Couples Counseling: It's Well Worth The Investment!
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By Mary O'Connor, MFT, Guest Author - December 20, 2014

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Entering into couples counseling may be the best investment you you can make the future of your relationship. Couples who stay with the process of therapy often reap great rewards for their efforts. If they are committed to making the relationship heal and get better.

In my experience as a therapist, I have found that the focus must be in two different areas.

Communication:

The way the couple talks to one another is a major component in breaking down the problems that exist. In the beginning the couple is given a challenge, to refrain from shaming, blaming, scolding, criticizing or name calling. I had one client say, "I won't be able to say anything!"

In other words, the relationship style of communication may have deteriorated because of the way the two are approaching each other. They have inadvertently slipped into bad habits which have eaten away at the fiber of the bond they created when they started out together, full of hope and respect for each other. 

Are you an invador or an evader?

I use two types of processes in my therapy practice. These include the boundary evaders and the boundary invaders.

Boundary invaders are louder, more physical, explode and get over things and their partner the boundary evader is the type of person who prefers quiet conversations and is less interested in affection.

During the counseling sessions, the partner who is running away emotionally learns to stay put and not leave the relationship, while the chaser learns to stop the chase and let the other person do some of the approaching.

Sometimes the process of invading a boundary is a welcomed approach, but if the evader feels the neediness of the other, it may signal fear of not being able to meet the needs of the partner who themselves may admit to being a love starved bottomless pit.

For example:

Partner A may feel he is not getting enough affection from his spouse. Partner B may feel trapped and has told herself that her partner always wants sex, and she has come to view sex as a chore.

Observing the process of communication and having the couple see their style of communication is one of the most crucial tasks in couples counseling. Unless the partners are each willing to make small changes in their attitude, and give up unhealthy habits in communication that drives a wedge in their relationship, there is little hope of making strides toward a more loving dyad.

After finding out the communication culprits the couple starts cleaning house: 

A partner who clams up must start talking about what is bothering her.

The partner who has developed his arsenal of fighting techniques with cold stares, cold shoulders, shrugs of indifference, yelling, drinking, put downs or frowns must dump out the nonfunctional war behaviors and actually say the words that are excruciatingly hard to say. More civil and kind words such as, "I can't stand it that you never come over and hug me." Real men involved in therapy are saying what is on their hearts.

The nagging, scolding and crying jags are dropped and replaced with compliments and appreciation and spontaneous smiles for the partner who is showing efforts to get along.

Getting to the core:

Now we are involved in content. What is at the core of the angry words? One couple fought over a gate that hadn't been hung in the backyard. It became a symbol of control vs. you can't make me. The gate was not the problem. The problem went deeper than a broken fence. Both partners were starved for kind words and fun and friendship.

In their day to day life of raising kids they forgot to water the coupleship garden. Both stopped seeing to each other’s needs and the cry for help in the backyard meant, "I need you here with me".

Their fix?

As they put down their protective armor, put away their sarcastic remarks and picked up a few kindness habits, the couple decided together that they would purposely set aside time to talk to each other. They intentionally gave each other compliments and even calendared date nights that had long gone the way of soccer practices.

It wasn't an easy reconstruction. Both owned up to times of sabotaging the others progress. Long held hurts had to be unearthed and forgiven and reburied for good. Willingness to let go of the old bitter ways of communication was slow initiated and picked up speed as they started seeing the results of their efforts.

What you can expect of couples counseling is that you will see how you are relating, (Process) and you will uncover what it is you really want to talk about.(Content)  Be sure to bring your willingness when you find your a therapist. Well worth the investment, this couples counseling process.

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