Each season on VH1’s reality show Couples Therapy, celebrity partners come together to work on their relationship. A team of high-profile therapists leads each couple through exercises that are meant to strengthen their connection, but the show also highlights the drama and keeps viewers tuning in to see which couples make it and which do not. Couples Therapy highlights the drama in these celebrity couples, but it also highlights a universal experience: all couples have problems to overcome. No relationship is perfect, and even the most well-connected couples will have circumstances that threaten to tear them apart. Couples Therapy also highlights another important reality: many couples are finding help from a therapist. More and more couples are going to couples therapy for the help and support they need.
“We’ve got this gift of love, but love is like a precious plant. You can’t just accept it and leave it in the cupboard or just think it’s going to get on by itself.
You’ve got to keep watering it. You’ve got to really look after it and nurture it.”
Nurturing a partner and cultivating a growing relationship takes work and care and delicacy. Many people need help to learn how to do this well. Many people have found that very help through couples counseling. Skilled therapists can often help each partner make necessary adjustments individually that make the relationship better. Many people have learned how to be better partners and better people by going to couples counseling.
The therapists and counselors at Thriveworks Counseling in Cleveland, OH have worked with many couples who were at an impasse. Everyone needs a place where they can process, feel, think, and decide. For many, that has been couples therapy at Thriveworks. Our counselors have helped many couples find a way forward that feels right for each partner.
4 Toxic Behaviors: Defensiveness, Stonewalling, Criticism, and Contempt
When partners are having a hard time in their relationship, they often feel isolated, as if no other couples have faced this challenge. In many ways, each problem that a couple has is unique. The details are one-of-a-kind, but when people look below the surface details, when couples are struggling, they are often facing one of four root problems. Dr. John Gottman conducted a famous study in which he identified four toxic behaviors that are almost always present when couples are struggling. Dr. Gottman called these behaviors The Four Horsemen because they can be predictors of whether a relationship will stand the test of time. These toxic behaviors are defensiveness, stonewalling, criticism, and contempt. Here is what they look like in daily life…
- Defensiveness — When needs, concerns, or critiques are met with excuses or blame, defensiveness may be harming the relationship. Instead of accepting responsibility for one’s own actions, defensiveness shift accountability toward outside circumstances or other people. If, for example, one partner promises the other to run a particular errand and then does not, defensiveness might explain the situation saying, “you expect so much from me. My day is too busy to do this.” A response that takes responsibility might say, “I promised to do this for you, and I did not. I’m sorry. I can prioritize it tomorrow. Does that work for you?”
- Stonewalling — Conflict can bring partners closer together, but it can also drive them apart. Stonewalling occurs when partners withdrawal from each other and from any disagreement or conflict. It may look like ignoring, denying, or minimizing problems. Couples cannot move forward because they cannot solve issues when one of both are stonewalling. It is also a hurtful tactic because stonewalling means that requests are ignored and needs are minimized.
- Criticism — All couples have disagreements. All partners fall short somehow within the relationship. These issues need to be addressed without criticism. Healthy critique or complaint stays focused upon the issue. Criticism goes after the person. Criticism may say, “you are so irresponsible. What is wrong with you?”
- Contempt — Partners should be equals and respect is the bedrock of healthy interactions. Contempt is disrespectful behavior toward a partner that is disrespectful. Contempt shames a partner. Contempt looks like mocking, put-downs, sarcasm, and eye-rolls. Contempt treats a partner as less than instead of as an equal.
Couples Therapy and Healthy Connection
These toxic behaviors can stifle a relationship, but they can be corrected. Couples who are committed to each other and who are willing to change can learn another way. Partners can learn how to build the relationship around a healthy connection. Here is what that may look like…
- Personal Responsibility — Adults take responsibility for their own feelings, thought, choices, and actions. Healthy connection takes place between two adults who accept responsibility for themselves.
- Self-Care — Being in a relationship does not erase an individual’s unique needs. Each partner can learn how to engage in self-care so that they can be their best, healthy self.
- Thankfulness — Healthy connection is full of gratitude. Happy partners see each other for who they are, weaknesses and strengths.
Appointments at Thriveworks in Cleveland for Couples Therapy
Are you and your partner struggling? If so, you are not alone. Many couples face hard times, and many couples see a couples counselor to see them through the difficulty. That is why Thriveworks Cleveland offers couples therapy, and we have appointments available. When you contact our office, know that we accept many forms of insurance. You may have your first appointment within 24 hours of your first call. Let’s work together. Call Thriveworks Cleveland today.