If only we could be loved by our partners and our families like we are by our pets! You might say, "but, my pet doesn't hurt or annoy me." I am sure you and your loved ones would rather be unconditionally accepted, loved and treated with kindness as well. Couples or family therapy can help you to learn to how to identify what youwant in your relationships and develop methods of relating that will create greater harmony and satisfaction. Listening and feeling heard are mindful practices that start with you identifying how it is that you would like to be treated or loved and hearing how your loved one(s) would. New behaviors can be established as you practice helpful tools and methods to communicate about what is lacking or difficult without confllict or defense. What are your fantasies about companionship / love /passion / sexuality? Therapy offers you an opportunity to learn new ways of relating, while bridging some of the deep chasms that have resulted from wornout or hurtful behaviors. It is hard to stop what doesn't work, until you know what you're doing and have other options. Counseling will help you to learn how to live with differences, stop fighting, and build something new. Individuals in a relationship generally want to feel content with themselves and their partners, be heard and accepted, express themselves to the other, agree enough on what is important in their lives, make the most of their time together, be intimate, and feel loved as well as love the other. Where are you on this continuum of a satisfying relationship?
Most couples or individuals contact me, when they are suffering the pain of a relationship that is not working, has disintegrated, or has for years been unsatisfying, and they don't know how to continue as they are. The pain of loosing love and the promises of what a couple came together for in the first place is the deepest kind of loss and pain. Occasionally, a couple comes into therapy, who are happy with their lives and each other, but want to work on some aspect of their relationship that needs to be strengthened or made more enjoyable. A relationship is a living organism and always evolving and changing, even if it seems stagnant and stuck. Whether you are looking to improve or rescue your relationship, I can help you to build the new ground you need to stand on, and the awarenesses, tools and methods for creating the relationship you desire. In therapy, you will learn ways to heal and re-energize your relationship by improving communication and making room for ways to connect that bring you satisfaction.
I believe there is always the possibility that a couple can turn their relationship around, even following a deep hurt or betrayal. If two people want to, they can learn new methods of relating, take responsibility for their actions and choices, learn to set boundaries, build intimacy, and ask to be treated in the ways they have always desired. The only requirement is that both people show up to explore what is possible both within themselves and with the other and be willing to work at it. Counseling will help you to learn how to be honest with yourself and another, as you explore how you think, feel, and interact. Contacting your own experience helps you to make room for your partner's experience without having to convince them to think like you (my definition of fighting). You will be able to develop new habits and make new choices.
Growing up, most of us did not learn these reflective skills and were not required to take classes in how to love effectively or communicate and express emotions in healthy ways. So, you and your partner probably have different understandings of what love is, how to get it, and what to do if you don't get it. Gender differences alone can cause you to feel misunderstood and unappreciated. Even if you think you know how to love, the pain of not knowing how to navigate through differences can create hurt, rejection, distance and a sense of despair and hoplessness. Your core childhood losses are often retriggered by hurts in your adult relationships. It is important that each individual understand what they bring to the relationship from their past, and how their self-preserving survival strategies that worked before may not be serving the relationship now.
What about fixing my partner?
If you stop looking to your partner to change, so that your life will improve and instead start asking yourself what needs to happen in order for you to better take care of yourself in the relationship, you will be working with the one person you can control - you! It is empowering and allows you to control more of an outcome, if you focus on somthing you can do, instead of someone you can not control. In counseling, you will learn to clarify and strengthen by staying grounded and in contact with yourself, while engageing your partner. You will learn to make choices that are "relational" and for the good of the relationship, and not at the expense of yourself individually. Even if you did not learn this at an earlier age, you can learn to identify your feelings, beliefs, thoughts, and explore your core beliefs as they contribute to or create problems in your current relationships.I will help you and your partner learn about your strategies, defenses, and the inner framework that determines how you interact with life and your relationships. You will be able to determine what works and what doesn't. Eventually you will feel the strength and clarity within yourself to be more authentic and be more comfortable giving your partner the room to be as well.
