In his New York Times bestselling book, “The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work”, Dr. John Gottman writes, “Although you may feel your situation is unique, we have found that all marital conflicts fall into two categories: Either they can be resolved, or they are perpetual, which means they will be part of your lives forever, in some form or another.” Gottman research states that 69% of marital conflicts are perpetual problems, which means that couples have to learn to “keep the conversation going” versus determine a hard and fast solution. Common reasons why people seek couples therapy
John and Julie Gottman, creators of Gottman Couples Therapy, identify four communication styles that lead to negative communication loops: contempt, criticism, defensiveness and stonewalling. With focus and determination, many couples learn to cast these styles out of their relationship, in fact, I have had the privilege of working with couples who develop creative antidotes that dramatically improve their relationship and happiness.
Recovering from an affair is not impossible, it requires both members of the couple to be open, honest, forgiving and patient. It takes commitment and a willingness to let go of the relationship that was and create something new in its place. It is challenging and frustrating and can be extraordinary if both individuals are able to learn more about themselves, what they need and how to communicate those needs effectively to the person they love.
In some situations too much damage has been done and the relationship ends. The attempt at a repair brings benefit to the couple as the process of therapy helps each uncover how they contributed to the state of the relationship. This prevents the repeat of mistakes in the future. When children are involved, therapy also helps to lay the groundwork for a cooperative co-parenting relationship
When couples become more like roommates than a married couple, this may indicate a need for counseling. Emotional and physical intimacy are important elements to feeling fulfilled in a relationship. I find that parents with young families often feel this lack of “connection” as their roles as parents and/or career demands are pulling them in different directions. Counseling can help couples identify the hurdles to prioritizing the necessary time necessary to properly nurture their relationship.
All couples learn how to resolve problems in the families they grow up in; our early childhood caregivers are role models for resolving problems in our most important relationships. Because partners come from different “learning environments” they are using techniques that are unknown to each other, which is a common contributor to negative communication cycles. Couples counseling can help individuals understand how to define and solve problems together.
I have seen family situations where both partners are committed co-parents and unable to repair their relationship. Counseling can help clear out old resentments and help partners improve communication enabling effective co-parenting whether or not they decide to stay together.
These are just a sampling of reasons that couples seek support. I take a special interest in working with couples because the relationship we have with our partner is our most important. When it is going well it creates the foundation of a happy, optimistic outlook on life. I continue to do post-graduate study with models like Gottman and Emotionally Focused Therapy, which are supported by research, to help couples develop and maintain strong emotional connections, effective communication and a long-lasting commitment to their partner and family.