“We are never so vulnerable as when we love.”
Why marriage counseling (aka couples therapy)? Do you and your partner…
- feel frustrated/helpless because you two can’t get out of heated arguments, despite how arguing has been extremely hurtful and unproductive?
- feel saddened/hurt by the distance, coldness, and disconnection in your relationship, while not knowing what to do about it?
- feel disrespected, belittled, or controlled by your partner, while s/he doesn’t seem to get or care how much this is hurting you?
- feel devastated by a loss or a betrayal (e.g. an affair), and don’t know whether or how to save your relationship?
- waver between leaving and staying, and want some help to decide one way or another?
Though this list is not exhaustive, if some of these questions resonate with you, you will find it helpful to talk to a professional about what’s happening in your relationship. We repeat what we don’t repair.
**If you are seeking services for your child or as an individual, please go to Child Therapy or Individual Therapy. To see why people want to see a clinical psychologist, visit Common Concerns.
**Why couples can’t stop fighting
Making the first step might not be easy…
Because therapy is first and foremost a personal experience, how it works, how you feel about and respond to it, and what benefits you could gain from it are best experienced through a consultation. However, that is easier said than done. These following questions might be on your mind.
How do I know…
- my relationship needs help? (Some of these checklists might help.)
- what to expect?
- that I won’t be judged?
- that my relationship issues are in fact resolvable?
These are all legitimate questions, and well worth exploring. An initial consultation will provide an opportunity for us to address these questions together.
**Common relationship mistakes
Does this sound like your situation?
When a couple comes in to see us, they are usually at a stage where their relationship has caused a distressful amount of hurt, distance, pain, disappointment, and resentment. Some of these distresses are communicated through open conflicts or non-verbal tension that permeates the fabric of the relationship. Some other couples find themselves dealing with a betrayal so significant that they wonder if they should just pack and leave, or if they should stay and work on repair. Either way, couples often have lost sight of how they ended up at this very unhappy place.
Therapy can provide a way for couples to identify unmet needs behind their unsuccessful communication, gain control of their unhelpful patterns, learn new skills to communicate effectively, and gain insights into what triggers unhelpful behavior.
**Things to avoid during an argument
Michelle Obama: “marriage counseling was a turning point for me” and “even the best marriages require work“.
What if we want to find out more?
If you feel uncertain about what you need, or unsure if I am the right person for the two of you, know that these are all legitimate concerns. The purpose of an initial consultation is for you to tell me what you are struggling with and to find out how I work, and then you two can decide if working with me is something that suits and feels right for both of you.
**Couples who stay together connect emotionally
Are you two contemplating divorce?
Some couples are looking to part ways in a manner that is less litigious and leaves room for constructive co-parenting. This is an intelligent decision and worthy goal, and it will feel more reachable if there is a space for the two of you to work out your differences and how you anticipate these differences might cause problems.
If you suspect your child might be struggling with feelings associated with marital separation or divorce, you might find my new book Talking to Children about Divorce helpful.
How Dr. Bertie Wai works
When working with couples, I focus first on getting a sense of the issues that couples are grappling with: is it communication, is it distance, is it a lack of trust and intimacy, is it a perpetual feeling of being disrespected, left, misunderstood, or un-cared for? Then we work on locating how these issues manifest in the relationship and how the interaction between the couple keeps these issues alive.
**Marriage advice from a couples therapist
One of the ways in which therapy unfolds (each course of therapy is different and so it will be hard to generalize) is that we often discover unhelpful paradigms that keep both partners feeling stuck and dissatisfied. For example, one such paradigm is that one partner feels that to keep the peace one has to be silent about negative feelings. Another paradigm is that to avoid being controlled one has to maintain distance in the relationship. There are many such unhelpful paradigms. And as one can see, these mental paradigms solve one problem for the individual but create problems for the relationship. Once partners understand how these difficulties are created in the first place, they can begin to make adjustments to find creative solutions that go towards building the relationship rather than undermining it.
Visit the Therapy Q & A page for more info.
View my SCMP articles on marriage as well as other topics.
The Power of You!
If you and your partner are not at a place where therapy is an option, visit our Relationship Kit for self-help tips.
When it comes to working on your relationship, remember the Serenity Prayer. Focus on what YOU can change, and start there. You will discover the power you have on changing your partner, when YOUR own behavior shifts.
Food for thought…
Marital Warning Signs
Divorce attorneys have this to say about who will divorce…
From the how-tos, to the how-comes, to navigating emotionally-charged topics!
What can couples therapy accomplish?
Your Child Might Also Be Suffering
“…when conflict is chronic and parents aren’t able to come to resolution, it can become problematic from the children’s standpoint.”
**Do’s and Don’ts on how to child-proof your divorce.
**How to co-parent with an ex
A Simple Script To Detox Marital Conflicts
Are marital problems related to one’s own upbringing?
If you are considering couples therapy, the following resources might be relevant:
Other signs that indicate couples therapy might be needed.
What if my partner refuses to go to couples therapy?
Can couples heal from an affair?
What NOT to do after an affair
Some initial pointers on how to get the most out of couples therapy.