At first, it may feel impossible to stop thinking of all that your partner does that you do not like; this will be a skill you develop in counseling. Two very different people can learn how to respect each other, even if they don't like those differences, and find a place to meet for the sake of continuing in relationship. As you clarify, define, pay close attention to yourself, and express what is important to you, you will develop a caring relationship in which both you and your partner are important and worthy of attention. A close relationship with yourself is crucial for a close and healthy relationship with another.
Along with cognitive and relational methods of therapy, I use body-oriented approaches that will help you become aware of how your body is affected by what goes on in a relationship and how to utilize body awareness as a tool to help you regulate your emotions. I incorporate relaxation techniques that help each person make more room for the other. There are emotional reactions that are so core to our physiology that we react before we even think sometimes. By working with your body awareness, you can feel those signals and intervene, before they have a chance to create destructive behaviors.
Shifting Your Consciousness
I believe that the important function of a marriage / committed relationship or a family is to provide an opportunity for the spouses or family members to love and be loved. You can define what love is for you, but in relationships that work, I see that love is an action, not just a feeling. Feelings change. If you took a vow to another person, it was not to feel the same over time, but to continue to live with certain values and practices, that would demonstrate love. To love is in part instinctual, as with a parent to a child, but many of our love beliefs and behaviors are learned from our parents and caretakers and the culture we grew up in. If you are struggling with how to stay loving (or even civil) towards your spouse or yourself in the face of differences, difficulties, and the challenges of managing life, family, and work, I will be able to help you differentiate the pain from the person(s) or situation and start to develop the insights and skills you need to be in a loving relationship that feeds you instead of depleting you. You have to identify your values and what is important to you to have a motivation to do this, but that is based on what brought you together in the first place. I can help you to identify and clarify these truths that are already a part of you and your relationships, even if you feel their absence. In relationships where there has been betrayal or deep hurt, repair can happen, followed by bridging or building something new, if both people want a greater connection.
Most marital and family therapy focuses on resolving conflict and problematic behaviors. When a family is unhappy or suffering, it is essential to find a way to intervene and bring to a stop the destructive patterns and behaviors. Repairing the damage or hurt that has occurred is crucial. It is equally important for a family to learn new healthier behaviors, responses and communication styles and develop a way to know and value themselves individually, while respecting others. If you know what you are doing, you can learn to make a choice to do something different, as you learn the best ways to inter-relate to your spouse or family. Your capacity for intimacy and knowing how to relate to yourself and others started in your family of orgin, with your own mother and father or caretakers. Some people were fortunate enough to learn some good relationship skills and others not, but there is always an opportunity in the present to know yourself as you truly are (not what others told you should be) and to learn new ways of relating to others (not what your family told you was "normal"). Learning how to relate in ways that will bring you a sense of satisfaction and joy is one of the primary goals of counseling. "Peace" is a result of how you live your life and treat yourself and others. My work with couples and families offers them a safe place to explore what is not working and then, to build the inner resources and skills to create a different experience with each other .
When Therapy Doesn't "Work"
Sometimes, therapy will not offer a couple or one partner the resolultion they need to live with differences or behaviors, and they will choose to terminate the relationship. Counseling has not gone to waste, because it has helped one or both patners to clarify and weigh every aspect of the partnership and come to a realization that there are "irreconcilable differences", they can not live with. When this happens, I can help a couple and a family work with the dissolution and how to effectively co-parent, if children are involved. As is true in couples counseling, during a break up, it is important to move away from who is right or wrong and emphasize "different". I have helped couples move through this trying and awkward time into new lives on their own.
Here are a few other circumstances that prevent couples counseling from being effective:
1) If one or both individuals have already decided that they want out of the relationship, but are coming for the other person or to clarify / justify their reasons for leaving.
2) If there are alcohol / drug / or addiction issues that prevent a partner from being present to him / herself and partner. It would require an admittance of a problem and individual therapy to help the "using" partner(s) heal from the dependency or addiction, and to help the other partner stays out of denial.
3) If a person comes to therapy and lies.
4) When the emotional pain and hurt of betrayal is too great to forgive and move beyond. When betrayal becomes the "deal breaker".
5) If couples are too tired to try and have "had enough". If one person is too tired to try.
6) If mental illness prevents a person from being able to learn and incorporate new perspectives.
If There is Any Chance It Can Work, There's a Chance.