like many things that help our relationships couples therapy has a habit of sounding appallingly unromantic involving patients grueling work and a host of embarrassing conversations about matters it would be much easier never to have to think about let alone discuss with a partner and a trained stranger our culture teaches us to trust and follow our feelings.
But couples therapy knows that this is normally a disaster for our feelings are for the most part errant and encoded with primitive responses from a troubled past so instead couples therapy encourages a far wiser response standing well back from our first impulses neutralizing them through understanding
where possible we routing them unless self-punishing and more trusting directions living alongside another person is obviously one of the hardest things we ever attempt we should expect to get it wrong unaided and feel unashamed about the need for in-depth training there are a number of vital things we might learn.
Couples therapy for a start in a quiet room we finally have the chance to define what we feel the problems in the relationship really are without things immediately degenerating into shouting sulking or cynical avoidance we’re normally far to cross with or upset by our partner to be able to share with them in a way they’d understand what we’re actually so angry and upset about it helps to be in front of a stranger we’re both a little intimidated by and have to behave ourselves with it’s highly unusual to be able to put things so starkly but also so reasonably for example the fact that you never touch me and behave so limply and unenthusiastically when I touch you is slowly killing me and though I love you I don’t know how much longer I can take it how much better this sort of thing than a decade of low-level sniping and repressed
the rapists are skilled teasing out from us why what bothers us bothers us normally left to our own devices we don’t unearth the emotional meaning behind our positions we squabble about where to go on the weekend rather than explaining what exactly going out or staying in represents for us internally and as a result the other finds us merely stubborn and mean and all that’s interesting and poignant in our position is lost
therapists break up unseen repeated patterns of upset and retaliation a classic therapeutic game is to ask both parties to fill in the blanks when you I feel odd and I respond by dot so when you disregard the children I feel rejected and then respond by trying to control who you see in the evenings or when you don’t touch me in bed I feel invisible and respond by being ungrateful about your money with a therapist acting as an honest broker new contracts can be drawn up along the lines of if you do X I will do Y once we get a little bit of what we really want but usually haven’t properly asked for the other’s needs feel a lot less onerous and hateful sometimes the advice at couples counseling is almost beautifully pedantic name three things you resent about your partner and next three things you deeply appreciate also keep the criticism specific so not your cold and ungrateful but if you can call me when you’re running late then families can be kept intact with little more than this through couples therapy we are challenged to abandon
Some of our grimmer ideas about how people can be and what will happen to us in love if I am vulnerable I’m not necessarily going to be hurt I might try to explain and the other might listen we are given the security to throw some of the scripts we grew up with about the futility of ever trying to be understood
We can start to be moved by another’s pain what does it feel like a good therapist will ask to hear your partner explain how it is for them when you we can start to take care of each other a remarkable idea comes to the fore that this other person isn’t really our enemy that they like us have some very bad ways of getting across what are at heart some very understandable and touching needs couples therapy is a classroom where we can learn how to love.
we’re normally so embarrassed about not having the first clue how to do so we leave things until we’re too angry or despairing to do anything but hate the most hopeful and therefore romantic thing we can ever do in love is sometimes to declare that we haven’t yet learned how to love but with a little help are very keen to learn one day the School of Life offers professional couples counseling with qualified psychotherapists that can benefit people at all stages of their relationships if you would like to learn more click the link on your screen now