You might realize that your relationship has been feeling less fulfilling for a short or a long while: there are more and more arguments, or you can’t seem to connect as much as you once did with your partner, and you’re wondering how and if couple therapy could help you attain a better quality of relationship or communication. As per a study made by “the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapists”, in 97% of cases, couples state that therapy has helped them to navigate through a state of crisis, to better communicate, and to better understand their partner.
First off, what is couples therapy?
According to Psychologies magazine, the definition of couple therapy is: “a form of relationship often carried out with the aim to establish a more stable and balanced functioning of the couple’s relationship, without calling for notions of personality or value judgments”. They go on to say: “Thanks to a better awareness of their own functioning by each member, it allows to better manage the details of the common existence in order to make it a more satisfactory partnership, including for the group or family.
Thanks to a better understanding of the other partner, desirable compromises can emerge and a kind of contract can be established which the therapist will witness.
Different from sexual therapy and marriage counselling, these methods allow you to address, for example, timetables, attitudes towards children’s schooling, leisure activities, even the couple’s sexual life ”. Now that we know the definition, let’s have a look at who can benefit from it and how it works concretely.
Is there a good moment to start couples therapy?
Often, people who are in a relationship consult in therapy when the relationship patterns are already in place and strong, and problems are present and persistent for a while. They often wonder if it’s not already too late.
There isn’t a “good moment” to decide to start couple therapy. As you can go see a dentist in a preventive manner, you can also see a therapist to better the communication or to help untie a tense situation, but you can also decide to go at a more advanced stage of the relationship or problem. In certain situations, couple therapy simply helps to part in good terms should it be the best path to follow.
Hence, a “good” moment to consult doesn’t exist. It’s always a good moment.
So, how does it work?
The first sessionThe first session will help to establish the goals and objectives on which you want to work, or to manage a crisis should you arrive in a time of crisis.
To express your own goals and objectives in front of one’s partner and to hear your loved one’s goals and objectives concerning the relationship helps to create an open attitude in order to work together towards a more harmonious partnership. Thus, your therapist will keep these objectives in mind during the sessions and remind you if need be.
The following sessions
During the following sessions, each person will have the opportunity to express him.her.self, but generally with a main transmitter at each session in rotation. For example, the second session could be the opportunity for one of the partners to talk about a delicate subject, and the other partner’s role will mainly be to listen without interrupting and to give feedback to the main transmitter. The following week, the roles would be reversed, and the one who had mostly listened will become the transmitter.
Why do we proceed this way?
1. Relationship therapy helps to develop clear, non-defensive communication, so that it becomes efficient rather than end up in an argument.
You will finally have the impression of being understood and really heard by your partner, and not through the usual filters that lead to feeling misunderstood. The therapist will help you to express yourself clearly, to define the essence of your message, and will make sure that your partner is also listening whilst being less entangled in his.her normal reactions of cutting you off before you finish speaking, or being in judgment, or interpreting your words, etc., to hear things in a new light.
It brings back connection and makes you feel closer to one another.
And it’s often connection that we seek when we fight: we’re trying to get our point across, but more often than not, without success. In relationship therapy, we have the space to feel empathy towards ourselves and for our partner, and this brings inner peace and brings back the closeness and intimacy with our partner.
2. Relationship therapy creates the secure environment to be able to talk about delicate matters
The obvious goal is to be able, eventually, to talk about delicate matters without the therapist’s help, but while you’re in the office, you’re in a safe zone.
You are safe to explore your emotions and to express your truth.
Therapists have many tools to help relationships (education, coaching, customized tools, new ideas, emotional support, showing each partner’s responsibility), but, most of all, they supply a safe environment where couples can communicate without the interference of defensive communication models used at home.
All emotions are welcome. All defensive mechanisms are welcome.
The therapist will reframe if needed. It’s the therapist job to make sure the message gets across with the most clarity and impact to the other partner and back.
3. Practical solutions
The first goal of relationship therapy is to have intimate conversations and nurture the emotional connection and understanding of each partner. It’s the foundation of everything else. This helps couples to experience new healing paths and to feel the love they have for one another.
Communication is the foundation ground. You will get advice and practical tools in order to steer clear of your old communication patterns.
On top of communication issues, new actions, tools such as exercises between partners, and new methods to put into practice, will complete it all. The work must continue at home and come back for readjustments when needed.
Real examples of couples who came at Divan Bleu
(Names and circumstances have been modified for confidentiality reasons).
Guillaume and Emilie hadn’t had sex for a few years. Emilie felt like she was no longer desirable and that greatly affected her self-confidence. She was closing in, no longer recognizing herself, and no longer wanting to leave the house.
Guillaume, for his part, was frustrated. He judged Emilie because he would have liked to make love but Emilie was distant and he didn’t understand what was happening to her.
In therapy, they were able to find a safe ground to explore what was really going on: intimacy wasn’t experienced the same way by each partner, and by not communicating specifically on the subject, they did not understand how they could recreate the same flow they had in the first few months of their relationship when sexuality was easier.
During the process, Guillaume was able to be sensitive to the fact that Emilie did not feel desirable, and this helped him understand what was happening for her. On her side, Emilie was able to receive empathy and reassurance about how she was feeling and was able to understand that she needs words and gestures of affection to feel desired. She was also able to be sensitive to the fact that Guillaume found it difficult to see her so closed and therefore, out of resentment, out of fear of rejection, he was less inclined to show his affection to her.
They now have the tools to see how they function (Emilie withdraws when in pain and Guillaume becomes judgemental). Thus, they can defuse the situation when it arises with a better knowledge of themselves and their partner. Instead of closing in, Emilie told Guillaume what would make her feel good. Instead of judging, Guillaume checks in with Emilie when needed.
Guillaume and Emilie are now enjoying open heart-to-heart communication, a renewed sex life and a discovery of their previously unknown intimacy.
Everyone is looking for a connection with their loved ones. We want to be understood, heard, we need others to grasp our reality. To feel joy and peace is our dearest wish.
Relationship therapy will give you the means to achieve this, to feel closer, more united, and to feel really understood. Couples often say they should have come to therapy sooner had they known the results it could have brought earlier in their daily lives. So don’t hesitate and take the leap.
Couples’ therapists at Divan Bleu are here to help you move towards each other, should you be in a conventional, non-conventional, homosexual, heterosexual, or multicultural relationship. All orientations and types of loves are welcome within our walls.
Don’t hesitate to get in touch with one of our therapists. For an appointment, click here.