Couples therapy is not something anybody enters into lightly.
However, many couples aren’t sure what to expect, either from the therapist or in terms of what is expected of them.
While you certainly can expect to learn new communication skills and establish a happier, more balanced relationship with your partner, most individuals will assume, or at least hope, that their partner will be doing most of the learning.
All things considered, what you can expect to gain from couples therapy is a better understanding of yourself, your partner, and how you relate to each other. Every couple has patterns of interaction. The recognition of ineffective patterns, along with the willingness to break them and develop better ones, that is the ultimate goal.
In therapy, you will gain clarity about the kind of life you can have together. You will learn more about being the kind of partner you need to be in order to have the relationship you want to create. Working together, I will help you gain the skills you need to accomplish these goals, though it might not always be easy.
Here are just some of the issues you can address in couples therapy:
1) Communication problems
Difficulty communicating with a partner is one of the top reasons couples seek therapy. Strong communication skills are essential to a happy, balanced relationship, but when topics are challenging, many people either withdraw or lash out in defense.
While communication issues are challenging, it’s essential to approach tough topics with openness and patience. Listening to your partner is vital. Having these discussions in an appropriate setting is also important. Couples therapy is a safe place to learn how to communicate as you gain a deeper understanding of each other.
2) Sexual difficulties
Even if you love each other deeply, there are plenty of reasons that your sex life can derail. It could be outright sexual boredom, mismatched sex drives, low libido from medication, illness, stress, or psychological trauma. Couples in long-term relationships often have to try a little harder to sustain the passion they once had. Couples therapy can help you reconnect and rekindle your spark.
3) Conflicts about child rearing or blended families
Blended families are a significant source of stress for many couples. Having different ideas about how children should be raised or disciplined can cause a rift in your otherwise happy lives. Couples therapy can guide you to productive and constructive conversations about parenting, including strategies on parenting stepchildren.
4) Substance abuse
When substance abuse is part of the relationship, very little positive progress can be made. Whether the issue is drinking or drug use, the ripple effects of the behavior are felt by children, friends, coworkers, but nowhere is it more destructive than it is in the relationship.
Substance abuse takes its toll on a relationship as it tends to become the root of many conflicts. As the conflicts escalate, substance abuse often increases as a way to cope, perpetuating a vicious cycle that is not only destructive but sometimes downright dangerous. Many couples who are addicted together may not succeed. However, this is not absolute.
Having the support of a loved one through these challenges is a strong factor in any lasting recovery. Whether the substance abuse stems from one person in the relationship or both, couples therapy can do much more than just guide you to recovery; it can also help you navigate through it.
Anger can be extremely destructive to a relationship. Unchecked, it can lead to resentment, dissatisfaction, sadness, and depression. As adults, we have established patterns and habits that we bring into our relationships. Not all of these habits are acceptable to others, but when we ignore the expectations and needs of our partner, it can result in conflict and anger. If one or both of you are what you would describe as “hotheads,” this situation can be especially challenging.
Managing conflict in a relationship requires a commitment from both parties to find a resolution. However, in the heat of the moment, it’s easy to disregard feelings and to say or do destructive things.
Anger often stems from issues related to finances, sex, parenting, housework, and work stress in general. If conflicts continue, they can be incredibly destructive, leading one or both partners to isolate or completely withdraw. Couples therapy can help you learn coping and mitigation strategies to help you learn how to diffuse and manage anger.
When one partner is unfaithful in a relationship, it can leave the other feeling betrayed, devastated, alone, angry, and confused. In some cases, the relationship may come to an end. Some couples, however, seek couples therapy to see if they can repair their relationship and get back on track.
Infidelity means different things to different people. Sometimes, it’s an out-and-out affair, but other times, it could be a partner’s use of pornography or any behavior that they consider unfaithful. In many cases, emotional cheating is as damaging to the relationship as having another partner.
In therapy, we might talk about monogamy and what that means to each of you. We will also explore the reasons for the infidelity and attempt to strengthen the bonds of intimacy to increase emotional and sexual satisfaction.
7) Unconscious Relationship Patterns
In many cases, our previous relationships—either with former romantic partners or even our parents—might have a significant impact on our current relationships. If we continue to carry these fears around, we may never be able to relate intimately to our partner. Since this is an unconscious attribute, it tends to repeat itself, and might well sabotage every relationship we are in.
Even though we can’t rewrite history, there is a way to change the future. Whether our experiences are rooted in trauma, abuse, or another type of adversity, understanding where these thoughts come from is the key to breaking out of negative patterns.
These are just some of the topics you can address in couples therapy. Though the road to change might not be a walk in the park, you will develop insights that lead to a deeper understanding of yourself, your partner, and the two of you together as a couple.
If you would like to learn more about couples therapy in Seattle, please reach out today to set up a consultation.
Seattle Couples Therapist
Anchor Light Therapy Collective