“Is this normal?”
“What’s wrong with us?”
“Where are we going?”
These questions often plague individuals in emotionally committed relationships when they run into issues that, on the surface, seem impossible to overcome. What is it that finally propels couples to take the step into couples therapy? Many couples decide to enter couples therapy as a final step before separation or divorce. Others just hit points in their relationship when they experience frequent and unsolvable conflict.
Whatever the reason for seeking out couples therapy, it is an important decision – one often rife with anxiety. Whether you’re considering couples therapy as a last resort or not, it is not going to be anxiety-free. However, I suppose your relationship has not exactly been without anxiety and pressure prior to coming into couples therapy. As a leading couples therapist, David Schnarch, asks, “Did the pilgrims venture to the new world because they were brave or because they couldn’t stand where they were (Schnarch 2009)?”
As a couples therapist, I have compassion for the individuals that make the decision to come into counseling to take a hard look at themselves and their relationship; it is something not everyone is willing to do. My goal with couples is to provide both partners with an honest and direct perspective to help them work toward fundamental change in the relationship. There is no need to dance around issues and waste time. Telling the truth and tolerating the truth are going to be foundational aspects of couple’s therapy to really effect change.
Is It Normal to Have Conflict?
To answer the previous common questions posed by couples, “Is it normal to have conflict?” Yes! The problems you and your partner are experiencing are not only normal, but even expected (Schnarch 2009)! Not only that, the tension is what gives each partner and the relationship the potential to grow. You have the opportunity to use what seem like impossible problems as opportunities for growth and mature love instead of as confirmation that you’re “just not meant to be.”
What’s Wrong With Us?
It is also not a question of what’s wrong with you and your partner. Maybe a better question would be, “What am I doing that is contributing to not only my relationship problems but also my own individual problems that keep us both stuck?” These questions are extremely difficult to ask ourselves because we often believe it is much easier to blame our partner than to look at what we ourselves are doing (Schnarch 2014).
Where Are We Going?
As for where you and your partner are going, that is solely up to you and your partner. No matter how tumultuous your relationship or marriage currently feels, change is possible. You will both be directly confronted with your fears whether you enter couples therapy or not – the fear that things may change or that they may stay the same. I, as the therapist, am not here to tell you where to go, but rather to help you look into your gridlocked issues and into yourself, and discover how these impact your relationship and your partner. You will decide what you want to do with that information. A more accurate question may be “Will you move forward into growth or regress back to your old ways and stay where you are?” The choice is yours. We are here when you are ready to enter the journey into change.
Schnarch, D. M. (2009). Intimacy & desire: awaken the passion in your relationship. New York, NY: Beaufort Books.
Schnarch, D. (2014, June 22). Removing The Masks: Let’s stop wasting time [Web log post]. Retrieved May 17, 2017, from https://www.psychotherapynetworker.org/blog/details/566/removing-the-masks