Sonya Thomas lcsw

Getting the Most from Couples Therapy – Part 4

This is our last installment in our series on how to get the most from couples therapy, borrowed and adapted from Dr. Peter Pearson at the Couples Institute:

Important Concepts for Couples Therapy and Relationships

The following ideas can help identify areas of focus or stimulate discussion between you and your partner between meetings. If you periodically review this list, you will discover that your reflections, thoughts and feelings will change over time. So please revisit this list often; it will help you keep focus during our work.

  • Attitude is key. When it comes to improving your relationship, your attitude toward change is important.
  • Identifying what to do and how to do it is often the easy part. The bigger challenge is identifying why you don’t do it and what it will take to do what you want to do going forward.
  • You and your partner are likely limited in being able to respond in the ways that you are asking of each other. Accepting this is a huge step into maturity. A big part of the work that is done in couples therapy is to push your developmental edges, which is quite challenging work. If it were easy, you would already be doing it.
  • The definite possibility exists that you have some flawed assumptions about relationships. The problem is, most of the time we don’t want to believe those assumptions are flawed.
  • Focus on changing yourself rather than your partner. Couples therapy works best if you have more goals for yourself than you have for your partner.
  • One of the hardest parts of couples therapy is accepting that you will need to improve your response to a problem (how you think about it, feel about it, what to do about it or how to react to it). Very few people want to focus on improving their response. It’s more common to build a strong case for why the other should do the improving.
  • You can’t change your partner. Your partner can’t change you. You can influence each other, but that doesn’t mean you can fundamentally change each other. Each person striving to be a more effective partner is the most efficient way to transform a relationship.
  • You can learn a lot about yourself by understanding what annoys you and how you handle it.
  • The more you believe your partner should be different, the less initiative you will take to change the patterns between you.
  • All major goals have built in contradictions, for example, speak up or keep the peace.
  • Significant growth comes from disagreements, dissatisfaction with the current status, or a striving to make things better. Paradoxically, accepting that conflict produces growth and learning to manage inevitable disagreements is the key to more harmonious relationships.
  • It’s not what you say. It’s what they hear.
  • Solutions, no matter how perfect, set the stage for new problems.
  • Asking good questions–of yourself and your partner–helps you uncover causes beneath problems.
  • In a strong disagreement, do you really believe your partner is entitled to their opinion or preference? Or do you believe your opinion or preference is more worthy of being honored?
  • Under duress, do you have the courage and tenacity to seek to understand your partner’s reality?
  • Do you have the courage to express your reality when the stakes are high?
  • Why is it important to let your partner know what you think, feel and are concerned about? (hint, hint: Because they really can’t appreciate what they don’t understand.)
  • What is the price your partner will have to pay to improve their response to you? How much do you care about the price they will have to pay?
  • Can you legitimately expect your partner to treat you better than you treat him/her?
  • If you want your partner to change, are there things you can do to make it easier? What can your partner do to make it easier for you to change?
  • When a problem shows up, often our first response is to hone in on what our partner has done to create or contribute to it.  A much more productive question is to ask oneself “How do I aspire to be in this situation?”

©2015 TheCouplesInstitute