Couples therapy is never a person’s favorite thing to do because it means facing fears and working out plans and making compromises, when most of us would rather be doing something else. Marriage therapy means making an effort to make a relationship work, and most frightening of all, it means change. But the good news is that it’s worth it. Couples who were barely hanging on to their relationship manage to resuscitate it and begin a new and joyful life together with the help of therapy. There are no easy fixes, but no one ever said having a lifelong relationship was going to be easy. The question I ask my clients is that- Can and will you make an effort and do the work necessary to bring life back into your relationship?
I have found that some couples want the guarantee that if they come to couples therapy, their problems will be solved, but unfortunately, no marriage therapist can ensure this.
Positive relational change
I explain to couples that if both partners are involved and engaged in the process of creating positive relational change, they will see progress. Research shows that to make a relationship work; couples must become friends, learn to manage conflict, and create ways to support each other’s hopes & dreams for the future. I approach working with couples from a perspective of rebuilding these stages: communication skills leading to healthy conflict resolution, defining and restoring an emotional connection, working on relational friendship, and, lastly an area that most couples want to begin with, improving intimacy and affection. It will take time to work through each phase of the rebuilding process similar to the time taken in creating negative relationship patterns. It is important to reassure and address that if you are willing to accept the relational challenges needed in the healing journey, your relationship will get repaired.
I disclose to couples that if a partner cannot gracefully accept constructive criticism and behavioral observations for the benefit of the relationship, then they should first work on their own therapy and personal growth process. I am gentle and respectful throughout the process, but I see my role as a couples therapist to nudge individuals toward emotional and relational health, and I need both partners to be open to that without taking the process personally or placing all the responsibility on their partner. In the end, it’s up to the individuals in the marriage to take responsibility for their motivation and for doing the work to turn the marriage around, for good.