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Like and Marriage Go Together Like a Horse and Carriage

Jul 10, 2024

Every relationship is a story, woven with moments of joy, challenge, and growth. In couples therapy, I often see that the secret to a thriving partnership isn't just deep love but the ability to genuinely like and appreciate each other. No matter how many storms a couple has faced, their real strength lies in finding happiness in simple moments and cherishing each other's unique qualities. This ability to connect on a deeper level, beyond love, is what sustains them through tough times.

For a relationship to truly flourish, couples need to share common interests, values, and goals. We’ve all heard it before and it still rings true: Effective communication is the lifeblood of any healthy relationship, nurturing understanding and respect. By creating a safe space for open dialogue and active listening, couples can fortify their bond and tackle challenges together, leading to a deeper understanding and enhanced connection. Reflective exercises, like active listening and goal-setting help couples deepen their connection and lay a strong foundation for enduring love.

In couples therapy, we revisit the beginning of their relationship to remind them of what drew them together and then build on that foundation. If the original draw was only a physical attraction to each other, the foundation will be smaller to work with.  Having a partner who turns heads may be eye-catching, but as every breakup in the world of high fashion can attest, looks alone won’t keep a relationship strong.  While a hot partner is certainly a bonus, it takes mutual respect, joy, and admiration to foster a lasting bond.

John Gottman, a renowned relationship expert, refers to this deep understanding as a "love map." Building a comprehensive love map of your partner involves knowing the little details about their life, preferences, dreams, and fears, which helps in fostering a stronger emotional connection.

At times, couples find bonding exercises challenging when tolerance or compatibility has eroded. Despite caring for each other, this erosion makes it difficult to fully engage in strengthening activities. Addressing these issues is crucial to restoring their connection and rebuilding their partnership, though it doesn’t happen overnight. For more insights on forgiveness and rebuilding trust in a relationship, I encourage you to read my article on this topic.

Occasionally, I request individual sessions with one partner if they seem "stuck," hesitating to move forward due to past wounds. In these one-on-one sessions, we embark on a healing journey, developing emotional tools for personal growth. This process can uncover profound insights that reshape relationship dynamics.

In some painful moments, there is a realization that while love and respect remain, the passion and chemistry have faded, and compatibility has peaked. Sometimes, this introspective journey reveals that one partner no longer envisions a future together. This realization necessitates a shift in therapeutic focus, acknowledging that reconciliation requires mutual willingness. Although this can be emotionally challenging, it underscores the importance of honoring each person's journey and choices.

Handling these complex dynamics requires a delicate balance of empathy and professionalism. While I may see potential for reconciliation, I always respect the individual needs and desires of each partner. As the pillow in my office loudly reads, “I can’t want it more than you do!” Sometimes, couples naturally outgrow each other, and past traumas make reconciliation impossible. In these cases, partners may reassess their commitment, prompting a reevaluation of their shared journey.

In these moments, my role is to guide individuals toward healing and self-discovery. I help them understand that it’s okay to accept the natural ending of a relationship and to move forward with healthy uncoupling. Even when a relationship ends, I strive to foster resilience, hope, and the promise of new beginnings. My goal is to help each person embrace growth and transformation, ensuring they leave therapy with a sense of hope and renewal.

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