Human personalities are born and created through relationships. First between a parent and child, then peer relationships throughout childhood, and finally, adult to adult relationships. Most people seek out a life partner, either hetero‐ or homosexual. We often define relationship quality in our culture according to the sexual aspects of relating. Perhaps this is the historical legacy of Sigmund Freud. However, modern developmental psychology places interpersonal security, loyalty and affection as the more primary drive in relationship.
The approach we take to couples therapy focuses on building positive relationship experiences and anchoring them securely in your relationship. We’ve been married over 20 years, and have an abundance of professional as well as personal relationship experience to draw from in helping you overcome the distrust and pain your primary relationship experiences. We’ve both experienced divorce as well, so we understand the pain of breakup.
What characterizes conflict in couples? Here are some important symptoms:
Feeling tense about the relationship. You might dread coming home and find ways to avoid encountering each other, such as working late, becoming increasingly involved in sports or other opportunities to stay away.
Worst of all, one or both of you may be having an affair with someone else. This may be a sexual affair, or you may be increasingly involved emotionally with another person, substituting the satisfaction you want from your partner with the other person, who “just understands me better”.
There may be frequent quarreling, over kids, money, friends, in‐laws, and so on. The quarrels may start out as attempts to solve problems, but degrade into encounters where it’s more important to win than find a solution, and someone has to be the victor and the other the victim. Oddly enough, we often discover that each partner feels like the victim, but acts like the attacker!
There can be violence. It might be verbal, such as name calling or hurling insulting labels. It might be physical, such as throwing or breaking things , or physical attacks. It might be sexual, with coercion either to have sex or deny sex. Violence can be financial as well, controlling the shared income to gain advantage.
There may be stone cold silences, lasting for days, either to punish the other, or because you’re simply afraid that whatever you say will start a quarrel
There’s often a pattern wherein one partner pursues the other. The pursued silently withdraws, anxious and uncertain what to say or do, while the pursuer advances, anxiously demanding that the issue get resolved right away, complaining that the pursued never wants to talk.
When couples come to therapy, they have had a great deal of practice defining and justifying the problems that have occurred. Often, the initial stages of therapy consist of a rehashing of old hurts and accusations, and one or both parties insist we fix the other person. We’ve discovered relationships don‘t improve until each person acknowledges his or her role in the difficulties and starts applying the well‐established skills and attitudes we recommend, based on our years of personal training and practice in our own relationship.
Couples therapy can include:
- Practicing different ways of communicating.
- Managing individual surges of anger and impulsive reactivity.
- Learning how to support each other with positive contributions rather than negative criticisms.
- Establishing and maintaining regular ways of affirming the relationship through shared experience and common visions.
Some people liken relationship to a dance. This kind works best when partners take turns leading. It is best when both partners listen to the same music. And most people dance better after they have had some lessons. Even if only one partner takes lessons, the two will dance better as a pair.