Love alone is not enough to save a relationship. You need commitment, persistence and willingness to take responsibility for your contributions to the issues, in order to get unstuck. If you think the issue is all with your partner, then the collaborative active process of couple’s therapy may not be suited to you.
A substantial body of research has explored factors relevant to couples staying together as well as common reasons people break up. There are a few behaviours that can contribute to particular challenges in couples therapy.
For instance, if you have been in a pattern of crisis and poor functioning for a lengthy time, this often has the effect of undermining the generosity and mutual regard you show for each other.
Also, lack of remorse, empathy and willingness to compromise leave little room for change and growth. Criticism, contempt and emotional withdrawal erode intimacy and positive feelings in the relationship.
Many of these aspects are effective targets for change as you consider your goals for couples therapy. We know, for example, that mutual fondness and admiration, respect, willingness to be influenced by your partner, and having affection, trust and intimacy are all important features of healthy relationships.
My approach provides you with practical strategies and exercises to enhance your functioning across these important skills.
If your relationship still has elements of positive regard, shared values, love, and you are both willing to participate fully in the coaching process, then you probably have a good foundation to work from.
It can be helpful to see an individual therapist or counsellor to support your personal growth, before or while attending couples therapy. This gives you a separate space to unpack your personal history as it relates to your functioning both in and outside the relationship.
This is particularly encouraged if one or both partners have:
Mental health concerns (including trauma)
Difficulties regulating their emotions (i.e. volatile / withdraw / withhold, including the ‘silent’ treatment) or,
Trouble contributing positively to maintaining a psychologically (and physically/emotionally) safe space to do the work for couples therapy.
I offer a mix of joint and individual sessions as part of the agreed treatment plan.
To maintain a balanced dynamic in the coaching context, where individual sessions are conducted, it is important that each partner participates in an equal number of individual sessions. This means that I won’t see one partner individually without also having a session with the other before the next joint session.
For similar reasons, I do not tend to work with couples where I have a previous therapeutic relationship with one of the partners.