Falling into one of the patterns below does not happen overnight.
In the practice of psychotherapy and in support of couples, there are many patterns that evolve over the course of the relationship. In each pattern, what seems to be the shortfall is the basis of communication and the disconnection that is unavoidable. At some point in the relationship, in each of the scenarios below, a couple may experience one of these situations. This is an unconscious move toward leaving the relationship. Once either in the relationship make a this move, it becomes harder and harder to get out of the rut. A good couples therapist can help identify the rut as well as help negotiate ways out.
The very basis of couples therapy or marriage counseling is communication. Lack of communication is always represented as disconnection. I have often heard people say, “Couple’s counselors help people break up or stay together.” Honestly this is more of a myth. What we do is we help each individual find the freedom to express themselves in a bid for support. Consequently, do couples truly express what they need or have they fallen into the blame game? I need your support in this decision, is heard differently than, you never let me make decisions. Equally, they say the same message, however, one blames deeply and strikes the core of one’s being. In a relationship, communication needs to continually be expressed coupled with active support … daily!
2. Parenting Styles
In the early part of my marriage, my wife knew how to take care of children from the get go, and I had to make it up all on my own! This was the story I was very proficient at telling. Additionally, I hear from many, many men (surprisingly a few women too). My wife supported me as a father, but I often resisted her help. I always found room to blame her. Parenting styles need to be addressed from the very beginning. One parent cannot be the only parent who is the good parent or seen as the bad parent. This is a power imbalance in the relationship that needs to be addressed promptly. Parenting needs to be a unified front to effectively support the family as a whole. The sooner we can address what upsets or triggers us, the sooner we can understand why we disconnect. This disconnection forces us away from the pleasures of love and parenting. Additionally, as a parent of two, I can vouch for this personally and professionally.
Even if the affair has not evolved to physical contact, the emotional turmoil needs to be dealt with. Reason being, this often creates a rollercoaster of anger and rage. The couple, as a whole, need to face this challenge head on. This is increasingly more and more challenging as disconnection sets in. When a couple tries to take on the challenges of expressing to the other why they feel distant or not appreciated, this can take a nasty turn for the worst. To be honest, with the amount of couples I see, it is not only unhappy couples that cheat, but also the perceivably happy couples too. These often start as innocent flirtations that evolve to pushing the boundaries. Together we can get to the root of the infidelity and explore ways to strengthen the couple.
4. Something doesn’t feel right but I cannot pin point it.
As I’ve written on this elsewhere, complacency in a relationship is a killer. As a couple grows, they each become complacent, therefore, increasing the amount of disconnection between them. This typically shows up as no communication, no touch, or no intimacy. Furthermore, one within the couple-hood often blame the other. When in fact they are complacent too. Relationships are challenging. Connections take a tremendous amount of work to stay present. Often, I find couples push away for fear of being seen by the other.
5. End of Relationship
Of course relationships end. Sometime, this cannot be avoided; it really is the crux of life. At the end of a relationship, being with oneself can be difficult. Often, a couple or married partners will need support in expressing their desire to end the relationship. One thing I tell every couple I see, the intention, love, and respect you place into the end of the relationship, will carry over into the next relationship. Practical and logistical needs will arise, such as what to do with housing, children, pets, bills, etc. These terms and agreements should have intention placed into them aside from lawyers and caustic thoughts of interpretive family members.
What kind of counselor understands relationships?
Understanding relational dynamics is often one of the main focuses a counselor can specialize in. Not all counselors have specific relational training. When looking for a counselor, make sure they understand how dynamics surface and what they can do for you. In Colorado, a Licensed Professional Counselor or a Marriage and Family Therapist can both equally (legally) help couples. So can a registered psychotherapist. Do not let the titles fool you. Even though a counselor’s title says marriage and family therapist, it does not guarantee they know relational dynamics.
Are there different therapists – How do I know who can help?
When looking for a counselor who supports relational dynamics, inquire as to the trainings they have pursued post graduation. To acquire licensure, a counselor must obtain a specific number of hours in their intended field. Some counselors are efficient at helping patients with anxiety, depression, trauma or relationships. Other counselors simply check the boxes to acquire licensure quicker, in order to charge more money or practice independently. Yet, some counselors desire to be great counselor’s and participate in training to enhance their skills.
Equally, when considering a couple’s counselor, ask questions. “Have you had relationship problems, have you dealt with infidelity, do you have communication problems, have you ever felt like running away from it all and starting over?” A counselor can ultimately choose to answer these questions or tap dance their way around them. Moreover, please keep in mind, a counselor does not have to share in the experiences you face, but you should feel comfortable talking to them and seeking support.
If I can be of service …
Son. Husband. Father. Psychotherapist. www.jeremyrallen.com