Couples, no matter how long they have been together, can find themselves in situations that feel oppressive. Both people are looking for relief from the other person but instead of finding relief they can become frustrated. The longer they stay locked in this system of frustration, the more they feel exhausted and drained.
Some couples stay in challenging situations with the hope that they will get better on their own. Sometimes they do. Many times they don’t and people go from feeling overwhelmed and exhausted to becoming angry and resentful.
Once they have reached this stage they might even begin to think that the relationship is doomed, hopelessly broken and they have to break up. The relationship is broken, but I don’t think it’s hopeless.
As a couples counselor I see possibilities. The couple may feel the system of relating can’t be changed, but I know that with awareness it could actually be softened and improved. Unfortunately what some couples can’t seem to find though, is the idea that they could feel better. They remember the good times when they fell in love and they just can’t fathom how they could ever get back to that place again.
When couples do come in for counseling, despite how negative they might seem about whether they could ever feel better, I know just coming in for therapy is a step toward preserving and improving the relationship.
During the first session I help the couple find their way back to something meaningful between them again. I begin by helping couples understand their current situation. When each person can recognize how their behavior impacts the other, they get awareness of why they feel so hopeless, and maybe why their partner gets upset with them.
Once they have that awareness it’s easier to make changes in behavior, because each person gets clued in on how new or different behaviors will impact their partner, and it’s usually for the better. Each person begins to understand that when their partner feels good, they feel good. And that’s what everyone wants; to feel better.
Understanding the dynamics of the situation is a lot like stepping outside the system and taking a look at it. Once observed, couples can become more energized just thinking about the possibility of the system changing with just a few alterations. Once a couple can witness their system of failure, making any changes might even feel exhilarating.
The good news is that couples counseling works. If two people are willing to take a step toward being happier together, counseling will work. If people are still blaming their partner for making them feel miserable, counseling will not. Loving your mate starts with you, not your partner.
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