Can couples counseling help: 3 issues most long-term couples have
How can couples counseling help solve 3 of the most common fighting patterns long-term couples struggle with? A Downtown Los Angeles Therapist explains.
In this post: A Downtown Los Angeles Therapist, Lisa Tannehill, breaks down the 3 ruts most couples fall into and she also answers the questions of “can couples counseling help” specific to each fighting pattern.
By Lisa Tannehill, a Family and Marriage Therapist who offers Downtown Los Angeles Couples Counseling
Hardly anything beats the feeling of living life alongside your best friend when you’re feeling completely seen and completely loved.
Unfortunately, nothing compares to the pain of living life alongside that someone, but you’re feeling invisible, misunderstood or underappreciated.
For many relationships, when you’ve been together for a while, a slow disconnect begins. You build up a few walls.
Maybe you are just at the cusp of feeling that lack of connection with your significant other. Or maybe you’ve been in a marriage or a partnership for decades. A partnership where you both have settled very uncomfortably into a rhythm of constant arguments, bickering or feeling like distant roommates in everyday life.
When things haven’t been rosy for a while: can couples counseling help?
The good news is, most issues or conflicts are pretty common among most couples. You’re not alone and you’re not doomed to stay stuck in the loop.
The conflicts you have with your significant other most likely fit within one of these three categories below.
Couples therapy helps you identify and then understand the conflict pattern you’re in. That’s the very first step for creating lasting change and healing in your relationship.
What are 3 of the most common conflict patterns and how can couples counseling help?
Let’s go over the three of the most common types of conflicts couples go through. I’ll also discuss what it does to your relationship and how counseling can help.
Pattern 1: A Controller versus An Escapist
Partner 1: “He or she does nothing, and I do everything. It’s unfair.”
Partner 2: “Whatever I do is never good enough. It’s either criticized or redone. I can never meet the expectations on me. It’s unfair.”
In this situation, one partner appears either critical, pushy or perfectionistic. The other seems passive, lazy and uninterested. However, what seems to be the issue, is just the symptoms.
Zoning in on the symptoms can often just lead to an endless loop of fighting because the real issues aren’t ever confronted.
How can couples counseling help couples that are stuck in a rhythm of being overly-critical versus shutting down?
In couples counseling, a therapist helps you figure out what the underlying emotions are for e.g. why does one partner either respond needing control, while the other responds by shutting down?
There’s most likely a very good chance that you both have similar underlying emotions.
However, when you’re up close, it can be really challenging to figure out those emotions instead of being frustrated by your partners contrasting reactions.
For example, a wife may not trust that her husband cares about her, because she’s feeling overwhelmed and alone in a specific family responsibility.
She’s feeling unloved and like she’s being treated unfairly, so in an attempt to express that feeling, she becomes resentful and critical of her husband.
The wife’s anger and criticism of her husband may make him feel unloved and subpar to her expectations.
In an attempt to escape his hurt, he shuts down. It’s his way to try and protect himself. Then in full circle, the husband’s shutting down, makes his wife feel uncared for again and it just goes on until it’s a full-fledged pattern that keeps repeating itself.
Pattern 2: The Blamers
Partner 1: “If you would have planned better, we wouldn’t have gotten into this situation in the first place.”
Partner 2: “Well, if you paid more attention, this wouldn’t have happened.”
Chances are, both partners are also sharing similar feelings. Both people are probably feeling frustrated because they feel out of control or uncared for. However, both partners are using blame as coping mechanism to feel better or more in control.
So, they blame each other and this only makes both partners feel more hurt and anger towards each. Things can quickly turn into a patterns of feeling even more unloved and possibly even betrayed.
How can couples counseling help couples that are stuck in a pattern of bickering and blaming each other:
Many couples in this pattern may feel a sense of despair, like they couldn’t even get through an hour of connecting without getting into a heated argument. However, anger is typically a secondary emotion to feeling pain or hurt in some way.
In this situation, it’s the therapist’s job to create an environment that doesn’t happen too often: a safe space for each person to explore and articulate what they’re actually feeling.
The therapist will help each partner to communicate what’s going on behind the anger in a way that the other person will understand – even if they don’t necessarily agree.
This makes it so much easier to deal with issues in calm or empathetic ways, breaking that pattern of blame and anger. Working towards empathy again also creates the support each person needs and desires.
Partner 1 or 2: “We don’t have intense fights, but we don’t really have any passion either. I feel like we have grown apart.”
Maybe at first, your relationship was just effortless, but a few months or years into the relationship, and now it feels like something is missing.
There’s a good chance you both still care each other in some ways, but in other ways, you both might have withdrawn from trying to please each other in other ways.
At this point, you might feel like something is missing, but you’re unsure of how you can create that passion in your relationship again.
How can couples counseling help couples that feel disconnected – like something is missing from their relationship
In order to resolve the passivity on both ends, a therapist will help each of you put a voice to your thoughts or your feelings; thoughts or feelings that may feel too scary, too complicated or too unclear to voice on your own.
This really empowers both of you, because you’re able to communicate in a way that is constructive and helps you lean into your relationship – even when it feels unsafe or too difficult.
Practical steps to solve harmful conflict patterns between you and your partner
- It’s already a step in the right direction if you can spot any harmful patterns in your relationship.
- The next step is identifying these patterns when they happen and actively not engaging in these patterns. This can be quite challenging – especially when you don’t get the underlying causes. It’s especially hard when your partner reactions make you feel worse. This could be a good time to connect with a therapist or counselor. They can support both of you in this often strenuous process.
- The most important step is finding out what the real feelings are. Then it’s important to find constructive ways to speak openly about them and deal with them.
Even if you have been married for several years and at your breaking point, because you are tired of living in this hurtful cycle with your significant other, know there is still hope.
Do see you and your partner fall into one or more of these patterns? I can help you identify the harmful coping mechanisms you have in your relationship. I can help you can connect to that core emotion that’s driving your reactions. Together we can teach you both new way of creating vulnerability and connection in your relationship. Which, I can assure you, has the potential of healing not only your relationship but also how you live your life – in the deepest ways.
In need of Downtown Los Angeles Couples Counseling?
I truly believe that as much as relationships can cause some of the most unbearable pain we have ever experienced. When they are realigned properly, they have the potential to heal relationships. In turn that allows us to find our truest selves. They can help us experience the highest joys in life in being able to share it with our best friend and partner for life.
Offer Downtown Los Angeles Couples Counseling, so if you’re in the area and you think therapy could empower you and your partner, feel free to reach out to me today (https://sync.org/contact-sync/). I can help you better understand the harmful patterns you might be experiencing in your relationships. Then, I can also help you heal through, in order for you to have healthier relationships that make your life worth living for.
You can also have a look at the other therapists or counselors in the Sync community in your area below: