Every relationship has conflict. Learning how to handle your conflicts can not only patch up your issues, but it can also make your relationship much stronger.
In couples therapy, a licensed counselor works with two people to improve their relationship. Certain types of counselors are also specifically trained to work with couples, including marriage and family therapists.
Like any form of therapy, couples counseling requires a commitment and willingness to open up from both involved parties.
According to the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, more than 98 percent of its clients surveyed reported marriage and family therapy services as good or excellent.
Counseling doesn’t have to be reserved for a “type” of person. Couples therapy can help anyone in a relationship, regardless of demographics, like sexual orientation and age.
When committing to couples therapy, come with an open mind, and be ready to break down the barriers of communication.
Please read about the types of Couples Therapy to figure which one(s) feel right to you:
Reflective listening is a highly beneficial exercise where the couple take turns being active listeners.
Use “I” phrases instead of “you” statements. For example, say “I feel hurt when you do [X]” instead of “You’re wrong for doing [X].”
Couples take turns being active listeners, it boosts healthy communication skills as well as conflict resolution skills for the couple.
Emotionally focused therapy
Many therapists use a method called emotionally focused therapy (EFT), which has been shownTrusted Source to facilitate long lasting behavior changes.
The goal is for couples "to identify maladaptive patterns within the relationship that are interfering with secure bonds and attachments". Couples learn and utilize techniques to heal or create safe and secure attachments within the relationship.
The practice of narrative therapy revolves around people describing their problems in narrative form and rewriting their stories. This can help them see that no single story can possibly encapsulate the totality of their experience.
Narrative therapy may be helpful for couples who feel like their relationship is failing due to both of their faults. According to a 2016 study, it has even been shown to decrease conflict and increase cooperation among couples.
The Gottman Method is a popular method practiced among couples therapists. The technique is designed to help couples deepen their understanding of one another while managing conflict in their relationship.
The Gottman Institute has more than 40 years of research under its belt. It provides live workshops and take-home training materials for couples, but many therapists have also trained using the Gottman Institute’s methods.
Imago relationship therapy
Imago relationship therapy, developed by Dr. Harville Hendrix and Dr. Helen LaKelly Hunt in 1980, emphasizes the connection between adult relationships and childhood experiences.
By understanding childhood trauma, the therapy is aimed at making couples more empathetic and understanding of one another.
If you’re dealing with a particular issue, experiencing burnout, or trying to work toward a specific goal, solution-focused therapy is a model to consider.
The practice is a short-term goal-focused evidence-based therapeutic approach which helps clients change by constructing solutions rather than dwelling on problems.
Some Couples Therapy Exercises To Try
Couples therapy interventions can be reinforced through various exercises and activities that are designed to promote understanding, deeper connections, forgiveness, or any other issue you’re struggling to overcome in your relationship.
Disconnects in a relationship often stem from a simple inability to quickly and effectively identify our feelings. Practicing how to do so in a safe place like therapy can help you begin to express your emotions in a more productive way whenever you need to.
Focusing on solutions
Resolving issues, focusing on the positives, and redirecting negative behaviors are all effective ways to practice solutions-oriented patterns that can ultimately better your relationship.
Exploring the past
It’s not uncommon for the past to haunt future relationships. Trauma you experienced, fear you can’t seem to let go of, negative behavior patterns you’ve developed, or even hurt that makes it difficult for you to trust, can all affect how you behave with your partner today.
By looking at the past and identifying any unhealthy patterns you’ve created, you can begin to heal and establish a healthy relationship, both in the present and in the future.
Alignment can help you deal with difficult issues or conversations by reinforcing the positives. This can be done using memories and feelings from the beginning of your relationship, which is typically a happy time, or by connecting on a deeper level to reinforce your partnership so you can tackle and navigate those challenging times.
Spending in time together
Life’s busy. Establishing a concrete time for each other might be the only way that you can make quality time happen. Literally taking the time to pencil each other in can make sure that your partner knows they’re your priority. Even if all you can manage is an hour at a time, the benefit is in letting each other know how important your relationship is.
Our relationships give us an opportunity to both experience and learn things about ourselves that we wouldn’t otherwise know.
And, it’s really important to recognize and stay open to such learnings, especially those that challenge our perceptions.
Together, we will invest in the process of bridging your interpersonal differences and similarities, with the goal of achieving a greater sense of meaning and connection in your partnership.