When people seek couples therapy, a common complaint for both is often the lack of emotional connection. This isn’t surprising when there are so many things that can come between two people and dim their attachment. For example, disagreements, professional commitments, and blended family issues—like how to manage in-laws, can all contribute to this devastating breakdown. Not to mention, general distractions or worries about the kids, finances, and much more.
All of these external stressors can strain the relationship. Hence, the emotional connection points are frayed, limited, or non-existent. The challenge is, how do they make their way back to each other when life circumstances and unproductive communication patterns pose barriers to the emotional connection all humans crave? Let’s take a look at how couples therapy can help…
Stepping Back In
To begin, we must take a deep breath and set aside hurt feelings. It’s important to realize that chances are good that your partner is also missing a deeper emotional connection. This is how we step back in. Of course, you might be thinking this is a nice concept, but what are the definitive steps of doing the work in couples therapy?
Affirming Our Connection
Every couple has their relationship history regarding the way they affirm their connection to each other. For starters, one might look to when the relationship was working. What were the ways in which you acknowledged the reasons why you wanted this person in your life as your intimate partner? Was there physical contact? Were love notes written that affirmed the relationship? Did you have date nights?
Couples affirm their emotional connection in many ways, most of them so simple we don’t realize how much they matter. Maybe you shared the same bed and reached for each other in the middle of the night, or made sure to check in with each other at the end of the day. Your conversations were probably more than mere logistics about bills and the kids, etc. Couples therapy can help you integrate what worked before, back into your daily routine.
Taking Stock of Obstacles
Taking stock of what gets in the way can help us move closer toward each other. This may seem like a long list, but examining it can help us to have more empathy for ourselves as well as our intimate partner. Past hurts, frustrations, and the fear that reaching out will be rejected are all pain points that can build up over time. Similarly, feeling that the relationship is simply too damaged to improve can also make us hesitate to even try. Maybe we have tried in the past, only to be hurt again.
Start Small to Close the Distance
The idea is to momentarily suspend the surge of emotions that are connected to these feelings and start small. Find a time to do something nice for your partner. What did you used to do that you have gotten away from that would signal a stepping back in, a reaching out? These small moments, these gestures extended toward your partner signal a desire to reconnect.
At first, they may scoff or rebuff your attempts to reconcile the distance, but don’t be dismayed. The vulnerability of stepping in and being rejected is painful, yes, but we set that aside and stay the course. In this way, one person can begin to change the pattern of connection. Why not you? Waiting for the other to change only keeps things as they are: stagnant, painful, and frustrating. Here’s to reaching out and stepping back in!
Does Your Relationship Need a Fresh Start?
It’s generally not hard to tell when we’re feeling unsatisfied with something in our lives, but it can be difficult to know how to make it better. This is especially true if you have the sense that something just isn’t working in the relationship anymore. Maybe you’ve even felt that way for months or years, but it seems easier to continue to maintain the status quo, rather than risk saying something. Couples often reach a state of crisis before they decide to seek help, but, for obvious reasons, it’s better to schedule counseling before a major breaking point is crossed.
Signs You Need Couples Therapy
Because there’s no such thing as a perfect person (let alone a perfect relationship), we’re all bound to have occasional periods of time where we feel frustrated with our partner. This ebb and flow is normal, though, so what are some signs that you and your partner need couples therapy? Here are a few common warning signs.
1) Bickering Has Become Normal
If bickering has become standard, this is a sign of a larger issue that needs to be addressed in the relationship. If every conversation is escalating into conflict, it’s time to make a change.
2) Physical or Emotional Affairs
Both physical and emotional affairs can be devastating to a couple. But even seemingly small betrayals can lead to a deeper closeness with someone outside of the relationship. This can include things like texting an ex on social media.
3) Arguments Over Money
Money is another topic that can lead to long-standing relationship disputes and resentment. For example, maybe one person in the partnership has racked up considerable credit card debt, or is engaging in online gambling.
4) Child Rearing Differences
It’s also not unusual for couples to have differing opinions about how their children should be raised. If this is the case, counseling can help you come to an agreement. We were all brought up differently, and, in many ways, child rearing has cultural differences that we might not be consciously aware of.
Scheduling Couples Therapy
Are you wondering if couples therapy is right for your relationship? The bottom line is that no relationship is without flaws, and even happy, healthy relationships can benefit from couples therapy. Do you have questions? For a Walnut Creek therapist, contact the office of Brett Beaver, LMFT to learn more. Contact him today by calling (925) 324-4514. Teletherapy sessions are also available throughout the state of California.