We often hear of high-profile celebrity couples going through disagreements, challenges, or some other form of drama. The reality, of course, is that while these couples may be celebrities, they are not unique. Conflict and other difficulties are normal within any relationship.
Giving your best and your all to a relationship is easier said than done. Caring for your partner through the good times and bad is a romantic ideal, but it is a lot of hard work in reality. There’s no shame in seeking help to accomplish this — in fact, many couples choose to get support from a couples counselor in order to overcome their challenges and keep their relationship healthy. Therapy can be a place where each partner grows as an individual and where the couple grows closer within their relationship.
Thriveworks in Chicago, IL offers couples counseling because we know that it takes hard work to make a relationship work. That work is often worth it, and a little support along the way can help. Our therapists and counselors have helped many couples strengthen their relationships and are ready to help you with yours.
Four Common Relationship Problems
Dr. John Gottman has conducted famous studies on what keeps couples together and what drives them apart. The surface-level challenges that cause couples trouble can vary greatly but there are typically four toxic behaviors at the root of those challenges that can destroy intimacy.
These four behaviors, what Dr. Gottman called The Four Horsemen, are defensiveness, stonewalling, criticism, and contempt. When one or more of these horsemen are present in a relationship, the couple may need to take action. Here is how to recognize these behaviors in a relationship:
- Defensiveness — When partners do not accept responsibility for their own actions, they often are defensive. Defensiveness places accountability for one’s own actions upon other people or upon circumstances. Healthy relationships are built between two people who accept accountability and responsibility for their own feelings, thoughts, choices, and actions. When one or both partners are defensive, they respond to any issue by placing blame elsewhere. When confronted with a shortcoming, defensiveness looks like “how could you even say that? You know how stressed out I am.” A response that accepts responsibility looks like, “I promised to do that, but I did not. I am sorry. I will prioritize it and get it done as soon as possible.”
- Stonewalling — When partners withdraw from each other during conflict, this is called stonewalling. It looks like denying and minimizing problems — sweeping them under the rug instead of working through them. When couples do not respond to each other’s needs, partners grow apart instead of together.
- Criticism — Complaints and critiques are normal to any healthy relationship. When done with respect, these are opportunities for each partner to learn more about each other and listen to one another. A respectful critique looks like, “I did not know why the money had been withdrawn from the account, and I felt nervous when I saw it was gone.” Criticism is a different beast. Criticism attacks the other person instead of addressing one’s own feelings or the issue itself. Criticism looks like, “why are you so irresponsible with money? Do you want us to struggle?” Criticism places each partner against each other instead of together working to solve a problem.
- Contempt — This may be the most toxic of the Four Horsemen. Contempt is disrespectful and demeaning behavior toward a partner. It is based in shame and makes partners feel less than instead of equals. It looks like eye-rolls, mocking, and sarcasm.
These four behaviors can threaten the stability of any couple’s relationship. The good news is that when they are recognized, the behaviors can be changed. If you’re ready to make a change, the couples therapists at Thriveworks in Chicago, IL can help you find healthier, more effective ways to connect and move forward.
Beginning Relationship Counseling at Thriveworks in Chicago, IL
If you and your partner are struggling, it may be time to reach out for help. The couples counselors at Thriveworks have helped many partners learn how to:
- Appreciate each other for who they are, not who they are not.
- Stop blaming and accept personal responsibility for their own actions, feelings, choices, and attitudes.
- Advocate for their own needs within the relationship.
If you are ready to meet with a counselor or therapist about your relationship, know that Thriveworks in Chicago, IL offers couples counseling, and we have appointments available. When you contact our office, you and your partner can find a time that works for you — we offer weekend and evening sessions and even offer remote therapy appointments by phone call or video chat. We also accept many forms of insurance.
Call Thriveworks in Chicago, IL to schedule a couples therapy session today.