Strengthen the Coupledom
Couples therapy is a tool to enhance the marriage, to be picked up when facing hard choices or hard times: parenting, in laws, financial challenges and medical concerns. It is a tool to prevent the deterioration of the marriage and strengthen the bond. By coming in while the marriage is still viable for both, and before one or both partners have lost the will to make it work, or the love to fuel that will, couples will find that couples therapy is a means to build skills in the partnership to face daily challenges together.
I use the word “coupledom” with my patients/clients. I stress the importance of it above all other “loyalties.” The couple needs to view each other as team players, someone who is on their side, even when sometimes the issues are dividing them. When the couple is more “centered” and clear about their loyalty to each other, viewing the partner as a true partner, someone with whom to “reality test,” share perceptions and be open to feedback, they can work on figuring out the opposing pulls that they often face.
Often, these pulls are their family of origin, (relatives from each side); work/time demands; financial and or child related or sexual dissatisfaction. The couples therapy moves the dynamic (i.e. the usual defensive position) to a new motif, one that lets each partner hear the other, rather than worry about defending themselves. Thus energy is freed and can be utilized in the more constructive activity of listening, learning and expanding one’s ability to understand and to be understood.
Here are a few examples:
One member of the coupledom wants another child. The other is uncertain. The conversation is difficult, the resolution lies beyond the normal conversation. The couple visits a therapist who can help each party hear the needs, concerns, fears, and wishes of the other. The couple leaves with a solution that works for both parties.
Parents are faced with in-law stress, often a huge source of friction, sometimes a weapon of destruction and alienation in a relationship. The tension smolders under the surface. Each holiday decision or birthday is fraught with this underlying tension. The couple decides to seek out therapy to avoid further alienation and to develop a shared strategy in dealing with the often polarizing effects of the in-law relationship.
A Child’s Learning Problems
A child has learning or emotional problems that are straining the family. The couple turns to couples therapy to find a common ground to deal with the child’s needs and impact on the whole family.
Developing a common approach strengthens the couples’ relationship and deepening each partner’s understanding of their partner’s position assures more mutual empathy for each one’s role in the family and the problem at hand. Often one partner is faced more frequently with the “behaviors” of the child. One parent is more on the front lines of the school system, playground or family time, and needs to feel supported and affirmed by the other partner. Again, a common strategy, which includes listening to feelings, and bonding together to help each other and the child, strengthens the relationship and provides the tools/skill building for other challenges.
There Is Always a Third Option.
Many couples fight as if there are only two choices, and both of them conflict. Very intelligent people, entrenched in their “option” lose flexibility, see only two options, and are certain that their partner’s option is wrong. In the therapy, I introduce the notion of “There is always a third option” where thinking out of the box is introduced and practiced. With time, couples learn to seek out that third option themselves by stretching their minds beyond the usual and familiar to embrace a new possibility, one they both are comfortable using.
©jill edelman, L.C.S.W. M.S.W.