Wednesday, July 3, 2013
Couples counseling requires a balancing act in order to work well. If one person feels slighted or picked upon, the overall work is compromised. You don’t want to feel that the person who is supposed to be helping you is siding with your partner.
Typically, the subject that your partner and you disagree on feels crucial. Both people are bringing strong emotions to the discussion. For example, if you’re arguing about the frequency of sexual intimacy, one partner may feel very strongly that sex isn’t important enough to the other partner. This partner may feel rejected and undesirable as a result. The partner who looks like he/she is avoiding sex might be experiencing increased stress in daily life and may feel overwhelmed generally. The emotions this partner holds on a day-to-day basis can be debilitating. Is one person “right” and the other person “wrong”? No.
Both people are affected negatively by this disconnect in the relationship. The counselor might want them to talk to each other in the counseling session about their feelings on the topic, to explore the significance of sex, perhaps to even try some problem-solving around this subject. The counselor might help the couple build upon their knowledge of each other and their friendship. The relationship may exhibit other issues that could lead the counselor to work with the couple in building specific skills to improve the relationship. Additionally, do other factors exist that affect the sexual aspect of their relationship—medical problems, substance abuse, depression? These factors would need to be addressed as well.
In most cases, there is no “right” or “wrong” person. Counselors can look at the process of how the couple relates. Counselors can help couples focus on resolvable issues, rather than perpetual issues. Counselors can help couples learn new skills and improve upon existing skills.
Counselors that help couples transform how they relate to each other, stand a great chance of helping couples gain the knowledge to improve their relationship and love fully.
Anita M. O’Donnell, M.Ed., LPCMH, NCC provides individual and couples counseling in Wilmington, Delaware through her company SuccessWorks Unlimited, Inc. She also offers telephonic and face-to-face coaching. Ms. O’Donnell earned her M.Ed. from Temple University in Philadelphia in 1991. You can follow her at www.facebook.com/YourBestLifeToday and through her website www.successworksunltd.com.
Thursday, April 18, 2013
When someone says, “She (or he) is just a friend,” this generally means the relationship is not romantic, not sexual and not too intimate. It is also understood to mean, “You need not take this too seriously.”
On the other hand we sometimes hear someone say in a reverent way about a spouse, or a partner, “He (or she) is my best friend.” This is saying, “Yes, lots of people are married, lots of people have sex and live together, but what we share is a special trust, support and a rich love.”
What does it take to have this rich enviable friendship? For a start it takes risking being open about one’s feelings, being gently honest about what one thinks and does, being able to deal with disagreements in a relatively calm manner and being able to negotiate differences.
Unfortunately these skills are rarely taught in childhood. Instead many of us learned not to trust because we found caregivers not safe, not trustworthy and it was not smart to trust. Suspicion and fear are often survival skills in childhood but as an adult they can impede love. To learn how to be a true friend and how to choose someone trustworthy may take relearning in a safe environment.
In effective relationship therapy you may learn techniques, like how to let another person know that you heard what they said by repeating what you think you heard back to them and checking to see if you are correct. You may learn certain "no-no's" like telling someone they "should" do or be a different way. That is a sure way to create distance in a relationship very quickly, almost as fast as by telling someone they are stupid. These things certainly do not gain intimacy.
But most effective may be observing the therapist's style and emotional tone. Or you may notice that the therapist may see things very differently from the way you have seen them and wonder what he sees that you don't. You may explore why your partner's comments are so upsetting to you. What does it remind you of in your history? It can be very helpful to have a wise and experienced guide to do this and feel safe.
Gil Shepard is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in Walnut Creek, California