Being connected to another human being is one of the deep longings of many individuals. While having a companion or partner is a wonderful thing to have, being in a relationship with another person can be difficult. A relationship consists of two individuals with different backgrounds and experiences coming together. The combination of these can make being in a relationship refreshing or challenging. Often, the combination of differences leads to issues in the relationship. This is why relationship counseling can be beneficial!
Why Consider Relationship Counseling?
People choose relationship counseling for a variety of reasons. Some of the most common reasons include:
- Unresolved Childhood Trauma: In many cases, an individual who has experienced childhood trauma can have difficulty trusting and having a healthy connection. Along with this, the other partner may not know how to deal with their partner’s trauma.
- Finances: Finances can be a source of stress for couples. For example, one partner might choose to be careful with their spending and the other partner might not be as frugal. This can lead to frustration on both sides and be a source of conflict.
- Parenting Issues: Parents might simply disagree on how to raise their children. Being on different pages about parenting can impact your relationship.
- Infidelity: When a person is cheated on, it can make them feel like they are not good enough for their partner. A person might question what the outside party had that they lacked. Usually, when a person cheats, it exposes underlying issues that were present.
Relationships & Communication
Having a difficult time addressing the issues mentioned above can cause conflict. Most conflict is not due to no communication but how those involved are choosing to communicate. According to The Gottman Institute, there are four problematic ways in which people often communicate:
- Criticism: Critical communication involves using harsh words, blaming others, and being judgmental. Instead of being happy that your partner washed the dishes today, you remind them of when they did not wash the dishes. Acknowledging only what one does wrong will never help them to do right.
- Defensiveness: Your partner has their perspective in mind and they don’t want to hear yours. They are on the edge and ready to share their stance by any means necessary. In the words of Associate Licensed Counselor Rachel Brewer, “When we’re prepared to ‘fight’ to protect ourselves – we are incapable of effective and problem-solving based communication.”
- Contempt: Contempt is when a partner is aggressive and emotionally abusive towards their partner. They might act like they are better, use sarcasm, or always find ways to put their partner down.
- Stonewalling: People don’t say anything at all. They might find themselves going silent from conversations or act as if they do not have any emotions regarding the issue at hand. This might appear to be a healthy way of dealing with the issue. Yet, the problem goes unresolved.
What You Gain From Relationship Counseling
There is a lot to be gained from relationship counseling. Some of the benefits include:
- More Productive Communication: Associate Licensed Counselor Ben Lighter of Garrett Counseling identified communication as being an issue to go to couples or relationship counseling. He says: “Communication, communication, communication. It’s vital that you are able to share your needs, and any difficulties you’re having in the relationship if you ever expect to avoid resentment. I like to believe in an ‘oops, ouch’ culture: a non-judgemental way to either apologize for when you’ve done wrong (oops) or verbalize when you’ve been hurt (ouch). Clear lines of communication are a necessity, not a perk, in a relationship.”
- Understanding Your Flow As A Couple: Couples therapy can help you to understand the role of each individual in the relationship. This will impact overall dynamics of the relationship and can help assess communication problems.
- Having A Mediator: Couples therapy involves a mediator who has an unbiased and honest perspective. Sometimes this perspective can help the partners to get on the same page.
- Seeing One Another’s Perspective: Couples therapy can assist you and your partner with identifying the other person’s perspective in the relationship. Earlier, we discussed the different ways that individuals handle conflict in their relationships. Oftentimes, the way that people handle conflict is learned in childhood or various life experiences. Sometimes, unhealthy ways to respond to the conflict are learned. By going to couples therapy, the parties involved can help to unleash unhealthy conflict resolution.
- Strategic, Effective Coping Skills: Couples sometimes struggle with unhealthy ways of managing conflict. Couples therapy can support each partner in learning ways to navigate relationship challenges.
- Deepened Intimacy & Connection: Couples sometimes struggle with feeling close in their relationship. Couples therapy can provide an environment which supports the couple in identifying the needs and wants of each partner. Intimacy can involve emotional or sexual intimacy.
- Foundation For New Relationships: Some couples really enjoy being with one another but have struggled with relationships in the past or are still dealing with unresolved trauma. In these cases, going to couples counseling can help the couple to start out on a good foundation in order to have a successful relationship.
Couples counseling is not limited to married or engaged couples but can be relevant for dating, cohabiting, or other couples. Relationship counseling can benefit both couples who are happy and couples who are unhappy. Overall, in the words of Elizabeh Gilbert, “To be fully seen by somebody, then, and be loved anyhow–this is a human offering that can border on miraculous.” Going to counseling as a couple can help you to feel fully seen and understood by your partner. Garrett Counseling has trained counselors who are available to provide couples counseling. Please contact us today if you find that you and your partner need support in this area.
This article was written by LaTasha Toney, a telehealth mental health professional at Garrett Counseling. Learn more about LaTasha here.
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