ARE YOU STRUGGLING IN YOUR RELATIONSHIP OR MARRIAGE?
- Maybe you’re feeling lonely and disconnected.
- Or you and your partner fight about the same thing over and over.
- Or talking to your spouse about your needs and concerns is a struggle where the words keep getting caught in your throat and you’re afraid you will say it all wrong
- Or perhaps you try to say and do everything perfectly, putting tremendous effort and care into the relationship, yet the critical change you long for is not happening
- Maybe you feel that you’re on different pages when it comes to things like how to spend money, parenting decisions, extended family or sexual desire
- Or maybe you’re wondering if you should stay in the relationship at all
Any combination of these aforementioned patterns can make anyone begin to feel hopeless, especially if there has been a significant hurt in the relationship. Days together can be marked by criticism, painful silence or blame. Just coming home, under such a circumstance, can be stressful. Consequently, some of us turn to work or focus on the children, but at the end of the day are left wondering how strong the relationship is. Other people feel like “good roommates” but nothing more; they are uncertain whether the connection and love are possible anymore. These worries can lead to withdrawal and even greater disconnection. Other people feel stuck, but are determined to work on the relationship. They will problem-solve, thoroughly discuss their feelings, thoughts and opinions, but in the end still feel unheard or misunderstood. They start to believe it is their partner’s fault or will blame themselves–either way, finding a “bad guy” in the relationship leads to further pain and disconnection.
IS THIS YOU? IF SO, YOU ARE NOT ALONE
All couples experience difficulties. For many couples they are confused about how to stay connected through difficult times. Thus, when something stresses the relationship–job, move, children, death, illness, extended family matters, stress, depression–couples attempt to address these concerns in a myriad of ways. In these attempts, inadvertent hurts can happen, leaving one partner to feel misunderstood or that their partner does not care about them or the relationship. One partner may fully believe in the accuracy of his/her interpretation of the other, though that interpretation is through a skewed filter. For example, one partner may think, “this is just another example of him not caring, I’m not worth the effort” or “she never sees that I try, I’m always getting it wrong, whatever I do it’s not good enough.” This leads to a negative communication cycle where one person feels blamed and the other feels misunderstood and uncared for. Both positions feel terrible.
Seventy percent of stressed couples fall into this pattern. This is not uncommon or unique to you. The great news is an experienced couples therapist can help you reconnect and learn new ways of communicating with one another that feels safe, caring and loving, and, ultimately, keeps you connected, even when your relationship hits bumps along the way.
EMOTIONALLY FOCUSED COUPLES THERAPY CAN HELP
All couples have difficult moments and many couples experience significant hurts and betrayals that can leave them questioning the relationship. Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) helps distressed couples understand how their communication pattern is negatively impacting their understanding of each other and the relationship. When we are emotionally disconnected from the person who matters most to us, communication naturally becomes poor–even when we are trying SO hard to be thoughtful. When we are hurt or scared in our relationship, our behavior gets “tweaked” as a response.
When communication breaks down, our understandings of ourselves, our partner and even the relationship gets distorted and misunderstandings abound. EFT is a method of therapy that elucidates these distortions, then works to reconnect the couple in a way that feels safe and positive. Couples learn a new way of sharing and talking about difficulties in the relationship that leaves both feeling understood, heard, valued and connected.
This is not to say that you will never argue again, or never feel hurt in the relationship, rather, after being in EFT therapy, you will be able to find your way back to each other faster, without the painful residue of chronic disconnection. You will also be able to have conversations in a new way that will prevent many hurts from happening in the first place. Ultimately, EFT’s goal is to create a secure attachment between you and your partner that empowers you to navigate relational stresses in way that does not devastate the relationship, leaving you both feeling closer after you’ve weathered a storm together.
STILL WONDERING IF COUPLES THERAPY IS RIGHT FOR YOU?
Many people have concerns or feel confused when/if couples therapy is the right step. Common questions:
How Do I Know When to Start Couples Therapy?
CCRT works with couples in the Boulder/Denver area and is committed to helping couples secure healthy relational dynamics at any stage of the relationship. Rachel has worked with couples from only a few months to years into a relationship, from premarital counseling to couples who have been married over 20 years. Research tells us that the earlier a couple starts therapy the less time it takes to secure healthy relational dynamics, which can be foundational for the future years of the relationship. However, most of us wait until enough hurts have built up that we feel overwhelmed in the relationship. If this is you, you are not alone. At CCRT we are devoted to helping couples detangle from this place and begin to make positive steps forward that feel good to both partners.
