Couples Counseling/Couples Issues
Relationships are not always easy, and sometimes we can use some support to help us identify blind spots, improve communication, and learn new ways to relate to each other to create a different and better outcome. In therapy, we work on using conflict resolution to approach problems. I teach couples to work together to get through difficult circumstances in a way that includes effort from both parties.
The issues that couples face generally fall under two categories: communication and boundaries.
Communication is often the biggest problem that people have in marriages or other relationships. Commonly, people tunnel on their impression of what someone says instead of what they actually say. Instead of listening to the words, they become distracted by their implication or emotions, which are often misunderstood. Many times people say very similar things, but receive them differently, leading to conflict.
To practice communicating, I have people complete a drawing exercise. One person has a book of pictures and describes to the other person precisely what they see. The person without the book, then draws what they hear as accurately as possible. They can talk as much as they feel is necessary to clarify the image outside of artistic skill. Afterward, we take a look at how clear the picture is.
Typically the proportions are off, and we talk about how the drawing reflects issues in communication and their relationships. People make a lot of assumptions. For example, drawing a leg before the other person describes what the leg looks like. Often, people make these same kinds of assumptions in everyday dialogue, which leads to a problematic breakdown in communication.
Many individuals struggle with accepting the differences between them and their partner and understanding what is in their control and what is out of their control. They enter the relationship, thinking they can make changes in another person, which is unrealistic. You can contribute to the decisions they make, but you cannot change or command them. Part of a healthy relationship is being able to identify what is under your control and what is not.
Frustration can also arise when one person sees their partner make decisions that they do not agree with. Because they have an inflated sense of their control, they get frustrated at not just the decisions being made, but also that they are complicit in those decisions. Guilt can also be involved, if they feel as if they should have done something different for the right decision to be made.
Couples need to recognize boundaries, as well as the power or responsibility that one has in a relationship. Once that is clarified, you can then work on communication skills and other areas in which relationships tend to test you.