There are times in every relationship when things don’t flow, the natural chemistry between partners seems to dry up and every single word and action they do seems to grate. This is perfectly normal and is generally just a phase that passes in time. Perhaps it’s caused by outside pressures such as money worries or through the stresses of a demanding job. Even the day-to-day demands of raising a family can make a significant impact particularly with very young children and babies.
But there are also times when those cracks in the relationship are not just superficial, but instead go much deeper. Often our natural reaction is to try and paper over these cracks, to try and push through the problems and hope that eventually they just get better on their own. At other times we might retreat into our shells, hiding from the facts and from the other person, protecting ourselves as best we can. Or, finally, we may just lash out, allowing our emotional response to overwhelm us and come at our partner with all guns blazing.
Any of these responses are normal, but none of them are particularly helpful in dealing with the issue that needs to be addressed.
Instead, while it’s easier said than done, it might be time to seek out some professional help in the form of therapy.
In this article, we take a look at what couples therapy and single therapy might look like and how it could make a significant difference to your relationship.
Most people will have some idea of what counselling or therapy is but there is more than one kind, so what might benefit you? Depending on what kind of issues you’re facing there is bound to be a therapy to suit your needs.
If you are tackling an addiction, whether to a substance or to pornography, sex or gambling there will be a specialist you can talk to. If you are dealing with an eating disorder or suffering from depression, the same applies.
You may be given access to Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, which is a form of talking therapy geared towards actively changing the way you think and behave in a situation. Your therapist will talk you through the specific problem and help lead you away from the self-destructive behaviour by changing the way you think and ultimately react. The most positive outcome from this therapy is that you are equipped with skills that help you to stop repeating behaviour that is hurting you and the people around you.
There are other kinds of talk therapy, where your therapist will explore with you the reasons why you feel the way you do and may present some insights of their own. If you are struggling in a relationship, for whatever reason, your therapist will offer you a safe space to air your issues without judgement and perhaps guide you through some of the reasons you feel as you do.
One-to-one therapy is great for people whose personal issues are impacting on their relationship and want to make some positive changes in the way they feel and with luck, the way they think and act.
When you can’t see a way of sorting out your issues yourselves but are still determined to try and make the relationship work, couples therapy is a brave choice and one that can lead to some positive outcomes.
Figures from the USA reveal that couples spend an average of six years in an unhappy relationship before they go and seek help. If that sounds like you, it might be time to take that first step and seek help before you waste a moment longer being unhappy together.
When you take that step you can expect your therapist to talk to you both as a couple but he or she may also ask to see you separately. You will each be given the chance to present the problems how you see them and explain how you’re feeling. The therapist will try and steer you away from blaming each other but encourage partners to accept responsibility where mistakes have been made or deliberately damaging behaviour has been apparent.
Your therapist will work hard to show you how to save a marriage with trust issues and allow each person to explore some of the reasons why the relationship has got to where it is. They may also encourage you to come up with your own solutions for helping to repair any damage that’s been done. For example a partner who has cheated will promise to check in with their partner as they leave work and allow them access to their messages and emails.
If communication and honesty has become a problem then both partners might agree to spend an hour together walking and talking once a week.
You might find too that your therapist sets a kind of homework. This might be as straightforward as writing a diary for the week or practising a communication technique that will open up a positive discussion rather than shut it down with an argument.
When you find yourself overwhelmed and your relationship on the rocks, for whatever reason, there is no shame in reaching out for help. Long term relationships will invariably face stormy times as well calm patches but if yours seems to be a continuous battle, then it’s time to stop and take a deep breath.
Visiting a therapist can make you feel vulnerable and exposed but it can also reveal a lot more about how your partner’s feeling and why some of the problems have appeared and not gone away.
When you’re committed to making that relationship work and grow, you’ll be glad you took a chance on a therapist and on each other. Work together to get your relationship back on track, commit to change and perhaps even see your partner through a fresh pair of eyes. Take on those storms together for a happier, calmer future.