I value the strengths that couples bring with them. Your knowledge of each other, your shared sense of humor, your commitment to your relationship, your ability to observe, and your mutual empathy are core resources in our work together.
One of the issues that challenges couples is communication, whether about major decisions or day-to-day events. Clear and effective communication can enhance a couple’s feeling of connection, sense of well-being and satisfaction.
For this reason, communication will be a central focus in your couples therapy.
We don’t always understand what our partner is trying to communicate. And then again sometimes we’re sure that we know just what our partner feels. We see a facial expression (like a frown) or a body posture (our partner sits back with folded arms while we’re having a conversation) and we think we know exactly what that means. Then we may make assumptions that aren’t accurate, because we want so much to know what our partner is thinking and feeling about us. These assumptions can get in the way of our finding out that information and conveying just what we want and need in the situation.
When you don’t have a chance to check on the accuracy of these beliefs about your partner, you can wind up drawing conclusions that aren’t true about how the other person feels toward you.
These unchecked conclusions can cause many misunderstandings and hurts. What stops you from asking what your partner is feeling? You may feel anxious about speaking directly, or this idea may be so unfamiliar that you don’t know how to get started. Maybe you don’t even think that it’s an option to talk in this way. You may be anxious about what your partner will say. Maybe it hasn’t been successful when you’ve tried to talk about conflict or misunderstanding in the past.
In many interactions, and especially those that happen between members of a couple, events – verbal and non-verbal – happen at high speed. Your reactions to those events happen so quickly and gather steam so powerfully that, in a conflict, it can be hard to know what just happened. You can end up feeling exhausted and confused by your exchanges.
Couples therapy is a place to bring the volatile and intense emotions that are stirred up in close relationships.
One of the benefits of couples therapy is the support to slow down the action and look more carefully at what’s happening between you.
In therapy, we look at what interactions mean to both members of the couple.
Paying attention in this way can help you to become more aware of your swift, instinctual responses. You will learn to practice more effective and successful ways to communicate with each other about your feelings and needs. You’ll work at increasing empathy, talking about what you need, and learning how to use these skills at home.
This will open the door to greater appreciation of each other and a more satisfying relationship.
For a case-study on how this can work, read my article Couple’s Therapy: Getting Into and Out of Word-ditches.