Some issues that bring couples to therapy are:
- Addiction such as work, gambling or pornography
- Substance overuse
- Busy family life
- Parenting issues
- Intimacy & Sexual issues
Couples therapy can be helpful in gaining insight into the relationship, understanding issues, resolving conflict and improving relationship satisfaction.
Couples therapy is tailored to the needs of each person and the relationship. Our work in couples is often less than 8 sessions as we focus on the specific problem, clearly establishing agreed upon treatment objections and working from a change-oriented solution-focused approach.
Most couples come away from therapy with increased insight and awareness about relational patterns, increased emotional expression and skills necessary to communicate and problem solve with their partners more effectively.
What’s Getting in the Way?
It can feel really lonely, even hopeless when all you ever seem to do is fight with your partner. All we really want is to be connected with them, but something is just getting in the way and preventing that deeper bond that you once had with one another. It’s now easier to find extra things to do at work, or to make plans with friends to avoid what has become an exhausting pattern in your relationship. It feels horrible to dread seeing your partner, to avoid going home, and to use excuses to stay busy and away.
While we cling to the hope that we can get things back on track, we are stuck in the avoidance, it has become easier to simply turn away from our partner, to withdraw and to hope that things get better. The reality is that as the space between us gets bigger, the disconnection worsens. We don’t know what to do.
Negative Sentiment Override could be the culprit!
This is what happens when over time, all the arguing and conflict builds up and you no longer give your partner the benefit of the doubt. It might go something like this: You made plans with another couple for the four of you to do dinner and trivia. Your partner knew about these plans weeks ago. Your partner arrives home from work 30 minutes late. After having to shower and change before leaving, the 30 mins has now turned into 45 mins later than what you had planned to leave. As you are getting into the car, you explode and angrily say “I’m not important to you. Just stay home, you obviously don’t care about me and don’t want to spend time with me and our friends. You’re so selfish!”. Your partner, who just rushed home after having to deal with a last-minute emergency at work, now feels defeated and yells back “I’m selfish? I just about killed myself trying to get home on time. What more do you want from me?”.
Negative Sentiment Override has taken over! You can’t give your partner the benefit of the doubt and you can’t seem to see the effort they are putting into the relationship. Eventually, the two of you end up in a place where you just drop the issue, don’t talk about the problem and use these interactions as more evidence that your partner doesn’t care about you.
Many couples find themselves in similar conflict patterns. The biggest downside to Negative Sentiment Override is that as the cycle continues there is ongoing fighting and increasing distance. As you continue to wish for things to be the way they used to be, your resentment towards your partner continues to increase and Negative Sentiment Override grows stronger. Being in a relationship with so much resentment, so much hurt and so much distance is unbearable and is not sustainable. As humans, we have a need to be connected and to feel a sense of belonging, especially with our intimate partner.
Couples therapy can help us to overcome Negative Sentiment Override by learning strategies and tools that help us to fight in constructive ways that bring us closer. When we make changes to how we deal with conflict, how we listen to our partner, and how we negotiate our needs in our relationship we can feel connected and fulfilled again as a couple.
One of the things I hear often in my practice is “I don’t want to be the one to back down or to give in”. This thought is normal but it’s not helpful. Negative Sentiment Override often places couples in a stalemate, neither willing to budge because they each feel emotionally drained. My response is that you have to be willing to give a little in order to get a little. As hard as it is, I encourage you to be the change for your relationship.
It is 100% possible to go from feeling hopeless in your relationship to feeling hopeful and connected. Therapy can help you to identify your relationship patterns, learn communication skills to help you work through conflict in constructive ways, to rebuild trust, friendship and intimacy in your relationship.
If your partner isn’t interested in going to couples’ therapy, no problem. Relationship therapy for one person can also make a difference for the couple.