Are you and your partner struggling to stay connected?
Do you feel lonely and bored in your relationship?
Are the arguments between you and your significant other escalating in frequency and decibels?
Are you worried about the impact of frequent arguments and conflict on your children?
Have you been entertaining thoughts of separation and/or divorce?
Every couple struggles at times. Conflict may arise in the most unexpected places and may spin around specific issues for years and years without resolution. Dr. John Gottman, in his extensive research with couples, found that some 69% of conflicts between couples don't get resolved satisfactorily. In this regard, the veteran couple can look very similar to the newly married with heated arguments spinning around this cluster of topics over and over.
The difference between the successful and and less-so relationships seems to depend on the couples ability and willingness to learn how to manage their fundamental differences and place the health and welfare of the marriage at the forefront of their interests and efforts.
Life is full of challenges in general and attempts to carry out a long-term commitment to one special person who is perhaps as different from you as elephants are from giraffes, can be fraught with seemingly insurmountable difficulties. When first dating, aflush with pleasurable hormones and carefully constructed experiences, it's easy to overlook or ignore traits that might be red flags signalling that trouble is ahead. It's easy to dismiss the "flaw" as fixable, and to focus on the most appealing qualities of the other. Frequently, the very characteristics that seemed most attractive turn into the relationship's thorns in the flesh.
ALL RELATIONSHIPS FACE SIMILAR CHALLENGES.
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE MOST COMMON CAUSES OF CONFLICT?
Finances: Money, money, money! Who handles the money? Where does it come from and where will it go? Who should earn it and which partner earns more, doesn't earn enough, isn't deemed capable of handling finances responsibly. These are each and all important concerns.
The main issue may be that different values are operating in each partner. One is frugal and risk-aversive; the other a free-wheeling spendthrift or one whose primary values are material and socially competitive. For too many couples, the issue was never discussed before the joining of lives and bank accounts and the task of developing a true partnership around this crucial issue has never been addressed.
Complicating matters further is the fact that within the handling of finances dwell deeper issues of self-esteem, personal identify, and entitlement.
Sexual Incompatibility: If sexual differences appear early on and do not receive constructive attention, they do not tend to automatically improve but to become worse as time goes on. Stress and tension around this issue can produce ongoing conflict and feelings of neglect, anger, abandonment, and the danger of one or both seeking an extra-marital affair.
Affairs, whether physical or emotional, are the most damaging and painful of all situations to develop within a relationship, particularly when justified by the loss of connection in the bedroom or other behaviors of the partner. The offended party, filled with anguish and jealousy, is unable to even discuss the situation in a productive manner. This is where counseling can help to process and metabolize the deep emotional wounds, to forgive, and hopefully, repair. Healing and reparation of the relationship is possible if partners are willing to take a look at the overall breakdown in the relationship.
Discrepancies in parenting styles. What style of parent are you or your mate and what goals do you have for your parenting partnership? Many factors play a part in parenting styles and a couple's ability to function as an effective team where children are concerned.
Work and other activities or relationships take priority over the needs of the partner. "All you ever do is work." It's easy for couples to get lost and obsessed with constructing a successful career. Others may realize too late that their partner is functionally married to something besides them. We laugh about being a football widow or complaining that our spouse spends way too much time with friends, parents, co-workers or that since the children came, there's no time for me. Busy schedules leave little time for mutual relaxation and intimacy.
Blended families. With high divorce rates and remarriages, stepfamily issues abound and can be an extreme source of conflict, disappointment, discouragement, and unfortunately a second or third divorce. Parenting and discipline of stepchildren is a thorny situation. Children struggling with loyalty binds and just too much change will frequently respond by vigorously resisting all best efforts of a stepparent to bond or take any position of authority in the home.
Negotiating an entrance into a disciplinary role with stepchildren can be a minefield that requires a sound and workable plan of execution. Dealing with adult children can be equally stressful.
How much individual time spent with biological children is enough; can my new partner be included? How many decisions are made out of guilt and a need to overcompensate?
And let us not forget all the financial hardships that may arrive with the new union - spousal maintenance, child support, court costs, medical expenses, and on and on.
Controlling, possessive and verbal and/or verbally abusive tendencies and behaviors. This might first be observed as an overly critical, disrespectful, or contemptuous attitude toward the partner and others and attempts to diminish the partner's self-respect and autonomy by controlling activities, appearance, contact with significant others.
Other behaviors of concern may be treating family, friends, acquaintances poorly, jealousy, envy, insecurity or an inability to control or regulate anger when plans or desires are frustrated.
Medical or Mental health issues of one or both - Is a partner suffering from depression, anxiety disorder, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, ADHD? What about the fact that a partner is the adult child of alcoholic or substance abusing parent(s)? The difficulties some such individuals experience in forming intimate connections is well documented.
