Couples or Marriage Counseling are interchangeable words to me. I say that because I believe that any love relationship, gay or straight, married by the courts or in a commitment ceremony deserves to have the same respect as a relationship that is protected by civil law.
Today there are more people choosing to live together postponing marriage for a later date, or choosing not to marry at all, than there are couples who take the walk of matrimony. However, each couple has a lot of the same issues to deal with….like how to grow in intimacy over the many chapters of life, learning how to communicate on a deeper level. How to trust each other fully, how to consider the needs of their partner as well as their own Sometimes it all boils down to “How will this person learn to care for my heart?”
So what’s marriage counseling like?
Many clients ask these kinds of questions: What is the game plan? (they say this because this is a new experience and they are a bit fearful of not know what to expect.) Isn’t it painful? Do we both have to be there all the time? What if one person wants to come and the other does not? If we get into heated discussions can a third party really make a difference? What about affairs, can marriages really survive them? And last of all, the million dollar question: “So, does it really work or not?”
So here are some of my thoughts
Although there are some guiding principles that inform my work with couples, there really is no single game plan. Although most of us would rather find someone else to blame than face our own responsibilities in a relationship, in couples counseling we do not focus on making anyone out to be the bad guy. Rather we focus on identifying the problematic patterns of interactions between two people, and presenting some new options..
Looking for patterns
One of the things that is different about couples work vs. individual counseling is that my job is to always be asking “what does this relationship need?”, rather than getting sidetracked by one persons issues. Sometimes in the course of seeing a couple I will also see each person individually a few times in order to help them redirect their energy into the relationship. If it becomes obvious that one person needs more individual attention, then I will refer that person to someone I trust, so that my focus can remain on being the couple’s therapist, who considers what the relationship needs.
Working with only one person?
Sometimes one spouse shows up for therapy because the other half just isn’t interested in going to counseling at this time. Most likely you are pretty upset about that, however, what we can’t do is change someone else. My goal would be to challenge you to work on your stuff. The great thing about this is that when one part of a relationship changes it can have a lot of influence in making the other person want to change too.
The wisdom of using a third party
Have you ever noticed that most people in the family behave better when guests are present? This is the some of third party effect. However it is much more than that when you are seeking the use of a therapist. I have been trained to look for the escalation of emotions and I am very good at stopping action that would make the room unsafe. I will help you figure out what is really going on and help you work through it in a safe and effective manner. Sometimes I just encourage you to lighten up by laughing at yourself so you can enjoy those whacky moments with your loved ones.
Can a marriage really survive an affair?
It may be interesting to know that most marriages doe not end because of an affair. More often they end because the couple has ceased to be good friends. They have lost sight of what it means to nurture each other. When it comes to recovering from an affair, the issue isn’t about sex, but overcoming feelings distrust and betrayal . Fortunatey feelings come and go, and I have witnessed many marriages come back together when the betraying partner works on being trustworthy , and the hurt partner is coached to recognize his or her partner’s efforts, many marriages can be saved. Sure it is hard work, but usually well worth the effort.
Does it really work?
It all depends on your goals. If both of you want to improve your marriage, and grow with each other; the answer is “Absolutely, YES!” However, if only one of you wants to change or grow closer on and the other is undecided, the results may be a bit less stellar. Yet, when one person begins to change it often encourages the other do the same. If your partner does not want to grow old with you, then I can also help you sort out what it would mean to create a different life than you had originally planned on. But basically, people who want to grow and seek to understand each other better usually find couples therapy to be a wonderful turning point in their lives.