This image of the two poppies goes deeper than symbolizing marriage. The two flowers almost become one, yet still maintain their separateness. Part of the one flower seems to be trying to overshadow or dominate the other, but it looks like the other is pushing back and holding its own. Conflicted marriage, or natural order? Hard to avoid this situation when you are so close together and almost as one, but much better than being distant and apart. Likely, with a gust of wind, this picture reverses.
All relationships go through phases and have their ups and downs, but there are many situational and relationship issues that can benefit from marriage counseling. Life’s stresses — from a sudden death to unexpected or extended unemployment, or even the joyous arrival of a new family member in the house — all can take their toll on the best of relationships. It’s often not the event itself, but how people react to it individually and as a couple. Instead of pulling together, couples can pull apart as one or both withdraw or turn the stress into anger.
Even in healthy relationships, it can be common for couples to lose their connection with one another and drift apart. This is a normal cycle that can often be corrected without outside help, but when unaddressed for a prolonged period, or fueled by underlying issues in the relationship, it can easily mushroom and become difficult to turn around.
Marriage and Couples counseling can help each individual handle the stress, identify the dynamics that are pulling the relationship apart, and enable the couple to emerge from the situation as a team. It can also address crisis situations such as infidelity or substance abuse.
Marriage counseling can uncover the reasons for pulling apart — from loss of connection, communication issues or unresolved conflict, to unmet needs or unrealistic expectations. It can teach skills specific to the couple, help rebuild your connection, assist in conflict resolution, and shine a light on unfulfilled needs or the destructive influence of unrealistic expectations. Couples counseling can help you find your way back and reconnect with that person you once fell in love with.
Often couples come to therapy when they are desperate, as a last resort, when the relationship is in jeopardy. This is understandable for many reasons. Often one person will want therapy while their partner has doubts. Also, it is not uncommon to feel embarrassed, or think that the problems will go away in time. However, relationship problems are more easily resolved when they are acknowledged before the stage when both partners bicker constantly, can barely tolerate the other’s presence, or worse, just don’t care anymore.
While many couples make a mutual decision to seek counseling, it is often one partner who initiates with the other following reluctantly, anticipating that all of their behaviors will be attacked and no compromises will be made by their partner, especially when there are issues such as infidelity or substance abuse. It is also common for men to fear that a female counselor will take the woman’s side. My role is not to take sides, but to champion the couple and each partner, and ensure that both are heard.
Effective marriage counseling requires compromise and a willingness to change. Changes may be different ways of interacting within the relationship, or individual changes relating to the behavior of one or both partners — ideally both partners — but even if only one partner is willing to change, it can have a positive impact on the relationship.
If your partner is reluctant to come in, please consider coming to therapy alone, as this is likely to affect change in your relationship. It is not unusual for people to join their partners in therapy because they feel less threatened, have more hope, don’t want to be left out, or they’re just plain curious.
I recognize that the dynamics of your relationship are complex and will not make decisions about fault — assigning blame is never a part of good therapy. Instead, my role is to be non-judgmental while facilitating better communication between you and your partner, and helping explore your concerns productively. While most couples seek help to repair or strengthen their relationship, others make the decision to separate. Therapy can also be beneficial in these instances to minimize the negative impact on each individual, and address the underlying issues in order to minimize their effect on future relationships.
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