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Posts Tagged ‘Relationships’

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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The beginning of good relationships is all about finding out how similar you are and being inside each other’s pockets, or wanting to be, all the time. That’s the passion that cements you as a couple, and it’s usually a wonderful, falling in love time.

But it doesn’t last, not for any couple, and trying to hold onto it when you need to be growing to the next natural stage in couple love development only causes upset.  Of course, it can feel scary and anxiety provoking:  What’s changing here? Why is anything changing? We were great, and now you want to spend time with your old friends? You disagree with me… about what??

This second , natural stage of development for couples includes recognizing that you are two different people, with different interests and even emotional reactions. Often it includes  wanting  to be  on your own more of the time. It’s a time of redefining your self-dom and when it is working well, it comes with the delight of having your partner see you as yourself, the uniques you who is not just a mirror of your partner. It includes being able to speak your different opinions describing your differing feelings and being heard and accepted as yourself. Essential too is being able to hear your partner as being different from you – listening to their perspective and their feelings and working out  what needs to be agreed on, which isn’t everything.

This second stage of couple growth can be difficult to navigate particularly when one person is ready to step forward into it,  and the other is not.  The person who is not ready can easily feel abandoned, frightened, and try to prevent their partner from what feels like moving apart from them.  This is when many people come to couple therapy, and the right therapist can be a lot of help.

Rather than being afraid, I urge you to see this as a growth step that will lead to a much deeper and closer intimacy for you and your partner.

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It is a sad predicament when a couple fights over who is “right” and this becomes more important than anything else.

Sometimes this happens when the couple have given up on ever being close to their partner, but they are still needy of the other. These people stay together trying to salvage what is left of their wounded egos by having fights about power: who is more right, who is on top.

It can be helpful to have this pointed out, because often the couple is aware of being unhappy but not fully aware of what they are doing. It can be a hard pattern to break, worse when one person is better at self awareness than the other. What is needed is both people to become aware first is when the power fights get started, and second what is underneath their jabbing at the other – what is motivating the criticism and put downs.  Most often it is feeling hurt, and not feeling safe enough to admit it.

In therapy session, if the therapist can demonstrate that safety will be provided, the couple can more likely begin to discover the underlying pain and hurts.  Family of origin habits of relating often show up here. For example: if they learned in their families of origin that no one is interested in their feelings, they are naturally reluctant to say how they feel. They have a whole world of expressing emotion to learn about. Healing individual hurts from childhood are often a part of couple therapy. This can be done quite successfully with the couple therapist in the presence of the partner when there is enough trust in the relationship.  Often seeing your partner working on themselves brings up compassion and understanding; with other couples it may be necessary for each person to see a therapist separately to do their own work safely.

Power fighting sometimes happens at the end of a relationship, and yet alternatively, coming in to a professional can make this unhappy situation the beginning of learning to be truly intimate.

 

 

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People have affairs for all kinds of reasons, depending on who they are and what’s going on in their lives. The important thing to remember is – it’s not true that their insufficient partner caused them to go to another for love, etc. It’s not  their partner’s fault. Being dissatisfied with one’s partner is a legitimate experience, and being unfaithful is one option, but it often turns out badly for all concerned.

If you want to heal your marriage, the unfaithful partner has to deeply understand the amount of damage that has been done to trust, and they have  to know what  being betrayed by your life partner really feels like. Saying your sorry, even terribly, terribly sorry, and that you won’t ever do this again,  isn’t enough. Once lied to, your partner has every reason to question what you are saying now. You have to demonstrate how sorry you really are, you have to show your partner how you have changed in tangible ways so that there is reason to believe what you are saying now. You have to hear what your partner needs from you in order to ever trust you again. Listening to what your betrayed partner wants from you and being very willing to do what ever you are asked is a demonstration of your truly being sorry.

There’s another piece to this problem – if someone has hurt you and you want to trust they won’t do it again,   hurt-er  the other has to understand why they did it. If they don’t fully understand why they acted this way, what’s to keep them from (having the same reasons and) doing it again?  The unfaithful person needs to learn what motivated them to be unfaithful and make whatever changes are needed so they won’t want, or be motivated, to do this again.