Will Couples Therapy Be Another Place for My Partner to Tell Me How Awful I Am?
It is not uncommon for one person in the relationship to fear that they will be blamed and perhaps emotionally pummelled in couples therapy. Sometimes a partner has behaved in ways they know have deeply wounded their spouse, such as an affair or betrayal, or been emotional absent during a critical time of need, such as miscarriage or terrible illness. This partner feels tremendous remorse, but also believes they are forever stuck in the “bad guy” role.
The beauty of the EFT model is no one is shamed or blamed. The intent is to understand each partner’s emotional experience, which helps build the bridge for the couple to address these relational wounds in a new way that fosters healing. No partner is left behind. First, the couple learns to identify their own pattern that exacerbates these hurts; after, couples are in a new place to hear each other’s pain and hold one another in these difficult places. When couples reach this point, it’s transformative.
Will Couples Therapy Make Our Relationship Worse?
This is an excellent question and a reasonable concern, especially if many hurts have been stowed away or are underground. Therapy takes courage, it is diving into our own hurts and discomforts in order to reach a more grounding place. In couples therapy, this dive happens individually and with each other. Going into unchartered territory can feel scary and dysregulating.
In order to bridge the gap of disconnection, exploring the uncomfortable–anger, resentment, frustration and hurt–is necessary. By making meaning of these feelings in ways that feel new and vulnerable is what elicits warmth and closeness. In the beginning, couples are learning their pattern of engagement when the relationship is distressed. Typically, the parts of the relationship that do not feel good are the focus and for some people this feels bad, especially if they are in the habit of avoiding these aspects of the relationship. Couples therapy becomes a safe place to explore these difficulties and discomforts in order to move through and feel closer to each other in the end. Depending on the complexity of your relationship and pattern, it may take a number of sessions to feel some relief in what is being shared in therapy. Stirring the pot, so to speak, may initially feel worse, but is the path beyond roommate status and towards intimate partnership.
How Long Will This Take and How Do I Know If It Is Working?
For many couples, they are coming to me in acute pain and longing for fast relief. They have been sitting in this relational pain for a long time, sometimes years. They are feeling exhausted and not sure they can endure these painful feelings much longer. Couples therapy is an effort to change this, to feel better. And, yes, couples therapy CAN do this. However, if there is significant pain, it will take time, effort and commitment to engage in the work of marital and relational therapy.
If your relationship is distressed, I like to offer the following healthy lifestyle metaphor for thinking about embarking on couples or marriage counseling:
Imagine that you were once physically healthy, but over the course of months and years, you find yourself at a physical weight that is uncomfortable and feels bad. Your doctor has expressed concerns that you could experience major illness like diabetes or heart failure. You have habits, like drinking soda, eating sugar and/or sitting on the coach binge watching TV, all of which you know add to your predicament and make you feel worse, but simultaneously, are also familiar and comfortable.
You decide things have gone far enough and you want to regain your health, a sense of physical and emotional well being. You set a goal for yourself–to be fit enough to do a race, perhaps walk or run a marathon.
While this is completely possible, your goal will not be achieved in a week or a month. Habits will need to be identified and changed; the emotional drive belying these habits will need to be processed and addressed. A reasonable training program will need to be in place that gradually builds your physical stamina so as to avoid injury. The pacing of this training plan is dependent on how far gone your health is, meaning your physical abilities at the time you start will inform the pacing of the training regime. And there will be setbacks. Also, how quickly you are able to commit to your training plan will determine how quickly you move through it.
With couples therapy, you have two people adapting to a new training plan. Partners get stuck in different spots. This too determines the pacing. Having reasonable expectations is essential to successful couples work–it helps stave off emotional fatigue and keeps the embers of hope alive.
YOU CAN CREATE A CONNECTED RELATIONSHIP
Please contact me if you have concerns or questions regarding marriage and couples therapy. I am very transparent and will help you get a sense on what this process will entail based on the particulars of your relationship. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or call: 720.504.8489. I work to respond to all emails and voicemails within 24 hours.