The VH1 show Couples Therapy follows six celebrity couples each season as they work on their relationship. A staff of highly trained couples counselors leads them through different exercises. The reality show focuses upon the drama—which couples will stay together and which will split. In many ways, couples therapy is very different than the show, but in some important ways, it is the same. The show has highlighted the fact that all couples struggle. It is normal to disagree, conflict, and struggle in a relationship. The show also highlights how it is important to reach out for help.
“Nobody can predict the future. You just have to give your all to the relationship you’re in and do your best to take care of your partner, communicate and give them every last drop of love you have. I think one of the most important things in a relationship is caring for your significant other through good times and bad.”
Many times, giving your all to the relationship looks like asking a therapist or counselor to guide you and your partner through rough waters. Couples therapy can be a safe place for partners to grow personally and within the relationship. It may also be a place where couples can transition their relationship to a friendship in a peaceable and amicable way.
The counselors and therapists at Thriveworks Counseling in Chapel Hill work hard to make couples therapy a safe place for each partner. Many couples have found our staff an invaluable aid as they explored their relationship. No one can predict the future, but the professionals at Thriveworks have helped many couples grow stronger as individuals and as partners.
Couples Therapy and 4 Relationship Problems
Psychologist Dr. John Gottman famously studied couples and whether their relationships would persist. In his decades of research, he identified four relationship problems that are particularly toxic. The called these The Four Horsemen, and they are criticism, defensiveness, contempt, and stonewalling. When these are present in a relationship, the couple will often end their relationship. Here is what they look like in a relationship:
- Criticism — Partners can voice a complaint or a critique in a respectful way, but criticism attacks the person. For example, a respectful complaint would be, “I felt nervous when I saw money had been withdrawn from our account, and I did not know what the money was used for.” A criticism looks like, “you are so irresponsible with our finances. Do you want to ruin us?” Can you hear the difference? It is the difference between partners solving a problem together, and partners being on opposite sides of a conflict.
- Defensiveness — When a partner uses excuses to answer a respectful criticism, then this is defensiveness. Instead of accepting responsibility for one’s actions like an adult, defensiveness puts responsibility upon circumstances and other people. For example, when one partner asks another whether they have scheduled an oil change for the car, the partner responds with defensiveness when they say, “This day has been terrible. How can you expect me to take care of that now?” Instead, a humble response would say, “I told you I would take care of that errand, and I did not. I’m sorry. It will be my priority tomorrow.”
- Contempt — Being mean and disrespectful to a partner is acting with contempt. When one partner communications that they are smarter or better or richer or anything more than their partner, this is contempt because it also communicates that the partner is less than. In real life, contempt looks like sarcasm, eye-rolls, put-downs, mocking, and more. Dr. Gottman identifies contempt as the most dangerous horseman to any relationship.
- Stonewalling — Denial, minimization, and withdrawal are all signs of stonewalling. When partners remove themselves from conflict instead of working together, this is stonewalling. Partners may not respond to each other, honoring each other’s needs and requests.
If you recognize any of these horsemen in your relationship, know that couples can change. They can learn new, healthier ways to relate. How?
Why Start Couples Therapy?
Skilled therapists can help couples identify the toxic patterns in their relationship and teach them coping and conflict skills they need to relate to each other in a healthy way. Here are a few of the ways that counselors may help couples:
- Building Appreciation — Couples can learn to see their partner for who they are and appreciate their strengths.
- Accepting Personal Responsibility — Strong couples are made of strong individuals. Each person needs to accept responsibility for their own choices, actions, and attitudes.
- Self-Care — When each partner learns when they need breaks and how to care for their unique emotional and physical needs, the couple often flourishes.
- Use “I” Statements — Instead of attacking a partner, explain one’s own experiences with “I” statements. For example, “I was scared… I was disappointed… I was frustrated.”
Scheduling Couples Counseling at Thriveworks in Chapel Hill, NC
If your relationship is going through a challenging time, know that you are not alone. Many couples face difficult seasons, and many couples come through those seasons stronger as individuals and as partners. Many partners lean upon a couples therapist during that time. The counselors at Thriveworks offer couples therapy, and they have appointments available. When you call our office, you and your partner may have your first appointment the following day. We offer evening and weekend appointments, and we accept many forms of insurance.
Let’s work for a healthier relationship. Call our office today.