what to do to make things better. You might feel you have to withdraw just to protect yourself from any more hurt, frustration, disappointment, or sadness. But withdrawing doesn’t really make things any better. You know that something has to change between you for you to get the relationship you want and need.
Many people have gone through similar periods of frustration and pain in their relationships, and often feel angry and bitter, especially if they have tried things to reconnect with their partner and haven’t found them helpful. You are not alone in your desire to change and develop a deeper sense of connection with your loved one.
- Do you and your partner have silly repetitive arguments, seemingly about nothing, that you don’t know how to change or stop? Do you get confused about what you are actually fighting about?
- Does it sometimes feel like the only person who sets you off is your partner?
- Do you find yourself reacting hugely to small things your partner says or does?
- Are you feeling sad and hopeless? Are you wondering where the fun has gone?
- Do you find you are living more like roommates than like a couple?
The problem with having a real conversation is that it can be hard to open up and say how you really feel. It can be easier to criticize, complain, and get angry, then to share with your partner the pain and hurt you feel. In an intimate, committed, loving relationship, your partner is the person you need more than anyone else. Saying how you feel, especially once there is a history of being hurt, can make you vulnerable, because of how much you need to rely on your partner emotionally.
You might feel scared that in order to be fully in a relationship with your partner, you’re going to have to become a different person yourself. Either you’re afraid that you will be rejected by your partner for being yourself — or you already have been rejected. We all want out partner to give us validation by knowing us fully and still accepting us, without our needing to give up who we are.
Protecting ourselves from becoming too vulnerable, can sometimes cause feelings too get communicated in ways that just create more bad feelings. Each person can become frustrated because they don’t know how to get their feelings understood or validated. You might not even be aware of some of the deeper feelings you have in the relationship. Couples often fight about superficial things that just scratch the surface of their hurt and their needs.
You can reconnect with your partner again!
In couples therapy, you can learn to safely share your feelings, and to be more real and transparent with each other. Sometimes it just helps to have a third person with a different perspective listen to your issues to help you make sense of what’s going on. If you’re having trouble communicating with each other, I will help guide you through talking about it. My job is to support both of you to improve the relationship, so both of you will get equal time, attention and understanding. You will learn skills to help you connect, hear and understand each other much better on a regular basis and the warm support and understanding you will get in couples therapy can help you overcome fears of sharing with your partner.
Couples therapy can help you:
- Develop tools for greater empathy and understanding and ability to give support.
- Heal past wounds that get in the way of how you feel towards each other.
- Learn to take responsibility for the way you might be seeing things inaccurately.
- Communicate your needs more effectively so that you feel understood.
- Rebuild trust if there has been a sense of betrayal.
- See the underlying behavior patterns that have developed into cycles of conflict.
- Heal past wounds that get in the way of how you feel towards each other.
- Become closer both physically and emotionally.
- Have more love, affection and joy in your relationship.
Some of the problems that couples face that bring them to couples therapy:
Arguing – Common disagreements are about money management, parenting and discipline, in-laws and parents or religious practices. Knowing how to manage conflict is a crucial skill to have in intimate relationships.
Stress or trauma – Financial issues, family difficulties, or health problems that can put a serious strain on the bond of the relationship and deprive you of potential for the best source of support. Devastating life events such as loss of a child, long-term unemployment, or turmoil in one of the partner’s family of origin, can tear a couple apart.
Problems communicating – Maybe you are not having fights, but you constantly feel misunderstood or ignored. You may feel like you don’t even have a good idea of what is happening with your partner lately, because you aren’t talking. Sometimes, there is something you want to share with your partner but you have not found the right way to tell them.
Trust has been broken – Infidelity through sex outside of the marriage can require a great deal of work to overcome. Even when not sexual, when one partner has gone outside the marriage secretly developing a close relationship, it can become an emotional affair and feel like a betrayal. Aside from affairs any secrets or lies in a relationship can erode trust and create distance.
Sex and physical intimacy problems – While there may be other relationship issues behind them, sexual issues are often one of the first complaints to arise. Couples can go from having frequent physical intimacy to almost none. There could be a difference in levels of sex drive, sexual preferences, or comfortability with particular sexual behaviors.
Loss of emotional intimacy – Without work, even people who love each other can grow apart and lose the “spark.” A relationship can be emotionally “starved” when you put all of your focus in life on work, children, religious life, hobbies, etc. Things may start to feel boring and routine, and there may be no spontaneity in your interactions. Partners sometimes complain that they have become more like roommates than intimate lovers.
Addiction and codependency issues – Addictions to substances like alcohol, drugs or painkillers, or to behaviors called “process addictions” such as sex, pornography, or gambling can cause great damage to intimate relationships. While the recovering addict needs to take responsibility for how their behavior affects their loved ones, the non-addicted partner has to learn to balance holding the addict accountable, while offering support in their recovery.
What happens in therapy
My approach in couples therapy starts by ensuring that we create a safe space together for dealing with issues that can bring out intense feelings. I see couples therapy essentially as learning how to discover and negotiate how both people in the couple can be happy and fulfilled together. During sessions you will open a dialogue and proceed step by step to the point where you can talk to each other from the heart.
In couples therapy, you will learn to understand your relationship on a deeper level. You will figure out what is REALLY going on. I will teach you skills to help you clearly see the underlying patterns of how you are relating that have caused problems, and I will help you find ways to break out of the cycle. You will learn approaches to expressing your feelings and your needs that will help the other person let their guard down and really listen. Each of you will learn new, and sometimes surprising perspectives on your partner’s behavior and to your own reactions to them. The goal of couples therapy is that both of you will retain your own identities and negotiate your differences in new and practical ways.
If there has been a betrayal of trust, you will determine together what actions are necessary for the trust to be rebuilt. Even couples who have completely lost the ability to trust, are often able to work through their issues and get to a place where their relationship was better than ever.
What if your partner won’t go?
If you want to try couples therapy and your partner doesn’t, don’t give up. Explain it to your partner patiently, at length, and don’t just spring it on them. Tell them you are worried for the relationship, that you love them, and want their help in making it succeed. Don’t just have the conversation once; have it over and over, and don’t take no for an answer. If your partner wants to learn more, I offer a free telephone consultation to address any concerns they have about the process.
If all else fails, try therapy alone. Instead of waiting for the other person who doesn’t want to go to therapy to change, therapy can help strengthen your own self-improvement and personal growth, and this could itself help the relationship improve. Also, I can give you suggestions of how you might be able to convince your partner to consider couples therapy.
Couples therapy can help!
Life is too short for you to be missing out on the fulfillment, love and satisfaction you can be getting from your relationship. You don’t have to suffer any more. Couples therapy can help. If you are having problems, reach out now.