Are you in a troubled relationship and do not know what to do? Are you considering couples counseling?
Which are the pros and cons, and how do you know if it’s the right time for getting help from an expert?
Cultivating a healthy relationship is one of the hardest things to do. Romantic relationships can become a major cause of suffering. Each of us experiences, throughout relationships, the highest joys but also the deepest sufferings: betrayal, abandonment, resentment, anger, disappointed expectations, a sense of failure… However, in relationships, when there is suffering there cannot be a sacred, harmonious union of two souls. The amount of suffering within a relationship, be it large or small, is always an alert signal that points to something that needs to observed, analyzed, and healed. Most of the time, we try to solve our problems by discussing them with our partner, within our relationship.
Theoretically, it makes sense and seems to be the most sensible thing to do, but…
Unfortunately, in most cases, it does not end well. In most cases, after having discussed the ‘problem’ with our partner things have worsened. Problems are not fully and openly disclosed, because each partner keeps to its own domain. A healthy committed relationship involves open and honest communication between two parties.
If your relationship has been struggling in various ways, then you may want to consider seeking out couples therapy.
Image by Vera Arsic from Pexels
However, for some people, it is difficult to look for solutions to their relationship problems outside of their own relationship field. Some people reject the idea of seeing a couples counselor because they think it is a sign of ‘weakness’ or even worse: a ‘failure’. Something they should be ashamed of doing. The idea of sharing their deepest fears and emotional scars with a ’stranger’ goes beyond their imagination. In doing so, they prevent themselves and their relationship from analyzing their problems and seeing things from a different perspective.
But real life does not work that way.
Going to see a couples counselor is simply an opportunity to solve the problems in a relationship once and for all. Unfortunately, most couples wait much too long to reach out for help repairing their relationship. According to relationship and marriage expert Dr. John Gottman, couples wait for an average of six years of being unhappy before getting help.
Couples therapy is an important tool for couples who want to save their relationship. Couples have the chance to talk about what is going on in their relationship in a safe environment, out of any judgment. A couples therapy’s cornerstone is, in fact, the complete absence of judgment from the therapist.
In a couple, when problems arise, one of the first things both partners do is to blame their significant other for the problems in their relationship. They judge their partner and, as a consequence, begin to consider their partner as ‘the only source of the problem’. This is judgment, and nothing good comes out of judgment. But, once more, real life does not work that way.
As we write in Chapter 1.4 (Projections: how to heal our romantic relationships) from our book We Are Human Angels, We Inspire Change: “Judging your partner, thinking of them as being wrong, is but a trick of the ego: “They are immature”, “They are egotistic”, “They are not reliable”, “They betrayed me”, “They were scared of my love”, “I do not feel wanted by them”, “They do not respect me”, “They still love their ex-partner”, “They do not trust me”, “They are unable to love”, ... Everything that you disapprove of in your partner, everything that you judge as a fault, everything that you find unacceptable, is you manifesting it through your partner and vice versa. If you judge your partner from outside the perspective of the Oneness, separate from yourself, how can you really love them? Use your partner as a mirror to see yourself more intimately and deeply and start to feel that you are your partner and your partner is you, beyond any judgment. Begin to recognize and to accept yourself through them. Start to feel that your partner is your projection as you are theirs. Become conscious that your relationship is your co-creation and not the result of the inadequacies and unsolved problems you believe your partner to have.”
A couples counselor cancels out any form of judgment and puts both partners in the position of going beyond their limitations. When we argue with our significant other, what we mostly tend to do is (either consciously or unconsciously) to figure out how to create either a line of attack or of defense.
But a relationship is not a one-way road. It is a journey to be shared, even when it seems uncomfortable to do so.
Whether you are in a marriage or if you are simply seeing someone that you love very much, it is crucial to try to save what you have. If you value your relationship with your significant other, then you will have to come to terms with various aspects of their personality.
Most couples tend to forget too often, and sometimes too easily, the good things about their partner that have made them falling in love with their significant other. This frantic world seems to detach ourselves from acknowledging the good things we have in our lives, including our partner's qualities. If the partner has not shown an abusive behavior towards their significant other, chances are that the relationship is not as bad as it seems and that it is important to try to save it.
A couples counselor can do this, or at least can help the couple to start a process of self-analysis, and mutual understanding.
But what if you are not yet ready for couples counseling and want to try something new to better discuss the problems with your partner without the help of an expert? Is there a way to do so?
It goes without saying that couples therapy can be a great way to reconnect with your partner. However, there are also many other ways to make sure you keep the spark alive and the relationship healthy without seeing a professional.
There are five things that you and your partner can do together to regain the peace and harmony that was once spreading light over your relationship. You can try the following test.
