Do you long for the days when you and your partner seemed happy? When not every conversation left you feeling angry, sad or misunderstood? Does it seem like you’re banging your head against a wall having the same unresolved fight? Do you worry that you’ve gotten to a place where your options are to stay and be unhappy or to leave and break up your family and neither one seem like an option you can live with? Do you feel like if you could just communicate better things wouldn’t feel so hopeless? Do you wonder why everything you say is wrong? It can be very painful to feel that the relationship you care the most about is not working how you wish it would. This can lead to people feeling depressed and hopeless. In response to this pain people can start to pull away from their partner, seek comfort in someone else or get lost in distractions. None of these solve the real problem of how to make the relationship more satisfying. Perhaps this has already happened and either you or your partner has had an emotional or a physical affair. This can be a time of real crisis in a relationship. Oftentimes one or both people may be wondering if it’s worth it to stay or if the affair means the relationship is not good and it must be over. This doesn’t have to be the case. An affair can be worked through and relationships can come out stronger for having worked through this very painful time. Couples therapy can be very useful to figure out how to heal and how to rebuild.
According to relationship expert John Gottman, most couples wait an average of six years of unhappiness before seeking help. Over the past 16 years, many such couples have come into my practice but it doesn’t have to be this way. I’ve also had couples who’d resolved to work on their relationship prior to coming to see me and in couples therapy, they learned new ways of interacting which really turned things around. Relationships are hard and even the best of them occasionally need some assistance or just someone outside of the circle to help identify where things are getting off track. Sometimes people feel ashamed to come to therapy; they may feel like they should be able to work through problems on their own. Sometimes they feel scared—that if they need a stranger to help then their relationship must be in really bad shape. Again, it doesn’t have to be this way. Couples therapy can be a place to learn new communication tools and to practice them in a safe place with the goal of being able to do them on your own without me.
Maybe you’re thinking…
“But isn’t couples therapy expensive?”
What I will tell you is that it’s nothing next to the cost of lawyers and the emotional toll that can affect both couples as well as any children involved if a relationship breaks up. I’m not suggesting couples should always stay together, sometimes it may be the right thing to split up. But if that’s the case wouldn’t you feel better having done something tangible like counseling to know that you had tried? Couples therapy can be a valuable investment in your relationship, even if you determine that it’s best to end it.
“Things aren’t that bad. Maybe we should wait and see if things get better.”
This may work but there is also a chance that things will start to get worse that one partner starts to pull away and get to a place of indifference about the relationship. It’s much harder to do the work of couples therapy when this happens. Also you don’t need to wait until there is a crisis to create a more satisfying relationship. We often devote lots of time and energy to our work and hope that relationships will just take care of themselves. If you had a chance at work of increasing sales or learning the latest technologies you might sign right up. Isn’t your relationship as important as work?
“We’ve tried couples therapy before and all we did was scream at each other and nothing got better.
How would this be any different?”
It can be very frustrating to be ready to make a change and feel hopeful only to have a negative experience upon seeking help. Unfortunately there are therapists with various levels of experience and training out there and you don’t always know about this when you’re searching for a therapist. Working with couples is an area of specialty I’ve committed to cultivating since 1996. Over the years I’ve sought out continuing education opportunities focused on couples work. I received post masters education at the Virginia Tech Marriage and Family Therapy Program and most recently have completed Level II of Gottman Couples Training. What I’ve learned from John Gottman on helping couples lower the negativity and increase connection is very powerful. He has one of the most research-based approaches I have come across and has provided me with very practical tools for teaching couples how to interact differently.
There is no need to continue to settle for a relationship that is not working. Call me today for a free 20 minute phone consultation. You can also email me with any questions about couples therapy or if you would like to go ahead and schedule an appointment.