(Closed) couples counseling experiences?

posted 8 years ago in Relationships
Post # 17
Member
1212 posts
Bumble bee
  • Wedding: September 2014

I would love to give you my take on couples counseling – especially because the PP noted that a lot of people suggested it but rarely tell success stories.

From a personal viewpoint: My SO and I just “graduated” from counseling. We’d been going since December of 2011 and had our last session last week. We decided to go because our fights were out of hand. We never seemed to resolve issues and our fights got very ‘dirty’ (name-calling, cussing, etc). We’d tried fixing the issue on our own for so long, but nothing was helping. It was a last ditch effort, to be honest. 

We chose a solution-focused therapist because my SO responds well to a “plan of action” as opposed to only insight. It was also being solution-focused therapy tends to be more “compact” and we don’t have a lot of extra income, so a succint time in therapy was very important. 

The first meeting is SO vital. We built a rapport with her immediately and knew that we could learn from her. If we hadn’t liked her, we would have searched for a better fit. Therapy was not easy. It brought up a lot of tough issues and forced us both to face our mistakes and shortcomings. I liked solution-focused therapy because she gave us very concrete homework assignments to practice the skills we were learning. For example, one of the first assignments was for my SO to hug me genuinely when he could tell I was getting upset with him. It was so simple, but it’s become something he uses to defuse tension. We learned a lot of little ‘tricks’ like that. It went deeper too. We both realized the motivations and triggers we had that we didn’t even recognize. It’s a lot easier to alter a behavior when you understand it.

Anyway, therapy was the best thing for my relationship. We still fight, but we do it with respect. My SO was VERY averse to therapy to start with and now he says he’s so glad we did it. I don’t think we’d be together if we hadn’t. I think it also moved us to higher level of commitment…we put so much heart into learning about our relationship that it connected us even more.

 

I really suggest you make sure your therapist is licensed and has EXPERIENCE in couples counseling. A LOT of therapists (I’m a therapist, btw) claim to do couples counseling, but really don’t have the knowledge to do it well. Couples counseling is a whole different animal. I suggest finding someone with their LMFT. 

Post # 19
Member
11481 posts
Sugar Beekeeper
  • Wedding: May 2009

@tenacity:  My Darling Husband and I are familiar with the IMAGO theory. 

I decided to pursue counseling fairly early on in our marriage, because I was having a very hard time adjusting to having made SO MANY overwhelming changes in my life — all at once — after our wedding, including becoming a pastor’s wife and stepmother of multiple children, having to endure an LDR marriage for most of the first year, selling and buying houses, relocating, resigning my awesome job and giving up my career, moving to a very different type of area, leaving behind my friends and former church family, etc. etc. etc.) Darling Husband and his children obviously experienced changes, too, but NOTHING like what I had to go through, and, frankly, although he is very loving and highly intelligent, he still just really could not understand what I was going through. I asked him to come with me to my second counseling appointment, and we began going together thereafter.

I can’t say that I’ve agreed with every single thing our counselor has said to us. However, I absolutely do see tremendous value in this approach.  I am not a licensed, trainded counselor, so I likely will not articulate this perfectly. However, here are some of the basics that our counselor has taught us, based on this approach.

*  One partner’s world is yellow. The other’s is red. (The colors are arbitrary and do not signify anything other than that they’re different.) Yellow will never be, or understand, red, and vice versa.  Although each partner must retain some independence (i.e. his or her original color), the challenge in marriage is to bring those colors together to create “orange.”  When the partners have conflict with each other, they need to remember that red and yellow are not the same, and that they will not see things the same way. Couples need to bring issues into the orange to resolve them.

* Everyone has a wound that first occurred when he or she was very young (either feelings of rejection and/or criticism or feelings of abandonment and/or invisibilty), and this wound is triggered over and over again throughout our lives.  Those who have rejection/criticism wounds become “distancers,” (who are very task-oriented people who always want to do things right to avoid feeling criticized or rejected), and those who have abandonment/invisibility wounds, who become “pursuers” (who pursue warmth and connection from others. When there is conflict in the relationship, however, pursuers tend to “turtle” by going into their shell.) By the way, I, personally, find these two terms to be very counterintuitive to what they actually mean in this theory. According to our counselor, it’s very unusual for two distancers to marry, and it’s unusual for two pursuers to marry. Most often, couples are a distancer-pursuer combination. According to IMAGO, we tend to marry our polar opposite (in this regard, not necessarily in terms of other traits or areas of common interest, etc.), because we tend to be drawn to what we lack.

