Couples Therapy Can Bring Happiness Back to Marriage
Dealing With the Couple, Not the Individual
When we think of therapy, we usually think of problems embedded within an individual that have to be uncovered and worked through. This is certainly very often the case. The psycho-behavioral problems come from early learned habits, lack of important developmental experiences, unmet needs for which people still yearn. However, the location of behavioral problems and issues can be, and often is, in the pair, the couple, the unit, not the individual. The solution often involves couples therapy.
Potential Issues with Marriage
Many psychological issues grow out of the messaging between people who are bound together in marriage. In extreme situations, people stay away from one another in states of misinformation or sensory deprivation. Often the mental illness diagnosis falls on one member of the couple or family, but it is in the relationship that binds the diagnosed member to intimate others that the real psychological issue really resides.
To provide counselling to help this kind of shared disorder, the therapist must dissect the way each member encounters the joint relationship then try to diagnose where it has gone wrong.
Couples Have Defense Mechanisms
Couples and families have their own kind of defense mechanisms that hide the truth. These must be revealed and opened up so that the real operation of the relationship can be untangled. Couples make up myths about the way they relate to each other. The myths may be very far from reality and the unreality of the myths may be a source of unhappiness and poor adaptation of behavior that brings the client to the therapist. Couples may require unrealistic things of each other. Members of a couple may be in a constant state of disguise, hiding their activities and their attitudes from each other. Members of a couple may be living happily in a state of paired collusion against others, like a conspiracy that they feel brings them closer together.
More About Couples Therapy
Couples therapy is a subset of relationship counselling which includes things like marital counselling and family therapy or even conjoint or multiple family therapy where 3 or more families work together in groups.
One couples therapist relates the following case as an example of how the origin of the problem is not located in either member of the couple:
Anna, the wife always talks about why she hates the relationship she has with her husband James. James complains that Anna is too controlling. James says since the couple had their baby, Anna "nags and bitches at me all the time about not pulling my weight. She's evil." The couple went into counselling after an incident where Anna screamed and spat at James and he lost his temper and pushed her."
Couples Therapy Leads to Happiness
The couple went into couples therapy to avoid the costly emotional and financial toll of marital breakup and divorce. There was enough mutual feeling between them to make them seek a resolution. The evidence suggests that people unhappy in a relationship, were no happier after a divorce. Linda White of the University of Chicago found in a 2002 that people unhappy in a relationship who did not divorce were, on average, happier after five years than people who did divorce.
The behavior that caused this couple's unhappiness was traced back to the extra pressure of the new baby coupled with the fact that James' father died four months earlier. His father's death made James angry and disengaged, just at the time when Anna needed James' extra support. The counselling lasted three sessions.
Anna said she "badly wanted the therapist to side with me and tell James he was an aggressive bastard. but she listened calmly to both of us. She said that I was winding him up (which was true).
Five years later, the couple was still together and have given birth to a second child.
Couples Therapy Can Relieve Tension in the Home
If you've hesitated many evenings lately to go home because your spouse is there waiting, you might need couples therapy. Before you find the right person to sit down with you and your spouse and work through the issues troubling the marriage, consider what's in this service for both of you. Mary Shull is here to offer you and your partner real-life strategies that will relieve tension in the home. Once the stressful conditions are partly or fully alleviated, you and your partner can meet in her office, which is a neutral territory, and explore other options (i.e. planning date nights together). Everyone could benefit from a sushi making class or ballroom dance lessons.
Why Choose Couples Therapy
Mary often gets the question of why people should invest time and money in couples therapy. This is not an easy question to answer, but it's one you should ponder before committing to therapy. It's an investment that both partners must make with the belief it could actually work. We like the example of the couple who really loves each other, but have lost sight of what they have in common. Many long-term partners and married couples can quickly recall why they fell in love and the details of the early, happy times in their relationship. But, Mary can tell you that it's harder for them to explain why they fell out of love or why it's hard to show love to each other now. The problems in the present make a troubled couple's future uncertain, which leaves them both in doubt. Mary helps them find what they do love in each other and focus on building on their strengths to resolve their differences.
Understanding What Causes Stress
One way to define stress comes from Hans Selye: the body's non-specific response to a demand for change. In your marriage, when you feel stress or tension, it's going to have harmful effects on your body. Not finding relief from marital stress can lead to heart attack, stroke, and other diseases. However, you may not understand what the demands for change are, unless you've been able to identify specific requests from your partner which you feel you cannot meet. For example, in a marriage, every night one partner comes home and spends hours watching reality TV shows, which is a sedentary activity that holds no interest for the other partner. If the second partner refuses to watch the shows, then the couple ends up spending little or no time together during most evenings. This couple needs to find ways to spend time together that they both enjoy, but the partner who loves reality TV might have to change the habit for the sake of the marriage. If neither partner is willing to modify their problematic behaviors, then it's hard to repair the relationship.
Being Realistic About Therapy
The truth is that couples therapy has its own methodologies that help two partners to be honest with themselves, to identify the problems in the relationship, to decide if they will both continue investing in the relationship, and to chart a new path for the future. The last point is really important because both partners must believe saving the marriage is a worthwhile outcome. In itself, couples therapy cannot fix a relationship. It can promote positive changes in how couples relate to each other and resolve conflict.
My Goal is to Help Your Marriage
I can help if you long for connection with your partner, feel isolated in your marriage, harbor secrets in your relationship, have lost trust in your partner, or live with a commitment that feels like a prison sentence. Please contact me to find out how I can help your marriage.