Many times when couples have finally come in for counseling their relationship is at a crucial point of breakdown. Every couple wants resolution so they can go back to a relationship that works again. Although it's tempting to look for solutions immediately, it is actually INCREDIBLY important to validate each person's experience up to this point. It's also important for each couple to get that their experience is going to be different from their partner's, and to argue about who is right and who is wrong will only further serve to destroy the relationship. Once validation has occurred. The next step can be taken...
Establishing New Patterns of Communication
Unfortunately, much of what is going on revolves around assumptions regarding what the other person means and/or how he/she feels. When we are angry, upset, or vulnerable (or all the above) we can misread the intention behind a communication, and instead see everything that is being spoken to us through the filter of that negative emotion. Addressing HOW we listen to one another can make all the difference in the outcome of the conversation, and ultimately the relationship. Giving the other person the benefit of the doubt can dramatically impact a relationship in even the simplest of ways. There are also such things as "Realty-Checks". This tool assists each couple in "checking-in" with the other person, rather than making assumptions. Regardless the tool used, the focus is on creating "Structures for Success" where each person feels empowered to communicate in ways that assist the couple in moving forward in the relationship.
Making a New Connection In the Brain
It is important that each person work on creating a new connection in his/her brain that will enable a positive (rather than negative) association with the partner to be established. This occurs by doing things with one another that DO NOT include anything negative. At first, this may be tough. However, by utilizing some basic ground-rules, the couple begins to remember why they like each other, even remembering the love that they were present to when they first got together. After practicing this, the positive association in the brain then grows stronger and stronger, and the couple fall back in to love.
Self-Care Is Crucial!
Many people can get "lost" in a relationship, where the number one job is to make the other person happy (often at the expense of the individual). This pattern needs to stop in order to create positive change, and a new connection made in the brain to "fill myself up first" so that "I can give the best of me instead of the left-overs to the one I love the most in my life". When self-care is supported by each partner in the relationship, there is a natural desire to be more loving and supportive with each other. From there...creating a fulfilling relationship with one another is possible once more.