Couples Counseling Myths Debunked and Why I'm a Geek

trivial pursuitYou know, I’ll bet that if you gathered all my couples counseling clients in a room and made them contestants in some Trivial Pursuit of marriage data contest, they would blow the other team away. They might do it groaning about how they never want to hear the words “Gottman” or “Research Says” again, but they would kick serious behind. And that is because I’m a big ol’ geek. If you’re sitting down with me to work on your relationship, you’re going to learn more than a little bit about how scientists figure out what makes joyful couples tick.

Don’t get me wrong here–couples are emotional units that have their own rules of governance–many of which are spiritual, emotional and pretty abstract. However, as couples therapists, we are invested in doing more of stuff that is helpful and less of stuff that isn’t. So, people like scientist John Gottman spend an awful lot of time trying to figure out what kinds of things are consistent among happy couples so that we can encourage those behaviors in our therapy rooms. (Some of my clients are reading this right now thinking, “Encourage? How about shove with a stick towards greatness?” I love them all, I swear.)

So, if you’re curious, here are a few of the myths of couples counseling that my clients and I explore every week:

1) Fighting like you like one another: Weird, right? But research does not bear out the myth that happy couples never fight. In fact, couples that never fight might actually have a real emotional disconnect that prevents them from feeling safe in experiencing even constructive conflict. In relationships that work, couples can disagree passionately. What makes a real difference, however, is accepting repair attempts from your partner, softening the startup to your critiques and utilizing assets like a shared sense of humor.

2) Change is hard, but it’s also rewarding: I seriously hate the idea that if you’re “meant” to be together things will just flow and you won’t have to change yourself for your partner. Poppycock. Living with another person in any kind of long-term fashion means that you are agreeing to be molded and shaped by the other. Research shows that when couples accept one another’s influence, they are both happier. I will encourage you to make changes that don’t feel natural at first. That’s ok, it won’t feel natural for me to go run a marathon right now. But, I am pretty certain that if I continue to train past the discomfort and weirdness of it all, my body will decide that being a runner is a pretty “natural” state of affairs. See, it just takes some work.

3) Affairs cause divorce: Actually, in many cases, they don’t. Research shows that something much more insidious than infidelity is usually responsible for that. Only somewhere around 20% of couples say affairs caused the separation. The other whopping 80% of partners say it was a deterioration of connection and emotional intimacy that delivered the death blow. How scary is that? Have you ever read that T.S. Elliott poem, the one that says, “This is the way the world ends, not with a bang, but a whimper?” (Yes, it’s a double entendre and it stays.) So, I am going to push you to connect with your partner emotionally, even when it’s scary and vulnerable. I have a few skills in my bag of tricks that are almost guaranteed to help you get results in this area.

What beliefs do you hold about relationships that might not be doing you any favors? Are you ready to get your relationship back on track in the new year? I would love to get together and talk about it. I offer a free 30-minute consultation, after all. Come on by!

Your Partner in Healing,

Holly

Are you looking for compassionate individual, couples or group therapy in Raleigh? Call me today to schedule a FREE 30-minute 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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