Are you lonely in your long-term relationship?
Many people in committed relationships feel disconnected from their partners, the very people they love the most. Couples therapy is worth considering sooner than later when the warning signs present themselves.
Sometimes couples find themselves having the same arguments over and over again and they are unable to stop fighting, even about things that seem irrelevant. In other cases distance may grow between two people until they feel like they are living separate lives.
Relationships take effort; there are no shortcuts. When a partnership is healthy and functioning well, it nourishes us, providing comfort and support. We long for someone to celebrate the good times, lean on through the bad times, and challenge us to be our best selves.
When a relationship goes awry and it isn’t functioning, there are ways to get back on track.
How can Couples Therapy help?
With one in two marriages ending in divorce, it is unfortunate that the average couple waits six years from the onset of problems to seek couples therapy.
There is much misinformation about love. Many believe that a happy marriage is a matter of luck, or that an argument is a sign of trouble. When “happily ever after” doesn’t come true as it does in fairy tales, some couples may think that their relationship is fatally flawed.
Thankfully, leading relationship researchers have turned marital success into a science. Having observed real couples in their everyday lives, not just in therapy sessions, psychologists such as John and Julie Gottman have gathered data about the approaches and strategies that will make a reliable difference in relationship satisfaction. This new research has equipped marriage counselors with tested and proven tools to help couples maintain loving, flirtatious, long-term commitments.
Fighting doesn’t tell the whole story.
New research on marital satisfaction has demonstrated that fighting is usually not the biggest problem in a relationship. Instead, researchers study attachment and the physiological effects that connection and disconnection have on humans. Simply put, distance from a loved one causes physical and emotional distress.
Humans are mammals, born helpless and wired to form attachments.
Think of a baby who has been left alone in a room. The baby becomes hungry or lonely and looks around for a parent to provide nourishment and comfort. When the baby cannot see her parent, she becomes distressed and cries. If her parents always respond to her cries in a timely manner, the baby isn’t damaged by those brief moments of panic before her caregiver arrives. But if the baby’s needs aren’t consistently met, she will feel disconnected from her caregiver and find herself in a near-constant state of distress, not trusting the people she relies on to keep her safe and meet her needs.
The same attachment dynamic plays out in adult romantic relationships.
In a solid marriage, in which both partners experience frequent moments of connection and trust each other to meet their needs, occasional fighting isn’t a sign of trouble. It’s when two people become disconnected from each other that real trouble arises. Couples begin to view each other as the “bad guy” and become trapped in a negative pattern in which criticism generates defensiveness and the harder one partner pushes, the further the other partner backs up.
Now there is distance between the couple. It becomes increasingly difficult to be vulnerable with each other, and trust begins to erode. The inability to connect leads to real alarm as well as physical symptoms such as a raised heart rate, increased adrenaline, and other “fight or flight” responses. Couples therapy will help you prevent this, but at any time if you are feeling flooded, take the time to slow down and do this 7 Minute Progressive Muscle Relaxation Exercise.
My partner is the one who really needs to change! I’m the only one working to try to make this better!
All long-term relationships require compromise and other efforts from both partners in order to stay strong and connected. The first step to feeling better about your relationship is to shift your focus from what your partner is doing wrong to what you could be doing better. It is also important to remember that love is not a magical potion that is either there or not there. It is a living system that needs daily nurturing and care in order to grow and stay alive.
Getting married isn’t just about finding a soul mate, it’s about finding someone to love, care for, and share a life with. Couples therapy can be a place to re-capture the things that brought you and your partner together in the first place.
Therapy is more than communication skills.
Communication skills are a necessary but insufficient condition for a strong relationship. Couples therapists will help you and your partner discuss issues in a kind and respectful manner so that you can focus on the positive aspects of your friendship and intimacy. Laura Silverstein, our clinical director has developed an online communication skills training course which teaches the core skills of good communication.
In couples therapy, the couple learns to step back and observe the negative pattern that has developed between them. Once they can see the dynamic of criticism/defensiveness and attack/retreat that they have been locked in, they can learn to break this pattern. With the help of their therapist, couples practice stepping out of disconnection and reaching for one another to soothe and comfort.
Instead of seeing their partner as the enemy, they see that their partner is hurting just like they are. Couples discover the physiological effect they have on each other and learn how to generate pleasurable feelings of comfort and support instead of distressing feelings of isolation and danger.
The Gottman Method of couples therapy provides a roadmap to follow to reach this desired connection. It is a very structured approach in which the therapist sits by your side, coaching you to find more productive ways to be together. Please click here to learn what to expect during the assessment, feedback and intervention phases of the work.
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Trust the experts with your most important relationship.
All our couples therapists have trained in the Gottman Method of Couples therapy. It is based on 30 years of research and is a concrete approach with tools that are easy to learn and apply.