There is more pressure on an intimate relationship to meet one’s needs than ever in history. The demands of work and/or children can leave little time for supportive social interactions with family and friends, so there is more pressure on one’s partner to make up for what is lacking in terms of emotional support. Couples often flounder, feel disconnected from each other, have affairs, experience sexual problems, fight, become addicted, develop symptoms of depression or generally lack satisfaction.
Some couples have not had good role models to teach them how to be in a healthy relationship or resolve conflict. At best, they may have learned what not to do. Media also contributes to unrealistic expectations, either in portrayals of ultra-romantic relationships, or characterizing an unhealthy dynamic as real love. In addition, we can be certain that we all enter relationships with baggage from the past. It almost seems impossible to do without help.
When I work with couples, I identify the nature of the problem. We’ll examine how the relationship progressed to where it is in the present and co-create a vision for the future. I teach techniques for improving communication and interactions. Most importantly, I spend time on the Self, self-awareness and self-care. Looking inward at exactly what gets triggered by your partner and why can help you communicate that to your partner. Taking responsibility for one’s contribution toward the problem and making a change can often bring about the kind of change you want in your partner.
There are several self-improvement books which I recommend for couples who enjoy reading about this topic. Making use of available literature can open up awareness and move couples therapy ahead more effectively.
How To Improve Your Marriage Without Talking About It by Patricia Love, Ed.D and Steven Stosny, Ph.D.
This is one of my favorites. Male clients who have read this have reported that they feel as though the book was written for them. There is great insight into how problems develop and a “Power Love Formula” that can help turn things around.
Scream Free Marriage: Calming Down, Growing Up, and Getting Closer by Hal Edward Runkel, LMFT with Jenny Runkel
There are many ways people “scream”, which the authors use as a metaphor for anxiety. This book is about changing the way one copes with stress and conflict to bring about change in the dynamic.
The following books by John Gottman, Ph.D. are recommended. Gottman has studied couple interactions for decades and offers keen insight on the nature of problems, what leads couples to split up and what are workable solutions.
Why Marriages Succeed or Fail
The Seven Principles For Making Marriage Work
The Relationship Cure
Hold Me Tight by Dr. Sue Johnson
Dr. Johnson’s Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy program has helped couples learn how to turn towards each other during rocky emotional times. Her theory uses what we have learned from neuroscience to understand problems and create solutions.
Five-Minute Relationship Repair by Susan Campbell, Ph.D. and John Grey, Ph.D.
Most relationships have already had some damage by the time a couple comes to therapy. What is beautiful about human relationships is that damage can be mended. This book contains useful strategies on how to repair damage from the past as well as how to have a more reparative mindset going into the future.