What We Might Learn in Couples Therapy – Free Ebook

Like many things that help our relationships, couples therapy has a habit of sounding appallingly

unromantic, involving patience, gruelling
work and a host of embarrassing conversations

about matters it would be much nicer never
to have to think about – let alone discuss

with a partner and a trained stranger. Our
culture teaches us to trust and follow our

feelings. But couples therapy knows this is
to be a disaster, for our feelings are for

the most part errant and encoded with primitive
responses from a troubled past. So instead,

it encourages a far wiser response: standing
well back from our first impulses, neutralising

them through understanding and where possible
rerouting them in less self-punishing and

more trusting directions. Related image Living
alongside another person is obviously one

of the hardest things we ever attempt; we
should expect to get it wrong unaided and

feel unashamed about the need for in-depth
training. There are a number of vital things

we might learn in couples therapy: – For
a start, in a quiet room, we finally have

the chance to define what we feel the problems
in the relationship really are – without

things immediately degenerating into shouting,
sulking or cynical avoidance. We’re normally

far too cross with, or upset by, our partner
to be able to share with them, in a way they’d

understand, what we’re so angry and upset
about. It helps to be in front of a stranger

we’re both a little intimidated by and have
to behave ourselves with. It is highly unusual

to be able to put things so starkly but also
so reasonably: ‘That you never touch me

and behave so limply and unenthusiastically
when I touch you is slowly killing me – and

though I love you, I don’t know how much
longer I can take it…’ How much better

than a decade of low level sniping and repressed
fury. – Secondly, therapists are skilled

at teasing out from us why what bothers us
bother us. Normally, left to our own devices,

we don’t unearth the emotional meaning behind
our positions. We squabble about where to

go on the weekend, rather than explaining
what exactly going out or staying in represents

for us internally. And as a result, the other
finds us merely stubborn and mean; and all

that is interesting and poignant in our position
is lost. – Thirdly, therapists break up

unseen repeated patterns of upset and retaliation.
A classic therapeutic game is to ask both

parties to fill in the blanks: When you ….., I
feel ….. – and I respond by …. So when

you disregard the children, I feel rejected
and then respond by trying to control who

you see in the evenings. Or when you don’t
touch me in bed, I feel invisible and respond

by being ungrateful about your money. – With
the therapist acting as an honest broker,

new contracts can be drawn up, along the lines
of: If you do x, I will do y… Once we get

a little bit of what we really want (but usually
haven’t properly asked for), the other’s

needs feel a lot less onerous and hateful.
– Sometimes the advice is almost beautifully

pedantic. Name three things you resent about
your partner. And, next, three things you

deeply appreciate. Also, keep the criticism
specific: not ‘you’re cold and ungrateful’

but ‘if you can call me when you’re running
late, then…’ Families can be kept intact

with little more than this. Image result for
matisse paintings love – Through therapy,

we are challenged to abandon some of our grimmer
ideas about how people can be and what will

happen to us in love: If I am vulnerable,
I am not necessarily going to be hurt… I

might try to explain, and the other could
listen… We are given the security to throw

out some of the scripts we grew up with about
the futility of ever trying to be understood.

– We can start to be moved by one another’s
pain. What does it feel like, a good therapist

will ask, to hear your partner explain how
it is for them when you… We can start to

take care of each other. A remarkable idea
comes to the fore; that this isn’t really

our enemy, that they – like us – have
some very bad ways of getting across what

are, at heart, some very understandable and
touching needs. Couples therapy is a classroom

where we can learn how to love. We’re normally
so embarrassed at not having the first clue

how to do so, we leave things until we are
too angry or despairing to do anything but

hate. The most hopeful and therefore romantic
thing we can ever do in love is sometimes

to declare that we haven’t yet learned how
to love – but, with a little help, are very

keen to learn one day.

The School of Life offers professional couples counselling with qualified psychiatrists that can

benifit people at all stages of their relationships. If you would like to learn more, click the link on your screen now.

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