Relationship counseling is a high priority at the Marriage and Family Center.
couple’s difficulty getting along is a leading cause of unhappiness for everyone in and outside the family. It is, for example, a leading cause of absenteeism from work and school. A huge amount of human energy is released to the world when partners learn to sidestep the “landmines” in their relationship and find or regain the peace, love, and joy they once had.
All of the therapists practicing at the Marriage and Family Center are Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists, Licensed Clinical Social Workers, Licensed Professional Counselors, Licensed Clinical Psychologists or the Registered Interns of those clinicians who have specific training and multiple years of experience working with couples. In fact, before we consider bringing a new practice to the Marriage and Family Center we first interview them, in large part to find out their attitudes toward working with couples and their experience with couples counseling. Only clinicians who want to help couples are invited to practice at the Marriage and Family Center.
Not every distressed couple is destined to stay together–after all, not every couple should have gotten together in the first place–but we consistently find that when partners who want to stay together can agree on goals and work together on them, their rate of progress on the road from misery to bliss is dizzying. Although every situation is different, we often find that two or three sessions can start a couple down the road to Relationship Renewal.
Here are a few of the reasons couples visit the Marriage and Family Center:
The number one reason couples give for needing to see a marriage therapist or couples counselor is having a communication problem. Very often patterns of unhelpful communication are, in fact, a big part of the reason the couple hasn’t been able to resolve the underlying issues. Maybe one or both partners has trouble really hearing what the other partner has to say. Maybe one or both has trouble letting the other open up—interrupting and dominating the conversation or too frequently challenging what was said. But usually we find in troubled relationships that these communication problems are actually a red flag for the couple’s more significant issues. When that is the case, improving a couples communication skills may not be enough to improve the relationship. Issues like those below may also need to be identified and addressed.
Affairs break trust but are not the only trust breaker in committed relationships.
Affairs break trust but are not the only trust breaker in committed relationships. Usually one of two types of violation are behind all other couple trust issues: The first is lying–that is, saying what one knows is not the truth (or intentionally leaving out important information). The second is failing to keep promises or agreements–in other words, you agree to do something and then you fail to do it without a compelling reason.
Expectations and Assumptions:
Often couples run into trouble because their expectations about the partnership are not fulfilled. Unfortunately we all enter relationships with a certain number of assumptions about who will do what under what circumstances. More expectations or assumptions are made as the relationship progresses. Sometimes these expectations are so different from what is actually happening that one or both partners begin to feel distanced from the relationship.
..in many relationships partners have very different needs in the areas of Sex, Money, Chores, or other topics and are completely happy
Sex, Money, and Chores:
Common lore holds that these are the three main reasons couples separate. Admittedly, sex, money, and chores are frequent topics brought up when couples disagree, and they are issues we often help couples resolve. But in most cases these and other issues are causing distress to the couple because of problems of communication discussed above and because of other underlying issues (like those noted below). In other words, in many relationships partners have very different needs in the areas of Sex, Money, Chores, or other topics and are completely happy. But when there are communication problems, or when one or more of the below get in the way, partners have trouble working through those differences.
Couples often come to counseling because they have habits of interacting that lead to intense fights or arguments when they disagree. Couples will not always agree on important issues. When they do not agree, and when one or both partners has a habit of continuing and heightening the argument (usually feeling like the other partner was responsible for heightening it), angry fights can occur. Some such couples fight very often—up to daily or multiple times daily. Other such couples don’t fight very often. Instead, they avoid topics that will lead to an argument. The problem is, they begin to disconnect on those issues and usually in other ways too.
Resentment and Jealousy:
For a number of different reasons, partners can develop an unhealthy focus on what the other is doing when out of sight. Sometimes there is justified or unjustified preoccupation with the idea that he or she may be cheating. Other times a partner feels that he/she has more than his/her fair share of responsibility over the less enjoyable aspects of the relationship or household. Leaving one partner feeling unappreciated and distrustful and the other partner feeling unloved and distrusted, resentment and jealousy are cancerous to relationships.
Affairs happen with unfortunate frequency. In a recent poll, 50% of men and 40% of women married 10 years or longer admitted having had an affair. Because they are a clear violation of a stated or unstated agreement, affairs seriously disrupt the trust in a relationship. The likelihood a relationship will succeed following an affair increases when the couple attends counseling together and separately. Even if the relationship does not survive the affair, counseling may be needed to enable the couple to either continue sharing parenting and/or other responsibilities, or to fully let go and move forward.
There may be many reasons one partner is overly dependent upon the other. Maybe one of the partners has an emotional or physical disability, few or no close friends, or a negative self-image (low self esteem). Over dependence can also stem from an imbalance in education or professional experience leading to a vast difference in earning between partners. This difference can create a gap between partners, and many couples go to counseling to bridge that gap.
Over dependence leads to an imbalance of power. Other things can cause a power imbalance too. This happens, for example, when one partner has a problem–such as an anger management problem–that leads to the other partner giving or backing off in when he/she should not. For a lot of couples, having one partner with more ability to make meaningful decisions for the couple or family works fine for a happy lifetime together. For other couples though, the imbalance stresses the relationship to the breaking point.