Being in a long-term committed relationship is not always easy. As I have often said, we don’t get trained or licensed to be in a committed relationship and yet it is one of the most important jobs we do. Obviously people usually seek therapy when their relationship is in crisis. That is not always as bad as it sounds. People are usually most motivated at these times to work on their relationship.
The first thing that needs to be established is that both people are willing to make the changes necessary to make the relationship work. This is not as simple as it sounds. Coming to couples therapy does not always indicate a willingness to change. Sometimes one member of the couple is coming because they feel obligated, or feel they have to be able to say they “tried therapy” to save the relationship, but they are not necessarily showing up with the willingness to work on the relationship. Often one member of the couple (or both) come to treatment because they think the other person needs to change. In my experience, even though many people recognize both people may need to change, it is often easier to focus on what the other person needs to do, than what we need to do.
Obviously if at least one member of the couple is not willing to do the work, the next question, whether each member is capable of making the changes necessary to make the relationship work may become irrelevant to the current relationship. (However it may be important for any future relationship.)
This second question, as to whether each member of the couple is capable of making the changes necessary to make the relationship work, can be fairly complex, depending on the issues.
In couples therapy, I work to establish the answer to both these questions while I am uncovering and addressing the issues the couple is struggling with and while working with them on more effective communication.
Since each member of the couple comes to the relationship with their own history, “baggage” and issues, it is sometimes important to address these issues as part of the couples treatment (or separate from it).
It comes as no surprise that often couples trigger each other’s individual issues. I work with couples to identify the issues and the patterns that are not working for them, and help them to come to a better understanding and/or acceptance of what each of them needs to do for themselves and for their partner.
I see many couples who are struggling in their relationships, and may even be in crisis after a breach in trust (often after an affair).
Treatment focuses on dealing with the immediate feelings of hurt and betrayal, identifying and addressing the issues and dysfunctional dynamics that lead to the breach in trust, and working towards making a roadmap to re-establish trust and intimacy.
I will work with both partners on making positive changes to better the relationship. We will work on accepting what cannot be changed and changing what can be changed.
Often by the time couples come into my office, they have become quite polarized in their positions. At this point they frequently need an objective third party to intervene.
I tend to be very direct and pragmatic in an effort to make progress in a short amount of time.
I really enjoy doing couples work, despite it’s challenges it is very rewarding to help couples move past crises and deepen their connection.
How Not to Play the Blame Game – A tool to improve communication in relationships