We are inundated with images, messages, and stories about what our intimate relationships should look like. Couples laughing and smiling together, appearing to enjoy all that life has to offer…together. Perhaps we believe their love trumps all struggle and challenges, and their lives are filled with joy and satisfaction. All too often, however, these are merely snapshots of the reality many experience in romantic relationships, partnerships, or marriage. We rarely see the images of them upset with each other, challenging each other, hurting or afraid. We don’t recognize their cycles and patterns of conflict that rarely find resolution.
However, the vast majority of committed relationships experience the full range of emotions and thoughts, challenges and successes. Nurturing and maintaining stability in relationships is hard work, largely because all of us as humans are constantly growing and changing. Sometimes the growth happens suddenly and overwhelmingly, as with the birth of a child or changing careers. Other times, the growth is far more subtle, barely noticeable except in a growing sense of dissatisfaction and low-grade conflict. Communication between two people who once felt completely in love becomes routine, boring; their exchanges laced with frustration, resentment, and conflict. Anxieties and insecurities seem to appear out of nowhere, demanding that the couple either grows, reverts to a previous form of relating with each other, or splits up.
Intimacy at its core both nurtures us and challenges us to grow mentally, emotionally, sexually, and spiritually. So if you are experiencing relationship difficulties (struggles with communication, sexual dysfunctions, avoidance, anxiety, fear, etc.), or if your partner is telling you they are unsatisfied with your relationship, take some comfort in the fact you are likely being asked to grow and deepen, jettison old beliefs about yourself, your partner, or your relationship. You are being challenged to grow into more of who you are. However, growth on this level is never comfortable or easy; but given the right conditions and support, the effort is worth the struggle.
Consider this: we often find ourselves longing for a committed relationship, believing we will feel more secure, more relaxed, and happier when we do. If we are lucky enough to get married, life should be just fine. We believe that the love we feel when we commit to one another will carry us through any challenges we will face. So when we feel unsatisfied, disconnected, hurt, bored, or insecure (or if our partner discloses feeling any of these), we believe there must be something wrong. We do what we have learned to repair those feelings, and assume we feel them because something in the relationship is wrong. We blame our partner, we blame ourselves, or we just feel hopeless that we will ever “get back” to feeling the way we used to. So often, this approach and perspective only leads to more of what it attempts to “fix”, eventually leading to a hopeless cycle of despair that can only be cured by splitting up.
The reality is that what used to work in our relationships stops working. And that is our call to grow; to learn new skills for relating to ourselves and our partner; to let go of our ideas about how things should work, and explore new territory in our thoughts, feelings, and actions.
Couples who seek counseling together often struggle with difficulties in communication, varying degrees of desire and intimacy, sexual problems, or are actively fighting. Couples counseling (i.e. Couples Therapy, Marriage Counseling, etc.) facilitates the required process of growth for you and your partner, largely because the therapist is there to be objective and fair when the two of you cannot. As such couples counseling provides you:
- Information and education about how successful intimate relationships function
- New stress management skills that empower you not to revert to old, ineffective strategies for dealing with fear, hurt, and insecurity
- Effective communication and behavioral tools that boost your feelings of empowerment
- Opportunities to process old wounds (whether from this relationship or previous) in a safe environment
- Guidance in challenging and replacing old, useless ways of thinking that do not serve you
- New methods for approaching old problems
- Empowerment to step back from the reactivity of each challenging encounter so as to observe the roles that get acted out,
- Expanded capacity to choose alternative reactions
At Connexus, we specialize in helping couples work together on their unique cluster of challenges. We believe each individual in the partnership has equal power, and equal responsibility, for the change they would like to see. Counseling guides and supports each partner in identifying their own source of empowerment and comfort, while also addressing the dynamics between partners in the moment.
Couples counseling can last anywhere from a few sessions to several months, depending on the nature of the challenges faced and the degree of stuckness experienced. Every couple is different in the outcomes they want and are ready for, so each couple has a slightly different experience in counseling. You are your partner are always involved in the planning process, helping to focus the direction of sessions for what you would like to accomplish. We also believe that the fit between the couple and the therapist is one of the most important factors for a successful counseling outcome, so we always offer a free, no-obligation consultation session.
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