Do You Feel Conflict and Distance Between You and Your Partner?
Everyone starts out in a relationship excited and hopeful. You envision a bright future full of love, romance, passion, and connection. Yet somewhere along the way things changed. Maybe it’s an ongoing issue that divides you– work/life balance, difference in beliefs about money, children, parenting– that pulls you and your mate apart. Other times, the stress and effort of raising children while maintaining a career leaves little time for nurturing your love connection, or your friendship (if you even still have one).
The distance between you and your mate seems so huge and the path back to connection is hard to see. You may find yourself feeling lonely, disconnected, hurt and constantly anxious. You wonder if the two of you will ever rekindle the spark that brought you together in the first place.
Keeping a Relationship Strong Takes Effort
All relationships have a life cycle. When asked, many couples rate the early years of their relationship as the happiest and most passionate. However, relationship satisfaction tends to drop as responsibilities and commitments start to compete for each partner’s ‘emotional bandwidth’. The introduction of children and other factors place considerable demands on the partnership, which can create difficult territory to negotiate. For some couples, a difference in values and behavioral expectations becomes more apparent.
Couples Therapy Can Help You and Your Partner Rebuild Connection
Relationship expert Dr. John Gottman identifies three foundational components to the ‘Sound Relationship House’ as trust, commitment, and friendship. Many couples lose sight of the fact that keeping these things alive takes work. Without this effort, trust, commitment & friendship tend to slide down the list of priorities until conflict and distance emerge.
As simple as it sounds, choosing to make your relationship a priority is the first step to overcoming the distance and the conflict. Having a safe and caring environment to really open up and explore where your relationship has gotten off track can help you see your union in a new, more understanding way. A neutral third party who can hear both of you often helps to open up space for creative solutions to overcome longstanding disagreements.
I have specific training and experience in creating safe space in which clients can explore and pursue new possibilities. I work from a collaborative coaching style that invites you to be an expert in your own experience, which improves your ability to choose the right solutions.
In your therapy sessions I will work with both of you to reconnect with the bonds of friendship and shared values that brought you together in the first place. We will work together to openly discuss difficult situations & miscommunication with the goal of creating new patterns of interaction that serve both of your needs.
My counseling role is to manage the emotional space that the two of you have stepped into. I provide a sense of safety by consciously connecting with each of you, and by supporting each of you in sharing your thoughts and feelings in a respectful manner. It is also my job to guide the pacing of the conversation so that ‘hot’ issues and emotions can be cooled, experiences can be explored and understood, and room can be made for thoughtful discussion, and greater connection.
Perhaps you hope that therapy could help, but you still have some questions and concerns you’d like to address first…
I/my partner don’t think talking to a stranger regarding our issues will help.
When you and your spouse come in for the first time, you will simply be meeting with me. It’s a chance to get over the sense that you are talking to a ‘stranger’, as well as assess whether both of you feel that I will support and hear you through difficult conversations. You can ask as many questions about my training, experience and possible strategies as you need to in order to feel safe. We get to know each other simply as people.
I have found time and again that because I do not have an ongoing stake in your life (the way a family member or friend does), I can bring a natural curiosity and unbiasedness to the conversation. Often this allows both of you to see your situation through a new lens. This can lead to one or both of you getting “unstuck” from the dynamic that has not been working for either of you. Plus, I am trained to understand and intervene in many kinds of relationship dynamics. A significant part of my role is to provide education and guidance to both of you on how to change and improve your emotional and communication patterns.
We’ve tried counseling before and it didn’t work.
Many couples try counseling and for one reason or another, it doesn’t fully resolve the problems within the couple relationship. It may be that the timing was wrong, one or both of you was uncertain about the changes that needed to be made, or the counselor you chose was not the right fit. Perhaps one or both of you were unwilling or unable to commit to the amount of time and energy the therapy process really required.
Regardless of why your past counseling didn’t seem to make a difference, both of you are now in a different place in your lives and in your relationship. Unfortunately, there are no guarantees it will work this time. Couples who are willing to commit to a minimum of three months of weekly sessions, and who are willing to do the homework between sessions are unlikely to end up with little or nothing changing in the relationship. And if at any time during the therapy relationship, you believe therapy is no longer helping, you can choose to stop.
I get hurt/rejected every time I try to open up!
My role is to ensure that you and your partner both feel heard and understood during counseling. In sessions, you will be learning to identify communication patterns that may be chipping away at connection. You will learn to be curious about not only what is being said by your partner, but how it is being said. Counseling helps both of you recognize ‘bids for connection’, and make different choices in order to get both of your needs met.
Counseling is too expensive.
You may think that attending weekly sessions for years would be the only way you could ever resolve all your issues. It is true that attending therapy does require a financial investment along with an emotional and time investment. Even so, you are paying for a highly trained, skilled professional to help you overcome the challenges you have been unable to yourselves.
I believe people are capable of being successful in their lives most of the time, and that counseling allows you to get through the rough or stuck patches. Couples therapy normally takes between three and six months to see results. We will set specific goals early in our counseling relationship so that we can measure and assess progress.
It’s important to remember that the emotional and financial cost of divorce can be incredibly high. Isn’t it worth trying a less expensive option first?
My spouse is already telling me what I’m doing wrong; I don’t need two people ganging up on me!
The fear of having the counselor side with your spouse or partner can feel very real. Nobody wants to feel as though they are the problem. My goal is to advocate for your relationship together, not determine which half is at fault. I have been trained to look at your relationship as a system, and I have a solid understanding of what makes relationships successful. It is goal of every relationship therapist to have both members of a couple feel heard, connected with, and understood.
Your Relationship Can Be Healthy, Connected & Loving Once Again
With me as your compassionate and supportive relationship advocate, you will both be able to explore the patterns of interaction and communication that are needed to reconnect with one another. Not quite sure? Learn about Jennifer, a Gottman Level III trained therapist. You can also learn more about the Gottman Couples Therapy Method here.