There is a well-known saying: "Man is not an island", suggesting that human beings are essentially social creatures needing relationships with others. Relationships are there to provide us with love, security, friendship and support, yet so many people find their significant relationships "breaking down" and becoming draining and tiresome rather than loving and encouraging. Why does this happen within a once loving relationship?
When asked, many people feel that the decline of their relationship is due to a lack of communication between the partners. They feel that they are not getting through to one another and that this is causing feelings of frustration, anger, resentment and confusion. People feel unheard, unacknowledged, unsupported and ultimately unloved. They may go so far as to feel alone and isolated within a relationship and find themselves drifting further away from the very person they are trying to communicate with. Communication is sometimes so stressful that it is halted altogether, and the couple may find themselves like two strangers sharing a home.
This estranged situation may become more complicated as trust is eroded between the two people. It is very difficult to continue to trust someone with whom you have no contact or interaction, leading to feelings of exclusion from the others' daily life. A lack of trust is very commonly linked to a breakdown in intimacy (both sexual and emotional), where sharing on such a deep, personal level becomes uncomfortable and even unfeasible for both parties. Some people may therefore seek comfort with a third party outside of the relationship at this stage, either in the form of an affair or of an emotionally supportive friend.
At this stage, people essentially begin to live separate existences and the lack of shared experiences and goals brings in further estrangement. Couples at this point may often find that the only time they interact with their partner is to talk about mundane, everyday tasks, (e.g. taking care of the children, shopping etc) or to fight and argue. Sadly, people may feel so desperate for interaction with their partner that they end up picking fights or creating disagreements in order to have some level of connection and interaction.
If a couple enters into therapy at this point, they must be ready address all of the above issues in order to reconnect with one another. The aim of my therapy is thus to facilitate communication between partners by assisting them to better understand the following:
1. What communication entails:
People learn about their personal communication style and that of their partner, and how these work (or don't work) together.
Couples also learn HOW to communicate more effectively by learning some essential skills
2. Discussing issues around trust:
This may include each person's definition of trust and where they learned this.
Discussing and agreeing to be honest and open both with one another and to the process of therapy
3. Addressing issues of intimacy:
This involves talking about concerns of both sexual and emotional intimacy and is linked closely with discussions around trust.
4. Addressing issues of around a lack of shared experiences and goals:
This involves discussion as well as the practical aspect of creating new shared experiences for the couple (e.g. therapy, a holiday, date together).
5. Fights disagreements:
People learn to understand the nature of arguments and their purpose.
They will also learn how to avoid them and how to argue as opposed to fight with the aim of wounding the other person.
Because relationships are unique and complex, the course of therapy is not fixed or guaranteed. Rather, the successful outcome of therapy depends on each of the participants, their willingness to change and their commitment to save the relationship.
Perhaps it is helpful then to remember that human beings are social creatures and not meant to live alone and to think that each encounter with another, be it loving and caring or filled with difficulties and conflict can teach us something about ourselves and how we are in relationship to others.