All couples or intimate partners experience at some point a conflict between the needs/wishes of oneself versus those of the partner/others. This is the dilemma of reconciling the individual need for freedom or autonomy with the need for closeness and belonging. Couple therapy can help to explore all this and more, to clarify interaction patterns and to improve communication and regain satisfying intimacy.
Cultural, political, spiritual, societal influences all play a role in intimate relationships, as do habitual patterns of interaction and strongly held beliefs and values from one's family of origin. In couple therapy, attention can be directed towards communication patterns and contextual family life: ways conflicts are handled, attachments formed and emotions expressed.
In the exploring stage, partners are encouraged to describe their exerience of the relationship: what is not working, what is good, what needs to change and why? Homework exercises can help to try out different things or to get a more positive discussion going. In the next stage partners' wishes and needs can get attention, they can get to know each other and themselves better than before and find out what they have in common or value, how to handle friction better. Then options can be explored, tasks renegotiated, and positive changes made towards good communication and increased mutual/individual satisfaction and wellbeing.
Goals of couple therapy can vary, but may include:
- a more comfortable level of trust/ reduction of tension
- more mutually satisfying intimacy (emotional and physical)
- more positive self-image and mutual understanding/appreciation
- improved interaction with children/ family/ in-laws
- better coping mechanisms for dealing with ongoing parenting demands
- how to rebuild trust after upsetting incidents (violent argument or affair)
- sometimes: finding a good way to separate - it is an art to divorce well!
Exploring relationship difficulties together can help deepen understanding and empathy towards your partner and yourself and get away from blame and anger – it can really enrich the relationship. Don't wait too long – your relationship deserves attention!
Couple therapy tends to consist of 5 weekly sessions of 1 hour that can be repeated as long as seems necessary or useful, by mutual agreement.