* Each partner needs to learn to recognize his or her own wound and the wound of his or her partner. Couples then need to learn to ask questions and communicate more effectively through one partner mirroring what the other person is trying to tell him or her.

* According to IMAGO, there are four relationship stages. The first is the Romantic stage, which is based in our unconscious. This is where our initial, very powerful attraction takes place. According to our counselor, research has shown that this stage only lasts from six months to two years. The second stage is known as the Power Struggle. (That’s pretty self explanatory, lol). The third stage is the Conscious stage (I think this is where we become aware of what’s been happening in the relationship), and the last is the Re-Romanticizing stage, where the partners work together to create romance in their marriage (whereas, in the first stage, it just happened without much effort.)

There is certainly is a lot more, but that’s basically what I’ve learned thus far.  I’ve found it to be very helpful in working through conflicts with Darling Husband. πŸ™‚

ETA: I just realized that I needed to add that a pursuer tends to become upset in the relationship when he or she feels as if whatever he or she does just is not “enough” for the other person. You can see the train wreck that is inherent when one person is always attempting to do — and get — everything “right,” while the other person is always feeling “whatever I do, it’s not enough for you.” lol πŸ™‚

Post # 20
Member
1212 posts
Bumble bee
  • Wedding: September 2014

@tenacity:  I was also very into speaking about deeper issues. I think if you express that to a therapist, you’ll be fine. Almost no therapist sticks exclusively to one theoretical orientation…it’s just too confining. A good therapist will be willing to work with both of you to create an experience that benefits both of your needs. 

I reccomend calling up the psych or social work program at your local university and ask them for community reccomended therapists. They often have the best connections to resources. I also suggest asking for their confidentiality agreement beforehand, if you can. Many therapists will email it to you. You can read about their experience and orientation without the pressure of someone watching over you. This will give you a chance to do research and see if this sounds like a good fit.

My partner was not a fan of the idea because of bad past experiences as well. I explained how important it was to me and asked him to commit to 2 sessions. Now, I don’t know the details of why you are wanting counseling, but mine was fairly serious. As I said, it was a last resort for me. I made it pretty clear to him that what we had been trying wasn’t working and that we needed to do something new in order to make our relationship work. I didn’t want him to feel forced, because someone who doesn’t want to learn anything from therapy won’t. But I did want him to understand that it meant a lot to me and that not doing it could seriously hurt the chances of our relationship ever working in a healthy way. 

I would ask your partner in more detail why he doesn’t want to go, so that you can discuss those issues head on! 

Post # 21
Member
6116 posts
Bee Keeper
  • Wedding: August 2012

When I was married previously, I knew my marriage counselor mentioned Gottman a lot and my exH was dong all the “four horsemen of the apocalypse.”  I liked all of Gottman’s books because I like the statistics part to it all.

 

However, my ex was emotionally abusive so it kind of fell into a different category all together, not couples counseling.

Post # 23
Member
6116 posts
Bee Keeper
  • Wedding: August 2012

This book is worth a try.  It’s kind of along the line of thought that those that are doing the relationship wrecking have a very weak core value system.  But when you try to improve things, they fire back with mean things as if to say, “How dare you call out my inadequacies when I am not equipped to handle it!”  Then they lash out at you rather than looking at their inner self.

Love Without Hurt: Turn Your Resentful, Angry, or Emotionally Abusive Relationship into a Compassionate, Loving One by Steven Stosny


Also, in ths book there is a chapter (Chapter 7 to be exact) for couples who emotioanally abuse each other and what to do – mostly stemming from dysfunctional backgrounds:

The Emotionally Abusive Relationship: How to Stop Being Abused and How to Stop Abusing by Beverly Engel


I read a ton of books while in my former marriage. 


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