It is a sort of Q&A test that you can do together, or you can write the questions down and then think about those questions during the day. When you come home, you can compare the answers with those of your partner, and maybe remember that you still love and cherish your partner so much!
At the end of this test, we give you another intriguing suggestion on how to release your anger and stress that you are experiencing because of a troubled relationship. It is going to surprise you!
This test is a great activity for those who want to make changes or solve some difficult relationship problems. It has a ‘soft’ approach but helps the couple to remember their special connection while helping them learn more about both themselves and their partner.
Here’s the little test: What do you think keeps your relationship happy and healthy?
Begin asking, both yourself and your partner:
- What are the good qualities which first drew me to you?
- What are the most cherished memories of our time together?
- What do I most appreciate in my partner?
- What are the things my partner does to show me how much they care about me?
Once you have finished answering, compare the answers. You will find lots of things in common, and this will help you remember that your relationship has solid foundations.
Then you can keep going on with a more in-depth test. Please do not forget to do these things lightheartedly, without feeling too much involved and try not to overstress your partner if he/she is not answering promptly.
- Play the Truth Game
Ask your partner a few questions like:
- What’s your biggest fear?
- If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you be and why?
- What’s a fond childhood memory that’s close to your heart?
- Which song truly speaks to you?
- Who is someone who inspires you?
This simple game can get you and your partner sharing intimate and meaningful details, thus improving your connection and building up your strong relationship base.
2. Do an Appreciative Examination of the current state of your Relationship
When a couple is having trouble in their relationship, it can sometimes help to dig deeper into the good things that brought that couple together rather than focusing on the problems they are experiencing. An Appreciative Inquiry (AI) examines what gives life to a relationship and what keeps that relationship alive and working. As a couple, you can run an examination of your relationship through positive questions and respectful inquiry.
A couple can use this approach to open up their past and look at their successes, values, and strengths as a couple.
This helps the couple to remember that they are a team, sharing common goals and desires. An AI is composed of five sections:
1. Identify what are the aspects of an Important Relationship
- This section requires an effort to be as descriptive as possible with your answers, looking at the current state of the relationship and the feelings toward your partner and things between you.
- 2. Discover
This is divided into two steps.
- First, a Celebration exercise in which each partner recalls a shared experience that is worth celebrating again. Ask yourself: what exactly happened at that moment to make it so special? What is it that made it so positive? What qualities did you bring to make that moment so enjoyable? Both of you have to ask those questions. Then compare the answers and highlight the points in common.
- Next, a Maintenance activity. Start thinking about which is your own most positive contribution to sustaining the relationship, and your partner’s. What do you both do to keep your relationship developing healthily with mutual understanding and respect? What really works about that contribution and what doesn’t?
3. Dream of Future – Your next step will be to envision your perfect future together. Not just the possible future that’s already ahead of you. To do this, close your eyes and visualize how you would like things to be? Did you have a dream you weren’t able to share with your partner? What are your most profound aspirations and dreams and how can you bring those dreams into your relationship? What words could your partner use to describe you that would make you feel proud?
4. Design – After sharing your dreams, the next step is about figuring out concrete steps that you yourself could take in order to bring the future you dream of to the next level. Think about your strengths and how those might help you in achieving your goals and experiencing a harmonious relationship.
5. Destiny – This is the final step of this process of introspection. Lay out openly and honestly your intentions so that you can commit yourself to those intentions. Start with the basics. Think of this final step as the laying of the foundation stone of your new house. This will help you stay motivated when problems and obstacles will arise. If you are lacking self-confidence, think of all your values, as well as why the relationship itself and your intentions are so important for you.
By analyzing these 5 points, the couple is encouraged to remember the good things in their relationship and commit in a meaningful way to positive change that builds on their strengths.
And now, the last thing to do: Start a Pillow Fight!
Pillow fight is the opposite of Pillow Talks. Pillow fight is a powerful way to release anger towards the partner in a way that helps both the ‘contenders’ to express a bit of resentment towards their significant other joyfully, out of any aggressive behavior. It’s just a game! Both the persons involved can use Pillow Fight as a ‘tool’ to free their negative emotions because a pillow fight is based on fun and joy, rather than anger and resentment. Through affectionate fights, a couple can regain their deepest intimacy, and maybe discover something new and interesting about their partner.
Who knows, maybe a pillow fight helps discover a couple of new things about each other, and add a new dimension of intimacy to the relationship.
Never forget a simple Truth: no relationship is without an occasional problem, and even the best can benefit from some concerted effort on the part of each partner. Whether you have just begun a new relationship or you are going on your 50th anniversary, there is still more to learn about your partner and more new and interesting things to do together!
There’s a better future ahead!