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Marriage and Relationships
When people are having problems in their relationship, coming together for relationship or marriage therapy can often lead to enhanced understanding and improved communication. Therapy helps each individual to gain clarity about their needs and desires, as well as ways that they can change their behavior to improve their level of satisfaction in the relationship. Marriage counseling teaches couples the tools needed to achieve honest, respectful, two-way communication that actually prevents arguments. You learn to replace resentment with respect - replace arguments with caring conversations. New skills aim at allowing you to build intimacy without sacrificing your individual identities. Marriage and couples therapy focuses on clearing past issues, so you can concentrate on improving your present situation. Working in individual and joint sessions, you can heal old wounds, address conflicting priorities and preferences, and bring balance back into your lives. Habitual patterns of negative interaction can be replaced by fresh and love-enhancing behavior.
Goals of Marriage Counseling
Whether married or not, whether gay or straight, many people have relationship problems from time to time. Relationship counseling helps overcome obstacles to intimacy. It helps resolve conflicts, increase communication skills, and enhance relationships. In relationship counseling, people learn how to communicate more effectively, how to respond to situations rather than react, and how to negotiate differences rather than engage in a battle. While it is better if both members of the relationship attend counseling, often progress can be made even if one person begins treatment.
Staying Emotionally Engaged and Responsive
A couple's ability to stay emotionally engaged and responsive in the face of difficulty predicts marital satisfaction and stability. An experienced couples’ counselor can help you and your partner along the path toward building a safe and responsive connection, untangling your dysfunctional negative behavioral patterns, and helping you sort out and process your inner emotional experience. The result is that you and your partner can open emotionally to each other. Remember the old adage "time heals"? Well, simply letting time pass is not likely to heal the distress and wounds of marriage. Research tells us that marital problems generally do not spontaneously improve. By the time couples separate or divorce, they have experienced on average 6 years of relationship deterioration. Couples who are experiencing marital problems are well advised to spend time and energy on improving the quality of their relationship when problems first develop
Signs of Trouble
Difficulties with our partners can be the most frustrating issues we have to face, leaving us feeling frustrated, overwhelmed, and miserable. Symptoms of a relationship in trouble can include one or more of the following: you don’t have fun with each other any more; your sex life is unsatisfying or non-existent; you have angry, escalating arguments where you say hurtful, mean things to each other; you are cold and distant with each other; you disagree over everything, even when you know the issues are trivial. At the extreme, one or both of you may turn to ‘escape hatches’ like substance abuse, workaholism, or affairs, or the relationship can become physically violent. When things get bad in your relationships, you may tend to stay and suffer, silently or otherwise. Or, you may flee to another partner, hoping you will leave your problems behind you. Unfortunately, neither of these techniques are very effective. Staying in a bad relationship without trying to improve it rarely has a good result; on the other hand, when we change partners, we usually find that we repeat the negative patterns all over again.
Although warning signs usually appear years prior to separation, relatively few couples seek help before the end of their marriage. Signs of problems typically include increasingly poor communicating, increasing conflict, loss of affection and intimacy, feelings of isolation and aloneness. On the outside these partners live increasingly separate lives and on the inside they are privately trying to cope with overwhelming feelings. Couples are well advised to heed the warning signs of marital estrangement and work on their relationship early. When couples are making efforts to improve their relationship but are not making progress by themselves, they should consider working with a professional marriage therapist.
Listening in a Safe Atmosphere
In marriage and couples counseling the therapist can help guide you and your partner along the path toward building a safe and responsive connection and help you identify repetitive negative behavioral patterns, and the feelings that underlie them. The therapist provides a safe atmosphere to help each partner express those feelings and to facilitate listening and acceptance between partners. The therapist's role is to help the couple learn how they have become stuck and unable to make connection and how they can build on their own resources to reconnect. The therapist is also trained to help couples with special issues including aggression, substance abuse, affairs, depression, sexual issues and parenting concerns.
Relationships require that both people examine their own behavior and how it affects the relationship. Relationships are similar to dancing in that each partner may be able to dance well alone, but may have to learn new steps in order to dance with a partner. In relationship counseling the focus of the counseling is on the relationship; the relationship is the patient, not the individuals. Sometimes, however, it is necessary for individual coaching or therapy to take place, just as individual dance instruction might be necessary in order to help the couple dance more effectively together.
In relationship counseling a lot of attention is paid to how each party responds to the various issues they are confronting. There is no right or wrong way to respond; there are just different ways of responding. Some of them, however, are more effective than others. Some work for the relationship and some do not. These are all issues to examine during the counseling sessions.
How Marriage Therapy can Help
Common areas that marriage therapy or couples therapy can help fix include: communication difficulties, intimacy problems, sexual issues, financial conflicts, decreased fun in the relationship, infidelity problems, domestic conflict/frequent fighting, blended family/step-family problems, parenting issues, anger issues, power/control problems, lack of mutual respect, career/work conflicts, loss of love and affection, conflicting values, and overall decreased satisfaction within the relationship.
Individuals who have problems in their relationships are more likely to have a variety of psychological problems, including depression, anxiety, and alcoholism. Compared to individuals who are married and getting along with their spouses, both men and women who are in unhappy marriages are much more likely to be clinically depressed and anxious. Distressed spouses are also more susceptible to physical health problems. Another problem reported by spouses who are having marital problems is violence within the relationship. Finally, childhood behavioral problems are more common in families in which the parents are unhappily married. A number of studies have found that children who are exposed to marital distress, particularly to violence in the home, are at greater risk for their own emotional problems.
If you want more information about marriage or couples counseling, want to discuss your particular needs, or want to schedule an appointment, call out offices today. We can help suggest the marriage or family therapist that best meets your needs.
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