A couple may feel that if they have love, then they should be able to work through anything that comes their way, without professional help. Yet love can be threatened in a relationship by feelings of not being heard or supported, lack of connectedness, difficulty working through challenges/disagreements effectively, and infidelity and betrayal, among other things. This can breed frustration and resentment between partners and give rise to criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling; the Four Horsemen of the apocalypse of the relationship — according to John Gottman, a noted researcher / theorist of relationships. If you experience these, they have probably caused a rift in your relationship. Couples therapists help partners recognize these aspects in their relationship and learn tools to replace them.
Below is a list of some of the things you might experience in couples therapy, with a therapist who has empathy for and is supportive of both partners:
- Conversation about your goals for therapy
- Formal/Informal assessment to pinpoint areas for focus in sessions
- Joint and individual sessions
- Discussion of the history of your relationship, and possibly previous relationships
- Discussion of your lived experience and how it relates to your current issues
- Exploration of your conflict pattern
- Discussion about areas of gridlock, such as finances, becoming parents, parenting, family, in-laws, work/life balance, etc.
- Discussion about your attachment style and what it means for your relationship
- Exploration of infidelity and betrayal, the effects of it for both of you, what you both can do to support each other and rebuild connection and your relationship, identify risk factors
- Learning ways to communicate effectively and coping strategies, practicing them in sessions, and between sessions
- Finding ways to reconnect and reignite the bond, trust, and connection in your relationship
- Learning more about your partner, increasing understanding and empathy for them
- Revisiting areas of concern and support for growth, as you practice the new skills you have learned, with your therapist
Couples in healthy relationships still experience conflict, but it is how they communicate, the strength of their bond, and the positive sentiment they hold for each other that helps them get through it successfully and without resentment. John Gottman discovered that in healthy relationships, for every ONE negative interaction, there are at least FIVE positive interactions – the 5:1 ratio.
Couples therapy is not just for partners in trouble, some couples seek out therapy for a relationship tune-up or for premarital counseling.
If you are thinking about couples therapy, you can schedule a complimentary 20 minute virtual or phone conversation with Suzanne here.
Blog post written by Suzanne Perry, MS 7/31/23. Click here to read more about Suzanne and her theraputic style.