On Couples Counseling and Why “They” Like you Better Than Your Partner Does

If I had an official tally of the questions most couples asked one another in session, this one would be pretty close to the top:

“They like me at work/school/the neighborhood/church so why don’t YOU like me?”

Have you ever wondered why all the folks in your community-facing life seem to think you’re a rocks star, while your very own partner can’t seem to get on board with your greatness? Read on.

  • You’re Nicer to “Them” Than You are to Your Partner: I’m guilty of this myself. There is a vast difference between the shrieking, pre-coffee harpy that greets my husband every morning and the caffeinated, meditated therapist that greets you in the office. You wouldn’t believe it. Except you would, because in some fashion you’ve been there yourself.

There is some version of us that our partners see that isn’t flattering, and it isn’t the self we portray to all the people who think we’re consistently reasonable humans. Sometimes it’s a tough workday. Maybe it’s a terrible parenting week or an intractable illness that brings it out the tyrants in us. But I think it’s often something much more pedestrian. The devil in the details is comfortably taking for granted that while we’re demonstrating our most naked ugliness, our loved ones will be holding the space equally with that other, lovelier version of us. They will do that—until they can’t. Until it’s too tiring, or their own resources are low, or until it makes them feel like they’re allowing someone to beat up on them to a degree that’s outside their values. That invisible line can creep up suddenly and unexpectedly.

We should do our best to bring our most sacred, kind selves home. If we don’t, it’s rather like saving the good china for company, isn’t it?

  • You Make More of an Effort to Communicate Effectively with “Them”: If you have a misunderstanding with your boss, your child’s teacher or your neighbor, you are unlikely to throw up your hands and say something along the lines of, “Are you (bleep) serious? You always do this. You know what, I’m not talking about this with you until you can be less of a jerk about it.”

I mean, you might deeply and truly want to do that. You might envision it in tantalizing detail in your head. But, you won’t do it. You’ll say something that both conveys your desire to get on the same page and also doesn’t torch the village. It makes sense that we don’t always edit this way at home. The stakes are pretty high with our partners—we want to be really seen and heard for who we actually are. The pursuit of that radical authenticity can be painful.

You have a choice, however, in how you express to your partner that they’re not picking up what you’re putting down. If more often than not, that choice veers towards impatience, tuning that person out, or strong-arming them through words or silence to get your way, no wonder you’re not feeling the love.

  • There’s no History of Relational Trauma or Infidelity Between you and “Them”: When couples come to see me after one of them has been unfaithful, I do my best to be honest about the fact that the relationship won’t be exactly like it was before the infidelity. That’s normal, and there is plenty of room for it to be in some way better. But, everyone still has to deeply acknowledge that the old maps won’t work because we’re looking at new territory. That different terrain has to be explored together thoroughly and in great detail.

If you’ve cheated on your partner, it doesn’t make you a bad human. However, if you want to save your relationship, you have to develop a renewed curiosity about your partner’s emotional landscape. You have to check in frequently and acknowledge that just as much as you’re tired of watching him or her suffer, that person is really, really over suffering. When you think your partner is just punishing you, remember how double edged that knife really is. They have to first cut themselves up contemplating the abandonment of the betrayal in order to secondarily cut you up for doing it.

Even when it’s hard, if you want to keep your partnership, it’s worth it to face the pain together. It’s also worth it to develop a shorthand to acknowledge when the memory of the affair is particularly painful.

Would you like to explore how you can develop congruence among all your relationships? Want to get your marriage back on track with better communication and healing from past missteps? Why don’t you come on in so we can talk about it.

Your Partner in Healing,


Are you looking for individual counseling, couples counseling or group therapy in Raleigh? Call me today to schedule a consultation to learn how counseling can help you. Please contact me at (919) 714-7455 or email me at holly@lotustherapycenter.com. Visit me on the web at www.lotustherapycenter.com or:

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