What can you expect from your couples therapy or marriage counseling session? In this article I shall endeavor to give you an overview on psychotherapy with couples in my practice.
I am influenced by the principles introduced by Bob and Rita Resnick, who together with their faculty of GATLA have been my mentors for many years. I have personally experienced their work by being a model couple at a workshop in Slovenia, 2015.
“Two becomes one, and then there is none.” Bob Resnick
This quote explains how almost all relationships begin with blissful passion only to evolve with time into something less — often much less.
Falling in love involves meeting a person different from ourselves
Falling in love is about meeting someone, and realizing a “chemistry” with that person. In love, all you want to do is to be with the person to feel his or her presence. There exists interest, curiosity and need. This is a time of exploration and fun. Sometimes it is also a time of anxiety of being with someone new. These emotions make us feel fresh and somewhat alive.
Two becomes One
Passions fade with newness. How come?
As the relationship progresses, two very different people become more and more alike. This seems to be a “natural” process in most intimate relationships. “Successfully” married (especially elderly) couples, often look and act like each other, oftentimes even being able to read each other’s minds and/or finish each other’s sentences. For that reason perhaps, we’d think that “two becoming one” is the path to take in relationships.It , after all recited in most marriage vows.
…then there is none
Resnick argues, however, that when two become one, there’d be none. The passion arising from the meeting and the curious exploration of two different people is doesn’t exist anymore, when these two different people become the “same person”.
It would then seem like an ideal if both persons in a romantic relationship can stay together as unique individuals, different from each other.
Changing the Other or Changing for the Other
With attachment comes reliance. There is mutual responsibility attached to serious relationships. We need this kind of mutual responsibility. Caring mutual responsibility is healthy.
What unfortunately gets mixed up with caring responsibility, is the idea that we have to give up our needs altogether, or that the other person is expected to give up his/her needs likewise.
With personal needs unmet, both parties begin to make silent demands on the other. This circle of needs and demands go unnoticed in the undercurrent of the relationship. There is dissatisfaction as one tries to change him/herself to fit into a relationship role, and there is conflict when one tries to change the other person in to his/her role.
Maintaining a Mutually Nourishing Relationship
To be ourselves and to be with the other. To be for ourselves and to be for the other. To be taken care of by the other and to be take care of the other. Movement between being for ourselves and being with the other is the premise of a mutually nourishing relationship.
Oftentimes, though, we are not moving, we are really stuck.
We can only “be ourselves” if we are aware of who we are. We can only be well taken care off, when we are fully aware of our own needs. We can be for the other only if we are able to listen to what the other person is saying. Without awareness, both parties can only rely on guesses, expectations, silent resentment, and conflict.
Couples Therapy Approach
When couples come to the practice, the “client” is the relationship. Relationship functions through communication. Couples therapy will then be centered around communication between two persons in the relationship.
Questions to ask are: How do we perceive our needs? How do we express what we want? How do we hear the other? How do we react to the other person’s needs? How do we compromise? What do we want the other person to know? How important is the relationship to us? Who are we? …
During therapy, an assortment of themes arise. The focus is on how the couple deals with these themes. How do they communicate with each other in situations. The focus is on dialogue.
Each person gets his/her space and voice. The background of each person in the relationship is considered, validated and heard. What has he/she been through? What is he/she going through now? What do both persons want for the future?
Contact me if you have questions regarding Couples Therapy