If your relationship has filled with a lot of turmoil, chaos, and pain for many months, if not years, it can be difficult to envision a path out.
You may have contemplated reaching out to a couples therapist near you in Florida, Oregon or California, but, as soon as you have the thought, maybe you find that the problems in your relationship seemed to vanish – if only for a time. Or, you might understandably be afraid to make that first call for therapy, as doing so would acknowledge that your relationship needs a lot of help and, without it, could be headed for its end.
You might be wondering how a couples therapist can help, especially given the intensity and length of the problems. If you’re stuck on wondering what makes couples therapy successful, today we’re sharing insight about the process that can help calm your nerves.
So, What Makes Couples Therapy Successful?
You may be surprised to learn that a large element of the answer centers around identifying and highlighting your relationship strengths, as well as areas of growth/needed improvement.
The reason you might be surprised by this is that it’s in opposition to much of what comes naturally to us as humans, as well as what we often learn from our parents and culture about how to go about life.
Focusing on the Negatives is The Norm, but is it Any Good?
It comes naturally to us to focus on the negatives (both what’s going wrong around us and what we believe we are doing wrong). The reason is rooted in evolution. If our ancestors didn’t notice and take stock of the problems and concerns, they would die. So, it became an innate mechanism for us to notice and value the negative.
Additionally, oftentimes our caregivers and much of society concentrates on the negative as well. The sentiment tends to be that we need to focus on what we are doing wrong in order to do right.
All of this, however, could not be falser and more unproductive.
What Helps in Life and in Couples Therapy
The reality is that concentrating on the negatives only keeps us stuck and unmotivated. When we do this, we often experience guilt (I did wrong) or, worse, shame (I’m a bad person). This often is a very debilitating place, especially in our relationships.
What we want to do instead of notice and focus on what we did well and what’s going well, as well as where we could improve. Notice that nowhere in there is there a statement on what you did wrong/what’s going wrong; there’s no benefit in it. Instead, you want to reframe what you did wrong/what’s going wrong as where you could improve.
Loss, if you’re open to it, is feedback, and that is exactly what we should try to strive for throughout life, as it is a much more encouraging and motivating place. Only from this place, is it dramatically easier for us to enact improvements and transform our lives and relationships.
So how does this make couples therapy successful?
In online couples therapy, your therapist will help you notice and appreciate this novel way of viewing yourself, your relationship, and life. As often as possible, your couples therapist will help you pause when you are talking about yourself and your relationship in the usual negative, guilty, and shameful-based place. Then, your couples therapist will help you practice reframing these statements into what you and your partner are doing well and where you could improve.
Other Ways this Approach Helps
The Gottmans, a married couple, both psychologists, performed decades of research with tens of thousands of couples to uncover what makes relationships healthy and lasting, as opposed to what leads to relationships being unhealthy and ending.
What they discovered creates a very clear and detailed breakdown of essentially the 9 key elements to relationship success. When your couples therapist teaches you this formula, as well as helps you understand where your relationship matches up to these elements, you will almost certainly learn you have at least some crucial relationship strengths. This can calm down that initially overwhelming place where you may be asking yourself, “where do I even begin to make this relationship better!?”
The Sound Relationship House
The Gottmans created the Sound Relationship House, where they detail the 9 key elements of relationship success:
- Build Love Maps (Knowing Each Other’s Worlds)
- Shared Fondness and Admiration
- Turning Towards Instead of Away
- Being in the Positive Versus the Negative Perspective
- Healthy Conflict Management
- Make Life Dreams Come True
- Create Shared Meaning
Your couples therapist will explain what each of these mean and help you both learn which of them are strengths for you two, as well as which ones are the areas of needed improvement. When you learn about your relationship through this lens, it can be very encouraging and empowering.
Rather than feeling like you two have this immensely daunting task with too much to work on and no end in sight, when you learn about yourselves in this very specific breakdown, it can bring you both a renewed sense of peace. This hope for your future and sense of empowerment that comes with having a plan is a key part of what makes couples therapy successful.
Additionally, your couples therapist will then devote significant time to explaining the specific tools and shifts that need to happen for you both to capitalize on your current strengths and to transform the areas of needed improvement.
For instance, let’s say you learn that you and your partner have a strong tendency to “Turn Towards” each other. This means that, you and your loved one tend to feel that when you each attempt to connect with each other, you each hear these requests and respond in positive ways. This element is particularly crucial to a strong relationship.
The research tells us that the biggest difference between the couples that thrive and survive and those that do not is the frequency by which they turn towards one another. Specifically, the ones that thrive turn towards each other at least 8.5/10 times an attempt to connect is initiated.
Therefore, if, for example, your couples therapist informs you that Turning Towards each other is a strength in your relationship, this is very encouraging news. It essentially means that you can feel much more confident about the prospect of you two improving, as this big strength is a massive indicator that no matter the other areas of difficulty, you are considerably armed and likely to ultimately thrive.
There are many factors just like this that your couples therapist will teach you about in therapy. As you can see, learning about where you specifically have your strengths and where you could improve provides a much more encouraging, fact-based, and hopeful approach to the change process.
Learn What Makes Couples Therapy Successful through Online Couples Therapy in California, Oregon, and Florida
We understand this approach we recommend will likely feel strange and uncomfortable. The vast majority of the time, it does not come naturally to us to concentrate and appreciate what we do/are doing well and where we could improve. Know that Stress Solutions is committed to helping you and your partner recognize and appreciate the benefits of this big shift and to practice engaging in it throughout the weeks.
For more information about how to make this critical perspective change or to schedule your consultation with a couples therapist in California, Oregon, or Florida, we encourage you to contact us.