Does couples therapy for unhappy couples actually work, or is it just another idealistic concept? While couples work is not a quick fix, those who go through the counseling process are often prosperous at rekindling a romantic fire or connection. If you are wondering if couples therapy will work for your relationship, you are already showing clear signs that you are open to strengthening your relationship.
Even if you are struggling to remember a time when your relationship felt strong or happy, a fulfilling and lasting relationship is possible—you just need the right tools. Through couples work, you are provided training in methods you can begin to implement right away. Couples work offers you tools to properly deal with issues that are overwhelming, like growing apart, arguing, money/work/life stressors, and many other overwhelming issues. For example, you may be looking for help communicating together and working through challenges as a team. Tools and strategies aren’t just thrown at you with the expectation they will work or even fit your relationship. The process of couples work is collaborative and personalized for your specific needs and desires, in a supportive, encouraging and patient environment.
One method of couples work I find effective and has lasting results, is by guiding a couple towards identifying negative emotional interactional cycles in their relationship. Once we have identified and understand the negative cycle(s), we can better see the emotions underneath their interactions. This allows for the couple to look at how these cycles are produced and maintained in the relationship, in the way they interact with themselves and each other. With this insight the couple is empowered to transform their interactions in a more adaptive and functional way that works for everyone.
This insight, and gentle therapeutic guiding, provides an understanding of each other’s emotional experiences. Often when a couple reveals underlying feelings based out of relational needs, distress is alleviated in the relationship. The couple becomes more aware of:
- their emotions—primary anger and sadness, fear and shame
- their desires—the connected needs and to regulate, make sense of
- how to show up in the relationship—communicate these in non demanding ways to promote bonding and validation
- how to show up for themselves—help couples learn to soothe and transform emotions that are maladaptive and form a true partnership in which everyone is heard.
Through this understanding, the couple is better able to identify when the negative cycle tries to enter their relationship, and, instead of playing out the old dysfunctional pattern, the couple is empowered to shift towards the underlying core processes related to both attachment and identity. This way the couples may form healthier relationships and become more self- and other-regulating, and not fall back into their old negative emotional interactional cycle(s). By creating a safe, judgement free space, the couple is able to explore the rough and tough parts of their relationship without fear of “making it worse”. Working with a good couples therapist allows you to have an impartial guide in their journey, ensuring the both partners feel respected, safe and valued.