Few things in life affect us as deeply as our primary relationships. In addition to our innate yearnings, our culture fills us with images of the possibility of sharing deep connection on a physical, emotional, sexual and spiritual level. We are also cautioned that relationships take work – the work of time, attention, and care. Much of that work actually involves unlearning ways of being and relating that we learned from family, culture and past experience. Ruptures and feelings of disconnection offer the opportunity to uncover deeper layers within ourselves and our partner, which, though initially painful, have the potential to lead to more choice, connection, empowerment and freedom.
As partners develop the capacity to mindfully notice the patterns, or dances, that lead to a downward spiral, they also develop the capacity to intervene on that dance, learn new steps, understand and “get” each other on a whole new level, and experience more connection, understanding and fun.
If you and your partner are experiencing:
- Conflict that appears to come “out of the blue”
- Feelings of stuckness or hopelessness
- Fallout from a betrayal
- Lack of aliveness in your relationship
- Conflicts regarding money, sex or extended family
- Inability to discuss what matters to you or bothers you the most
- Fear that you might not “make it” together
You don’t have to stay stuck! Before the undesired patterns get too entrenched, give couples therapy a try.
Assess where you are in each of the three realms of couplehood:
Benefits of couples therapy may include:
- Reenforcement of your individual and partnership strengths
- Clarity about what is “mine, yours, and ours”
- Deeper mutual understanding and compassion that allows you to see each other newly
- Making sense out of negative patterns and transforming them into strengths
- Increased permission and ability to have difficult conversations in an atmosphere of safety
- Increased aliveness
- Developing new interactive patterns that foster connection and mutual love
- Reclaiming parts of yourself that you may have “disowned” to stay in the relationship
- More intimacy in and out of the bedroom
- And much more!
More important than any specific issue, however, is the quality of connection between partners that determines how you approach (or avoid) areas of conflict or stuckness. How is your ability to repair the inevitable ruptures that will occur as each of you grow and evolve? Emotionally focused therapy (EFT) assists partners in restructuring their negative interactions through awareness and acknowledgment of deeply felt underlying emotions related to needs and desires that each of you hope to fulfill in the relationship. Couples learn that they are not stuck because of flaws in themselves or their partners, but because they are caught in a loop that usually looks like this: the more one does a certain behavior, fueled by powerful but likely hidden emotions and beliefs, the more the other reacts with a certain kind of behavior, fueled by powerful emotion and beliefs, which in turn, triggers the first partner to continue the same behavior as before, and on it goes. Once partners become aware that the “problem” or “enemy” is not the partner, but the pattern, you can learn to liberate yourselves from the downward spiral. Eventually, it is possible to become responsive, supportive partners capable of both vulnerable openness and empowerment, with the capacity to repair relationship ruptures.