Couples Therapy is a reality TV show that follows celebrity couples as they work through difficulties in their relationships. Like many other reality TV shows, it highlights the drama of being in a relationship and focuses upon whether couples will split or whether they will work through their troubles. The show’s goal, of course, is to keep views on the edge of their seats and tuning into the next show. However, it is also accomplishing something else that may be beneficial to many other couples. The show highlights that relationships take work, all couples have challenges, and that difficulties may be overcome.
“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.”
Cultivating a relationship and nurturing a life-partner are often easier said than done. It is ok to need help and to ask for help as a couple. Many people do, and they have found that couples counseling was the safe place they needed to reflect upon their relationship and make needed adjustments. In many cases, the couple may grow stronger through the conflict. In other cases, they may be able to continue their relationship as friends in an amicable and peaceful way. Skilled couples therapists can often guide that process as the couple chooses.
The professionals are Thriveworks Harrisonburg offer couples therapy because we know that every couples faces hard time, and every couple needs a safe space to feel, think, process, and move forward. Many couples at Thriveworks Harrisonburg have left their time in counseling stronger both individually and as a couple.
Four Key Relationship Problems and Couples Counseling
In his famous study on partners and how they relate to one another, Dr. John Gottman identified four of the biggest problems that couples face. Dr. Gottman called them “The Four Horsemen” because without correction, these four behaviors often lead to the end of a relationship. They are particularly toxic problems that inhibit connection and intimacy. They are defensiveness, stonewalling, criticism, and contempt. Here is a picture of how each functions in a relationship…
- Defensiveness — When one or both partners respond to the other’s needs, concerns, or critiques with excuses, then defensiveness has seeped into the relationship. Defensiveness shifts responsibility from oneself to another person or to one’s circumstances. For example, if one partner promised to run an errand but did not, they may respond defensively when asked about their day, “how could you expect me to do that today? You know what a busy day I had.” A more humble response would say, “I promised to pick that up for you, and I did not. I am sorry. I will prioritize it tomorrow. Is that ok?”
- Stonewalling — Denying a problem, minimizing it, looking the other way—there are all ways partners can stonewall. It involves one or both partners removing themselves from a disagreement instead of engaging it or working together to solve it. It is a chilling response whereas healthy couples honor each other’s requests and needs, even as they disagree.
- Criticism — Attacking someone personally is a common form of criticism. All couples will have critiques and complaints. There is nothing wrong with saying, “I was worried… or I felt frustrated… or I was confused.” Criticism, in contrast, goes after the person instead of the issue. Criticism sounds like, “you are so inconsiderate… you are irresponsible… you are a terrible communicator.”
- Contempt — Disrespect is at the heart of contempt. Any action that is mean and degrading is contemptuous. It often looks like eye-rolls, mocking, sarcasm, and put-downs. Any gesture, word, or action that makes a partner feel less than is filled with contempt.
If you and your partner can identify one or more of these behaviors, it may be time to reach out for help. Learning healthier ways of connecting and dealing with conflict is possible, and many people go to couples therapy to learn how.
How Might Couples Therapy Help?
Skilled couples counselors may guide couples to understanding how these toxic behaviors have become a part of their relationship and how to course-correct. For example, therapists may teach partners how to…
- Accept Personal Responsibility — Strong individuals come together to form strong partnerships. Each partner needs to own their actions, choices, and attitudes.
- Practice Self-Care — Sometimes, it is ok to take a break, rest, and then come back to the conflict. Learning to listen to one’s own emotional and physical needs is important.
- Use “I” Statements — Explanation is better than attack. Couples can communicate about difficult experiences through “I” statements such as “I felt disappointed.”
- Build Appreciation — Healthy couples appreciate each partner for who they are, strengths and weaknesses.
Couples Therapy Appointments at Thriveworks Harrisonburg
If you are ready to learn more about what healthy relationships look like, Thriveworks Harrisonburg is ready to help. We have appointments for couples counseling. When contact our office, you and your partner may be meeting with your therapist the following day. Our office does not keep a waitlist, so you will never be put on one. We accept many forms of insurance, and we offer evening and weekend sessions.
Healthy relationships are possible. Everyone needs help. Call Thriveworks Harrisonburg today.