Relationships Often Suffer From:
- Lack of understanding how your partner actually works
- Explosive or frozen emotions
- Trauma symptoms experienced by you and/or your partner
- Sexual problems
- Behaviors used to avoid contact with partner
- Lack of passion, fun, and playfulness
- Poor understanding of why you’re together in the first place
Areas Of Learning For Couples:
Arousal patterns: Moment-to-moment changes in our bodily stress, sensations, and emotions hugely impact our ability to think and engage socially. How stressed we feel directly impacts what we say, the tone of our voice, and our body language. By identifying these patterns, we can start to talk about them rather than act from them. We can request support around our experience, and offer support to our partner in turn.
Attachment styles: All of us have been programmed from experiences in our family of origin which lead us to respond in our partner in ways that are automatic. Not good, not bad, just to be expected. Part of couples therapy is gaining insight into these attachment patterns- ways we push our partner away and pull them towards, so they can be understood and worked with. Insecurities around intimacy that are shaped by the past can destabilize our partnership, and we need to enlist support from the one who is most available to us, our partner.
Communication: As partners, you tell each other everything, right? This can be a gauge to view how secure a relationship is functioning. Identifying and expressing what we need from our partners will take us far. We all have the need for understanding, security, sex, shared purpose, family, autonomy, honesty, ease, growth, play, etc. Positive emotions flow from our needs being met by our partner and vice versa. Couples therapy helps provide a safe opportunity to communicate our needs and forge a path towards greater mutuality.
How Couples Therapy Is Different
- Session length for couples is longer than individual therapy sessions.
- Initial and follow-up sessions: 1.5 hours (80 minutes)
- This format creates a needed spaciousness for both partner’s issues to be addressed. Complex and sensitive couples issues are often difficult to unpack, make progress on, and then pack up again in a 50 minute period.
- Another difference from individual therapy is that couples sit in chairs facing one another. The point of focus is on their partner more so than on the therapist. This allows for couples to learn how their partner works in real-time, and to see how the living, breathing, sacred, pain-in-the-butt, ever-changing being in front of them is the best guide available for creating a happy relationship together.