And yet, what often brings couples to counseling are those very changes that seem so intolerable and unexpected: "He's so irresponsible with money", "She's so disorganized", "He's so illusive, I can't seem to get a straight answer from him", "She flirts with other people" .... And in the sea of complaints and finger-pointing, deep down I know that most of the complaints are not truly surprises once the person starts to think about how their partner was when they first got together.
Based on the research of Dr. John Gottman and his famous Marriage Clinic, couples wait on average of 6 years from the time marital tensions began to the time they seek professional help. So between our misconceptions of who, why couples seek therapy, along with our apparent ability to tolerate a least 6 years worth of marital disconnection, when is actually a good time to seek couples therapy before it's too late? Here are a few pointers.
It usually starts pretty innocently: a text exchange, a reconnection via Facebook, a regular coffee date to catch up, but before you know it, you're sharing more personal information with this other person than your spouse or significant other. While everyone should be entitled to have a private life outside of their core intimate relationship, how do you know if you've entered the world of emotional affairs? Here are a few tell-tale signs.
All relationships entail some degree of power dynamics. If you're in a marriage where things are relatively equal (either you agree on almost every decision or you have consciously agreed that you will each have your departments of decision-making power) then you're not feeling a constant push and pull. But I see a lot couples with power imbalances that can become real relationship killers.
One of the frequent relationship issues that people seek individual counseling for is the perennial question whether to stay in or leave a relationship. While there are many variable to consider from one case to the next, there are some key elements to consider before you make a decision. Here are a few…
You're smart, charming, accomplished, you know you're going places, yet something is missing. You've gone on blind dates and you're trying to keep up with the various dating apps, but it seems impossible to find someone who really gets you. Plus who has the time? There are many reasons that professional success doesn't always translate into romantic success. Here are a few of the most common issues that may be getting in the way of finding your love-match.
One of my favorite aspects of providing couples therapy is the individual growth that I see in my clients. Clients come in for their relationship and midway through then process, they end up with so much insight into their respective individual stories to find compassion for each other. Because we define ourselves in and through relationships, couples counseling is actually an ideal venue through which we can learn to undo our life long defenses and become the best versions of ourselves we can be.
No marriage gets through life unscathed. You can always count on some hurt feelings, emotional injuries that rear their ugly head on occasion, but nothing (nothing!) is as painful as uncovering an affair. Both the injured and the injurer will be hit by a tsunami of thoughts and emotions; often left drowning if they are not guided through a recovery process to get them back on their feet by a therapist who knows how to work with this very specific issue.
When couples come for counseling, more often than not, sex or lack of sex or not enough sex comes up. Some variation of these come up because for one, I will ask about it, and also because it is such a hot topic, fraught with layers of vulnerabilities that it's unavoidable. These discussions about sexual intimacy in couples counseling always lead me to introduce the Dual Control Model (DCM), as brilliantly summarized by Emily Nagoski, Ph.D. in her book "Come As You Are."