This is a complicated process and takes courage on the part of both couples. The hurt-er has to be able to say what they were feeling, and have the courage to take the risk of saying it.   Many people have affairs to escape  the way they feel around their partner, Where they may feel: inferior, not loveable, criticized, or just tolerated. They need to feel the opposite of this and go to someone else to receive positive regard.

The hurt-ee has to have the courage to hear this truth and not collapse. They have to be willing now to work on the marriage and realize they have some changing to do as well as the hurt-er, but not collapse into feeling they caused  the affair.  They can not be put into a one-down position. Both people need to meet each other honestly and realize they both have work to do to turn their relationship around. Sometimes the hurt is over powering and the marriage ends.  Sometimes the affair slips into the past as a wake up call to re-make the relationship into something better than it has ever been.

 

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I see a lot of couples in my practice and have found there are many myths people believe about what you can have if only you had the perfect partner. Many have a lot of disatisfaction with their partner because he or she is not providing what they think a partner/ spouse should provide.  I’ll list a few of these myths to clarify what I’m speaking about.

1.You can’t demand intimacy from your partener, doing so will likely  create more distance and less intimacy.  You can  talk about how close or safe your partner  feels with you, and that could be productive. You can think about why your partner doesn’t feel open with you, what you might be doing that pushes your partner to back away from you.  It is also possible that your partner’s resistance to being sexual or emotionally close isn’t about you, it’s more about what they brought into the relationship from their past: their baggage. You could be very useful to them in changing their hesitancy about intimacy, or maybe a therapist could help. But demanding is useless and feels bad all around.

2 .Your partner can’t make you happy, you have to do that for yourself.  What your partner can do is keep you exquisite  company while you figure all that out for yourself. A good therapist can also help.

3.You can’t expect your partner to be a twin,  to be someone  who believes the same things you do and therefore makes you feel sure of yourself.  That’s another one of those things you have to do for yourself. ‘

People who are fully grownup have the best relationships. Those grownups have have taken it upon themselves to find meaning in their lives, to like themselves, to come to terms with their families of origin, all these tasks and more that are the work of growing up.  You can find meaning in sharing your life with another, but you still have to do the work of your own life to be a good partner and have a good relationship.  Try looking into this instead of  wanting your partner to complete you as a person. I think you will be happier with the results.

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This is my own personal opinion, borne out by many clients I have encountered.  I haven’t heard it from other therapists, and it certainly is not the usual explanation given in my profession. But it is my opinion:

When we are small children, we all need love, and we need it consistently. We need love that is intelligently given, so that, for example, as children we are  given age appropriate challenges that we can master – thus building or self esteem.  We also need to be loved just for existing, for being our parent’s pride and joy because we lie in our beds at night breathing.

Most people don’t get the kind of love they need. Many have parents completely unable to love them. When we grow up we still need that love we didn’t get. The longing to be loved  doesn’t go away just because it is time to move out of the house.

So we wind up picking someone as a partner who has enough of the attributes of the parent (or combination of parents) that they “feel” like the parent  we most still want to be loved by. In essence, we are picking a psychological stand-in for that parent. And then we work really hard to get that person to love us. But – because we are so good at picking stand-ins, we have picked someone who can’t love us either.  Often, because it really is the parent this partner represents to the child in us, this hurtful partner is hard to leave.

Many battered women fall into this category, and the sad thing is that if their parent was abusive they may have repressed any memory of the abuse ( for self – protection) and still pick people capable of abusing them.  When they hear this possible explanation, they can’t apply it because (1) they  have forgotten the abuse, and/or  (2) their denial of their parent’s cruelty keep them from acknowledging it. People want to believe they had good parents, otherwise their view of their childhood and their parents falls apart, leaving them with what feels like”nothing” to hang on to, to be their base.  They “lose” their parent.

This makes it hard for them to do successful therapy and strengthen themselves enough to leave an abusing partner, or one that simply is not well suited to them. I have found, however, if the therapist will  address whatever the person needs right now in therapy, then this in itself strengthens them to the point where they able to remember, work through whatever childhood issues they need to and make sense of their lives and their previous choices.  Best of all they are now free to choose a partner who can love them, as they deserve.

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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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