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Posts Tagged ‘Couple Therapy’

Taking your most recent fight to your couple therapist is probably one of the least likely ways to get much of anything from couple therapy. The therapist is not there to be a judge and decide who is right in your struggles. The therapist is there to teach you new skills so you can both get the relationship you want.

You need to set goals for what you want your relationship to be and learn the skills to get it there. So many people come in to a  couple session and want the therapist to “fix” their partner. In fact, you need to look at what needs changing in yourself, and if both partners  will do this, real growth and change can occur.  You need to be willing to look at yourself and what you learned about relationships and love from your family of origin and see how that is getting in your way in your current love relationship.  All of this takes time, dedication, a willingness to take risks, and often, frankly, a touch of humility.

If you are up for all of this, you could really improve your relationship.  There are very specific skills involved in improving an intimate relationship, and for some people they aren’t  easy to learn. You will grow personally in couple therapy much as you would if you were in individual therapy. If you are interested in how you contribute to the struggles you have with your partner,  you could  gain  a lot and grow a lot and have a much more loving , close and satisfying relationship –  through couple therapy.

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It is clear to me almost the first session which couples are going to get what they want out of couple therapy relatively quickly and who is going to be coming for a long time. It has to do with a willingness to be open to new ideas, a willingness to make changes and to learn new things, and a willingness to make the effort to have this happen.

Another huge piece is to stop blaming your partner and for what’s wrong in the relationship and look to yourself to see what you can do differently.

It takes a certain amount of strength in self, ego strength some people call it, to be able to do this without collapsing on the one hand or blowing up on the other. Good couple therapists know this and provide vehicles for the couple to build personal strength so that they can grow, as partners, in their communication and caring for one another.

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Couple relationships go through growing stages, and although this is a normal and healthy development, it can be painful to experience and  can sometimes make couples question if they should remain together. This is often why couples often come into therapy as they move through the stages, especially when one person is moving into a different stage than their partner is in.
Let’s look at stages of growth of all couples.

Stage 1 is called Symbiosis:  This is also known as  “The Honeymoon Period” – both people are swept up in  the excitement of their romance. “He (or she) has so much in common with me!” “Everything seems perfect”  and “We are so much alike!” Both are ecstatic with the  mutuality and perfection of the other, “How could anything go wrong?” It’s important to have some  time like this to establish your coupledom.

Stage 2 is called  Differentiating: After a while things happen  that show you are really two different people. Maybe you don’t really like watching  football, and that he has no interest in riding horses. She thinks you are “too” left leaning and liberal and you’ve been proud of that. It’s disappointing and hard to take for the one who wants to feel exactly alike and perfectly suited ( the one that is still symbiotic). It may feel liberating and factual for the differentiating  partner. Here indeed is trouble in paradise. As it happens, one partner  starts feeling restless or smothered. It seems like hanging out with old friends would be so nice.  Doing that sport, hobby (or whatever) that’s been neglected in spending so much of your time together – starts to look appealing.  This is a time when couples often show up in a therapist’s office.

Stage 3 is called Practicing: This is when the couple are both “trying out” being their separate selves while still being connected as a couple. They spend time apart doing separate things. They take the risk to  say they disagree and speak their differing opinions. At this time they are often dealing  with the risks and struggles of dealing with each other’s different needs and preferences , and it is a time of immense personal growth.

Stage 4 is called Rapprochement: This is when the couple is comfortable going back and forth, going away and coming together, returning to each other with ease and intimacy.  They come back to each other refreshed and happy to be connected deeply again.  Their trust is  secure in the other. The each are supporting the other’s self esteem.

Being able to see what stage your relationship is in can be reassuring and useful. Often one person is a little ahead of the other, and pulling their partner to come along with them.  When going  through these stages gets rough, couple therapy is often what is needed.

Good luck with each other! Love is a wonderful thing to cultivate at all it’s stages, and much too precious to neglect or loose.

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QuestionMy boyfriend and I are fighting a lot and he refuses to go to a therapist with me. I love him, and don’t want to leave, but I can’t handle all the fights. He says a stranger can’t help us – and that we can work it out by ourselves. The problem is we don’t and nothing is changing. What can I do?

If he won’t go to a therapist,  go by yourself. You will learn about yourself and your relationship and most likely will grow in your own self estimation.  You will become better equipped to deal with your boyfriend and more able  to know what you have a right to expect in a relationship.

Many men agree to see a therapist once their partner has been going and obviously getting something from the sessions, so you may be surprised about him.

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Everybody needs love from their parents. When we were kids we quite literally needed it like food, and we needed it everyday. Many of us didn’t get the love we needed. The less we got as kids the more we still need as adults. As adults we often choose our partners hoping to get what we never got from our parents. In our unconscious cleverness, we pick people that are “psychological stand-ins” for the parent(s) we most needed love from. Without knowing it, we are looking to solve the childhood problem of needing to be loved.

If a child is not getting the approval and love they need the problem is most likely in the parent’s inability to love, not in the child’s deserving of it.  In our choosing a psychological stand-in, we choose some one who is like our parent(s), and therefore another person who can’t love us.In therapy you get to finish (within yourself)  the  emotional problem with the unloving parent. Then you are actually free to pick a good partner.

There are other strong influences that may appear as you begin exploring what is driving your choice of partner. For example:   A woman was the oldest child of apparently loving parents who both had to work full time. She was needed to take care of of her syblings when both parents were working.  She learned that the way to be valued was to be a caretaker and sacrifice her own needs. She chooses a partner who needs her care taking and continues sacrificing herself.

Influences from early experience formed your self image and taught you what you can expect from other people. The most powerful and longest lasting are those from our families. What you learned about yourself from peers, teachers, and other significant relationships also have a lasting effect.

We see ourselves with the eyes our parents gave us.  A good therapist can be useful in understanding  how you learned, and what you learned, about who you are and what you can expect for yourself in the world.

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