Couple Therapy: The opportunity for growth in our relationship.
Yet another day has passed and the clean laundry is still sitting on the stairs, the dishwasher is finished, but rather than empty it, the dirty dishes are just being left on the side…again. The lack of effort and support you feel from your partner of late, has meant that even the smallest of molehills have now become mountains.
Communication has gone awry and you find yourself resenting your partner. These recurring nuances coupled with the daily grind and a monotonous routine has led to a vicious cycle of bickering, bitching, and hours of silent treatment from both parties. You don’t feel appreciated and loved.
You have become increasingly frustrated and you start to consider ‘what if’ scenarios, but is this really the end? Will the grass be greener on the other side?
How many of us have gone through this same scenario? A few years into a relationship and you realize things are not the same as they used to be, you don’t seem to be connecting anymore and you doubt if your partner is the ‘one’ for you.
You feel frustrated and wonder if you are just wasting your time, in what you believe has turned into a dull, hopeless relationship. Yet, there is still something there. You love your partner, you have had some amazing moments together and you don’t feel ready to give up yet, so as a last-ditch attempt you decide to give couples therapy ago, to try to save your relationship.
We often forget that being in a relationship is an opportunity to grow, both as an individual and as a couple. It is in relation to others that we learn and develop, we realize what we like and don’t like, and what we need to feel happy, loved, valued, appreciated, etc.
This ‘model of relating’ begins at birth, when we begin learning from others. Throughout our lives, we continue to learn and whenever we enter any loving relationship, we carry our ‘models of relating’ with us, re-enacting them with our partner or spouse. When given the opportunity, we can look at ourselves and learn in relation to our partner, things that we were not aware of and that perhaps we could not have learned before.
Take our couple for example…. It is only by relating with her partner and how this lack of effort makes her feel, that she can deduce what she needs to feel valued and loved. In our example from above, she has learned she needs more appreciation and support. Without this ‘model of relating’ it is unlikely that she would have discovered this on her own, thus showing us that there is an opportunity for self-development and growth regardless of the outcome of the situation.
‘No relationship is ever a waste of time, if it didn’t bring you what you wanted, it taught you what you don’t!’
Happy relationships don’t just happen, they are built. It requires effort and work and both partners must be willing to work on improving themselves as well as improving the partnership.
A healthy relationship is never perfect, in fact, it's often imperfect and can show up in areas of conflict. Couples in healthy relationships learn that conflict is actually an opportunity for growth and through Imago Relationships it becomes a gift that deepens their love in a healthier way.
What healthy love truly means is for each partner to express their compassion, empathy, love, and open communication during the good times and the bad. The key is to show up daily, be present and prioritize your partner and your relationship.
HOW CAN COUPLES THERAPY HELP
Many couples remark on just how invaluable therapy has been for both saving and developing their relationship further. Therapy provides a space where both partners are treated equally without judgement and given the chance to voice their opinions through an impartial third party. It provides the opportunity to discuss and improve many different areas of the relationship while receiving guidance and support.
Most couples state that having 50 minutes a week to focus solely on their relationship away from the stresses of home life, work, and other family members, allows them to delve into the areas of their relationship they feel need improving. Issues that are often put on the back burner as one or both partners feel unsure how to address them or how to overcome them. Issues such as how to restore intimacy, building or restoring trust, alleviating aggression, overcoming financial woes or infidelities, parenting concerns, etc.
Looking back to our couple scenario from before, she feels unsupported by her partner, and over time, those feelings turned to anger and resentment. It is clear there is a lack of communication within the relationship that stops these issues from being resolved efficiently, thus allowing them to move forward.
Couple therapy can help as a therapist will encourage both parties to be open and communicative with one another and help the couple to discuss and overcome any issues whilst finding the best way forward. A therapist is not there to give advice or tell you how to eliminate arguments, but rather to guide you to learn how to negotiate these roadblocks calmly and diplomatically amongst yourselves.
WHEN IS A GOOD TIME FOR COUPLE THERAPY?
There are many factors that signal therapy may be a good idea, but the reality is that even in the happiest of relationships, therapy should be considered. Therapy can equip you to deal with any challenges that arise, before they turn into crisis, however many couples only consider therapy as a last-ditch attempt to save their relationship, as with the example of our couple above.
Many also state that they put off going to therapy as they don’t know what will happen. They worry that they will be embarrassed, have to reveal things that they didn’t want to say to their partner, be judged by their therapist, have to discuss intimate details of their relationship in front of a stranger, or, that they may be pushed in one direction or another to make a decision about their relationship. None of the above is true, and as previously discussed, a therapist is there as a neutral party, to listen, to guide, to support and to reserve judgement, regardless of the issues within the relationship.
Attending therapy can be beneficial to your relationship for many reasons:
- You can always take a good thing and make it better. Happy couples know there is always room for improvement and realise the importance of maintaining what they have and working towards making it even stronger. They work to improve certain areas within the relationship and by setting some life goals together that allows them to continually work in unison, e.g to have a baby, to argue less, to agree to make more time for each other, etc.
- In the majority of cases, the core of many issues stems from a lack of communication between partners. A therapist will help you learn to communicate effectively with each other so that you can overcome any roadblocks quickly before they spiral out of control.
- It keeps you healthier, both mentally and physically. Most of us work hard to work on and maintain our appearance, so why not do the same for our relationship?
- You will learn to communicate more effectively so you are better equipped for when any challenge arises within the relationship.
- By attending therapy, it shows that you are committed and actively involved in maintaining the wellbeing of the relationship.
You should strongly consider couple therapy if there are underlying issues in your relationship that you cannot resolve:
- A lack of trust or infidelity issues.
- Bottled up emotions of anger or resentment towards your partner.
- If you feel that arguments are becoming more and more frequent.
- Communication amongst you is poor and you are unable to express how you feel.
- You feel ‘stuck’ in a pattern or routine that is no longer working.
The sooner you get into therapy, the better. Whatever stage a couple is at, there is no shame in going to couples therapy, on the contrary, it shows a real level of commitment and a desire to keep the spark alive and both partners happy.
Couples therapy helps us to learn more about our own needs and better understand those of our partner by learning how to effectively communicate and express our feelings. We become more equipped to overcome any challenges we are faced with so that senseless altercations do not spill over into arguments that go on to last for days. The longer you let these bad habits and issues fester, the worse the relationship will become, and the harder it will be to fix. You wouldn’t keep driving your car knowing that it was slowly dying and that you were possibly causing irreparable damage, so why do it in your relationship?
Accept that all good things take time, effort, understanding, and patience. It is unrealistic to think that anything can be achieved without putting the work in, and on an ongoing basis.
Keeping the love and communication going through all that life throws at us is a real challenge, and one that most of us are never taught how to handle but know that we are here to help.