Chronic illness can be the source of ongoing and intense stress within a relationship and affect every area of a couple's life together.
Alcohol and substance abuse or addiction. Many many marriage struggle with the repercussions of alcoholism and addiction. Among the problems that can seem overwhelming are personality changes, emotional labiity and abusive tendencies, depression, financial crisis and deprivation, and ongoing domestic violence. The negative impact upon social, legal, and interpersonal aspects for the couple and family can be nothing short of devastating at their worse.
Family of origin issues - This occurs when one partner cannot leave and cleave to their spouse or partner, when an in-law is allowed too much influence and intrusion into the affairs of the couple, or when there is necessity to care for a parent who is ill or infirm.
Other situations may involve sibling enmeshment or discord that stems from childhood rivalries or the division of labor in terms of caregiving for a parent or disabled sibling. What if a sibling doesn't like the partner and is destructively intrusive in the couple's affairs?
AND THERE ARE MANY OTHER ISSUES that can put immense strain and stress on a couples relationship such as cultural, spiritual, and religious differences, the illness/death of a child or parent, Infertility or differing interest in having children and of course, the empty nest or waking up one day to find the children gone and it's just the two of you. Who is this person that I'm committed to spending the rest of my years with anyhow?
WOW, SO MANY PROBLEMS! I GET IT BUT....
I don't see how couples counseling can help.
I'm perfectly capable of working out my own problems.
We tried counseling once and it helped for a while but we're right back where we were before.
My partner refuses to even think about seeing a counselor.
I can't get my spouse to go to a doctor for a checkup, let alone to a therapist's office!
He/she will never change.
It's too embarrassing to air our dirty laundry in front of a stranger.
We're too busy.
We don't have the money.
We're too far gone - we're separated and divorce papers are already filed.
I can't get over the infidelity. I'll never be able to trust again.
We're tired of trying - burned out.
We're like roommates. We have nothing in common anymore.
Can Couple's Therapy Help?
Your partner has told you straight out, I'm not going to see a counselor. What can couples counseling do that we haven't already tried?
Making that decision and expressing willingness to seek help might be that first positive giant step toward healing of your relationship difficulties. For one thing, it demonstrates a new humility and sense of hope, the recognition that 1) this relationship is important, not something to throw away without all the best efforts, 2) maybe there is a thing or two I don't know and can learn about living my life in relationship to another, and 3) the alternatives are not nearly as attractive the closer they get and in fact, just might be even more pain-filled and unsatisfying that the situation I'm already in.
Dr. Gottman's research with couples also revealed that the main reason 80% of individuals gave for their divorce was the deterioration of intimacy, not general incompatibility or infidelity. The proliferation of negative interactions and communication as intimacy breaks down, becomes increasingly destructive to the health of the relationship.
Couples therapy can help you and your partner to resolve your ongoing problems and conflicts more efficiently by improving communications skills, discovering fresh ways to re-establish the emotional attraction and bond that drew you together in the first place. By working with an objective individual trained in human and relationship development, a couple can learn to air grievances constuctively, develop greater empathy and compassion toward the partner, and rekindle that all important emotional attraction and bond. By committing and working with the program, individuals can develop greater emotional and spiritual resilience and effectively combat the many stresses and pressures that are part and parcel of modern life and may converge to tear you down and apart. Your relationship can become even more than you had dared to hope for.
Authentic empathic and compassionate based companionship can be the path to a renewed sense of intimacy in general and improved physical/sexual intimacy specifically.
As long as both you and your partner come to marriage counseling voluntarily and are willing to entertain change—even if there is doubt or impatience about exactly what will happen—there is hope. You can strengthen your relationship by making an agreement to try to work through your issues together in a deliberate, thoughtful and guided way.
What if only one person is willing to try? That person should try. Many relationships have been saved by the good faith efforts of one partner. As a bonus, you may find yourelf growing in ways you didn't expect or realize were needed. Yes, counseling can be intimidating but can be an important catalyst and lifeline for getting your life and your relationships back on track.
As a relationship counselor, I'm committed to assisting couples to increase their own levels of commitment to, satisfaction with, and engagement in their primary love relationship. My methods are eclectic and solution-focused and my goal is to assist couples through whatever modalities and counseling techniques we, together, will find useful and applicable to your unique relationship needs. My primary goal for all my clients is to above all instill renewed hope, and a conviction that positive change is not only possible but inevitable if a commitment is made to the process.
Many people arrive in the office beat down and burned out by life's struggles. I view my role as an encourager, a guide, a compass, a caring, committed, trained member of your team.
I believe that human beings were created to be in committed, long-term relationship and that no other situation in life can produce such an abundance of physical, emotional, and spiritual benefits for individuals, future generations, and society as a whole.
Though counseling may appear to be expensive and time-consuming, in fact, it can turn out to be one of the wisest and best investments of both time and money, you have ever made.