After the hectic year of 2020, it is time to make some serious New Year resolutions. You might be sick of your typical New Year resolutions of quitting smoking or losing weight. But have you ever thought of making couples counseling your News Years' resolution? Being locked inside with your spouse for almost a year could have been a blessing or a curse for your relationship.
Some couples may have been enjoying the extra quality time they are spending with each other yet others are getting on each other's nerves. You may be bickering about every day chores such as who emptied the dishwasher last or deeper unresolved issues such as trust or intimacy. All you know is that you are not the happy couple you once were and problems between you keep resurfacing and staring you in the face 24 hours a day!
Nearly every time you try to discuss a sensitive topic you and /or your partner end up getting emotionally reactive. There is yelling, criticizing, attacking and demoralizing each other's character. Nothing gets resolved and you keep rubbing salt in each other's wounds.
If you always do what you've always done then you will always get what you always got. To quote Albert Einstein's famous line, "insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." Are you ready to try something different? If you never tried couples counseling now may be the perfect time to start.
Sometimes couples begin therapy in the wake of a crisis. This means that you and your spouse are in over your heads and need some additional support. You and your spouse may be considering couples therapy due to constant bickering or long term unresolved issues as mentioned earlier. You also may have issues that could be related to the pandemic such as the loss of a loved one, loss of a job, or an affair that has come to light. No matter what the circumstance, it is time to seek out couples counseling so that you can have a healthier, peaceful and more loving relationship.
During covid-19, Lori lost her job. Lori was extremely distraught that she no longer is able to work due to the pandemic. Her husband Dan is frustrated about the loss of Lori's job. This meant that they would lose income. Dan eventually started working from home. Dan has found himself spending more time with Lori than he usually has. Lori and Dan have been bickering more than usual due to being in each other's presence constantly.
One night when Dan was in the shower she noticed a message come across his phone which said "you are so hot! I had a great experience with you!" Lori dropped the phone and stood there paralyzed... "oh my god... my husband is having an affair!" Lori was deeply heartbroken and felt like she could never trust her husband again. When Lori confronted Dan about the affair, Dan explained to Lori that the stress of the relationship has caused him to look elsewhere. Dan was sincerely sorry and wanted to fix their marriage. Lori felt betrayed, confused and depressed. Lori did not know where to turn or if the marriage could be saved. Lori and Dan began couples counseling in the wake of the crisis to mend their marriage.
What couples counseling can help with:
1) Infidelity and other crises: An affair doesn't have to be the end of a marriage. Couples counseling can help repair the relationship and rebuild trust. The problems before the affair which have been unresolved for years will also be addressed. In fact, many times the marital relationship ends up being healthier and more harmonious than it ever was. Other crises that couples counseling can help with include alcoholism and addiction, job loss, health issues, loss of a family member etc.
2.) Improve Intimacy: Lack of physical intimacy and/or loss of an emotional connection can cause couples to drift apart and lead parallel lives. Couples therapy can help you understand your partner and meet each others physical and emotional needs. You can also learn simple rituals that will help you reconnect with each other such as greeting your spouse with a hug or kiss after work.
3.) Money matters: Very often couples disagree about how much to save or spend which causes financial and emotional friction. Money can evoke feelings of anger, resentment, and anxiety. If one partner earns more than the other or if one partner works outside the home and the other one is home taking care of the kids very often this can cause an imbalance of power within the relationship. Couples counseling can help create more balance by helping each of you understand your personal relationship with money and the way it shapes your thoughts and relationships with others.
4.) Avoiding a divorce or having an amicable one: Very often couples come to therapy with mixed agendas. One wants to save the marriage and the other one wants out. "Discernment counseling" which is a special type of couples counseling can help mixed agenda couples decide whether they should pursue a divorce or what needs to change in order to remain together.
5.) Improving listening and communication skills: Maybe you feel unheard in your relationship. It is no secret that a relationship requires good communication and listening skiils. We often don't pay attention to how we are speaking to our spouse. If we're often interrupting, we are often defending ourselves. Couples therapy focuses on listening rather than reacting.
6.) Practicing empathy towards one another: Don't criticize your partner for having different opinions than you do. You don't always have to agree with your partner but you can validate their feelings. Feelings aren't facts so they are neither right or wrong.
7.) Be solution focused instead of problem focused: Instead of focusing on the problem and blaming each other you can learn how to negotiate and compromise and work towards finding a solution.
8.) Resolve any lingering disagreements: Therapy is a safe place for couples to unravel any lingering disagreements. Whether it is a parenting disagreement or financial disagreement, a therapist can help mediate and break down these disagreements more clearly. This can help you understand your spouse's side of the problem.
9.) Learn when and how to voice a concern to your spouse: Do you bring up an issue when one of you is tired, hungry or stressed out? Timing is key in order to have a more rational and productive conversation. You can also learn how to bring up a topic without making your partner defensive. Perhaps you are voicing concerns too often and you don't know when to be in save your energy mode. In other words, couples counseling can help you to learn when and how to bring things up and how to let things go and not sweat the small stuff.
10.) Learn each other's love language and how to speak it to each other: What makes you feel loved? What makes your partner feel loved? Is it quality time, physical affection, acts of service, words of affirmation or material gifts? You and your partner may have different love languages but that's ok as long as you give your partner what they need and not what you need to feel loved.
11.) Learn how to forgive: Learn how to separate your partner's behavior from who they truly are as a person. Forgiving your partner doesn't mean that what they did was ok. It means letting go of all the anger, hurt and pain so you can make room in your heart for peace, love and joy.
Couples around the world are being impacted by this trying time. Some couples are finding out if they're compatible or not. Other couples enjoy spending time together and at a slower pace. Mending a relationship is best left to a professional who has years of experience. Sometimes couples therapy can strengthen a relationship so it lasts for years to come.
If you would like to learn new tools and strategies to make your relationship better than it's ever been then consider couples therapy for your 2021 New Years's Resolution.
Risa Simpson-Davis, LCSW