- Are you struggling in a relationship that used to bring you happiness?
- Are you fighting constantly or else walking on eggshells?
- Are you feeling disconnected and alone even when you are together?
- Do you find yourself questioning whether you would be happier alone?
Conflict is normal
Many couples struggle to maintain healthy relationships. In some ways falling in love is the easy part. Living in constant, blissful harmony is unrealistic. Conflict inevitably happens in relationships and isn’t a bad thing. Ideally conflict is an opportunity to learn about each other and expand your ability to problem solve. Healthy relationships can manage conflict without throwing the whole relationship into turmoil or doubt.
Early in a relationship communication is fairly easy. That is, of course, after the sometimes awkward start up. Early on, most people are using their very best communication skills. There is also a positive relationship cycle happening. When things are going well it is easier to let things slide a bit and easier to bring things up in a positive, non-threatening way. This positive cycle is the exact opposite of the negative, vicious circle that can happen in stressed-out relationships. It can happen in any relationship. When things are bad the atmosphere is tense. Everyone’s sense of humor is gone. Each person is quick to hear the negative in what’s being said, even if none is intended. One or both parties are less careful about what they say and do. An unhealthy relationship is when the negative cycle just keeps spinning without a reprieve.
Advantages of Couples Counseling
Relationship therapy or couples counseling can be very effective and often produces results faster than individual counseling. The reason is simple: the primary relationship is present in the room and addressed directly. If each partner makes a small change or shift, the overall change in the couple is often quite significant. Additionally you are both focused on the relationship and anticipating improvement. This makes it more likely you will notice the positive changes rather than having that hard work fly under the radar.
What if your partner doesn’t want to attend?
Maybe you have discussed couples counseling and your partner is unwilling. This isn’t unusual. Sitting down with a stranger to talk about your relationship can seem intimidating. Sometimes the reluctant partner has had a bad experience in counseling or doesn’t know what to expect. I’ve worked with many couples in which one partner was initially reluctant to attend. I can work with you alone or we can work together to encourage your partner to join you in the sessions. Even attending individual counseling can improve a couple relationship.
Should I stay or should I go?
What if either you or your partner isn’t sure you even want to stay in the relationship?
One or both of you might be questioning whether to stay together. The question in your mind might be: why work on it if you aren’t even sure you want to continue the relationship. This doesn’t need to be a stuck place. It is important that you not choose to split up simply because you can’t figure out how to improve things. If you or your partner is unsure, we just start from a different place. That different place is with the ambivalence itself. The goal of that therapy is to decide if you want to work on the relationship. You need to take stock of the relationship and its potential. Instead of spending months or years stuck in ambivalence you figure it out and then then begin the work of counseling. Of course sometimes this means that you choose to end the relationship. This can be painful for both of you. However relationship ambivalence leaves you stuck. It is nearly impossible to improve a relationship if you are consistently questioning whether you want to be in it.
Whose fault is it?
One spoken or unspoken expectation that couples often bring to therapy is that the therapist is going to “take sides.” If you are considering relationship counseling you might be worried that I will hear your partner and not hear you or that I will see their perspective as more valid than yours. I expect you each to have different perspectives. Naturally it is easier for you to see what your partner could be doing differently. Likewise your partner might have a clearer idea about what you could be doing differently.
I actually think it is counterproductive for a therapist to take sides. As I see it, my job is to help the two of you communicate effectively about the important issues in your relationship. I usually find that each person is right. Each partner’s perspective has wisdom and the task is more about blending the two into a workable solution rather than choosing one.
Is it expensive?
Another common worry is the expense. Insurance only covers counseling or therapy that is medically necessary. Couples counseling doesn’t always meet that criteria. However I’m guessing that your relationship is costing you plenty in lost productivity and lost happiness.
Couples counseling or relationship therapy is often faster than individual counseling and overall less expensive. The reason is simple: the relationship and each partner is in the room and everyone is working on it. The impact of change is often multiplied by two in couples counseling. If each partner makes a change or shift, the overall change in the relationship is often significant.
How does couples therapy help?
A huge benefit of relationship counseling or couples therapy is that the conversations that implode, get cut short or just don’t happen at home actually happen in my therapy office. The environment is relaxing. I am skilled at facilitating conversations, listening and asking questions. When the conversations are more relaxed (even if they aren’t easy) it makes it easier to hear one another. As a neutral participant, I’m able to highlight common ground and positives as well as trouble spots.
Couples Counseling with Carol Harvey MFT
I’ve been licensed since 1990 and I love to help people improve their relationships. I am easy to talk to, supportive and empowering. I collaborate with you to find workable solutions to your relationship struggles.
If you I’ve answered your questions here and you are ready to set up an appointment, call me at 707-765-2635. If you have questions for me or would like to schedule a free 15 min consultation, call or email me today.