One of the most painful and traumatic challenge a couple can undergo is when a partner commits a grievous offense that defiles and destroys the intimacy, trust, and safety within the relationship. This may include infidelity or hidden struggles with addictions that have potential to send the hurt partner into both a physical and emotional traumatic shock.
In this most vulnerable place of pain and deep anguish, partners are desperate and longing for healing and a hope for what the future holds. The anxiety and stress that come from the crisis can lead to rage, controlling behaviors, and self-destructive behaviors.
Couples counseling can provide an environment to practice essential skills that can enhance vulnerability, empathy, and honest communication. It can serve as a place to begin the dialogue for confronting, challenging and evaluating core issues and grievances that have plagued the relationship. Most importantly, couples can begin the healing process and learn to hold each other's pain, grieve what was lost together, take the necessary steps to rebuild trust over time, and recommit to each other by deepening attachment and intimacy.
Effective communication is an integral part of maintaining healthy relationships. However, such barriers as differing values, family of origin experiences, and lack of interpersonal skills can all contribute to ineffective communication.
Often, partners are prone to turn towards old and ineffective coping strategies in an attempt to get a need met or to be heard. They may find themselves in what seems to be a vicious ongoing negative cycle of communicating that eventually leads to a stalemate.
Couples counseling can serve as an environment to receive honest and direct feedback regarding barriers that hinder effective communication. It can teach individuals to move away from using passive or aggressive approaches and learn to incorporate assertive communication skills. Couples can also learn essential tools that can decrease negativity in the relationship. Such skills as active listening, validation, expressing compassion and empathy, tolerating distress, and being aware of triggers can set a foundation for more effective dialogue and resolutions.
Codependency is evident when one or both partners attempts to manage the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors of the other by either controlling, people pleasing or protest behaviors. The relationship has very little freedom and lacks the kind of trust that could enable the growth of the other or the relationship.
Codependency can be one of the most detrimental barrier to having a healthy romantic relationship. Couples find it hard to be free in the relationship. Preferences, personal goals, ambitions, hobbies, time away from the relationship, and exploring life are all aspects that get dismissed and neglected. Couples can often sense the relationship beginning to digress. Furthermore, real feedback about the relationship, personal stressors and grievances are filtered out by an agenda to protect the person or the relationship from spiraling into conflict.
It is extremely difficult to thrive under such circumstances. Couples need to feel free and secure within themselves and their relationship. The relationship is meant to flourish with both partners being able to explore and develop aspects of their own gifts, talents and ambitions. There has to be a healthy balance between how integrated and differentiated the relationship is in order for it to thrive.
Couples counseling can provide the context to address and confront codependent behaviors. It can also help couples see the strength and resiliency their partner has and find the courage to let go of controlling, aggressive, and parenting like behaviors. Eventually, this will lead to a stronger sense of security which will enable the opportunity to live a joyful, authentic and whole-hearted life.