All of life is relationship. And our most intimate relationships hold the greatest opportunities for pleasure and growth, but also the greatest potential for conflict and frustration.
What happens in couples therapy?
In couples therapy we create a space where conflicts and frustrations can be expressed and explored in a safe and contained way. We get underneath the particulars in order to look at the repeated patterns of discord that you create as a couple.
Difficulties between partners are very rarely due to just one person (even though one partner may feel dragged by the other to therapy!). Each partner carries a whole life history of hopes, fears, insecurities, and needs. It can take great courage to begin to express some of these feelings that may never before have been spoken. Couples therapy is a place where we create the possibility for this kind of communication.
We move beyond judgment and blame in couples therapy. As the poet Rumi put it, “There is a field beyond right thinking and beyond wrong thinking. . .I will meet you there.”
Getting helpPeople come for couples therapy with a wide variety of issues. Some common problems are:
- you feel like friends, not lovers, or like business partners running a family
- communication is no longer trustful and open
- there is a disconnect between sex and emotional openness
- the relationship has become sexless, or there are problems with the sexual connection
- having the same arguments over and over again
- having kids and parenting have changed the relationship in very difficult ways
- affairs and infidelity
- challenges such as illness, career change, financial circumstances
Usually there is disappointment, anger, sadness and fear. Partners feel out of touch with each other and as if they are not on the same side anymore.
I often find that a couple’s decision to come for help, and the commitment to mark out an hour each week for focusing on one another, is itself a tremendous step forward. So often, amidst the pressures of our urban lives, our closest relationship goes to the bottom of our list of priorities—if it even appears on it at all. Deciding to come to couples therapy for help with your relationship is therefore already a powerful shift toward change.
Frequently, at least one of the partners has felt especially hesitant about coming to a therapist, worried perhaps that he or she won’t be adequately heard or understood. It is wonderful to watch these concerns go away very quickly as the environment of therapy becomes a safe and comforting space for both partners.
The help of couples therapyRelationships change over time and are constantly facing new circumstances and challenges. Seeking therapy for your relationship does not need to mean that you are in trouble or doomed. Conflict is an opportunity for growth. Couples therapy is a tool for working with conflict, but it can do far more than that, as well. It can help you to create a still stronger and deeper relationship than you may ever have had.
Couples therapy can help you to make decisions together with greater clarity and understanding. It facilitates commitment, openness, and trust so that you rediscover the joy of being together.
Daniel Lehrman, MA, NCPsyA, LP provides Couples Therapy in New York City, Manhattan, Brooklyn.