Intensive marriage counseling can and does save relationships.
Couples in committed relationships -whether married or not- inevitably reach periods of impasse that are marked by greater conflict, disengagement or lack of vitality. Frequently the sexual relationship suffers as well. While partners often want to believe that problems will work themselves out, typically they don’t. Seeking the help of a professional couples counselor sooner rather than later is a wise investment in the relationship’s future.
Couples often come in for help when they are emotionally or sexually distant. When partners still have some willingness to strengthen the marriage, focusing on the underlying dynamic can bring to light unexpressed intentions that have led to their detachment. Marriage counseling provides the opportunity for real growth, even if there’s been infidelity, addiction or chronic avoidance. Partners are challenged to create the kind of marriage or committed relationship that both people desire.
Couples also seek therapy when they are fighting too much. When partners experience excessive conflict, they are frequently acting out power and control dynamics that set them up against each other. Becoming aware of, and grappling with, these basic human impulses allows partners to make more differentiated choices. Accordingly, this leads to fundamental, sustained transformation in the couples’ dynamic.
Differentiation & Intimacy
Couples counseling can help partners to recognize core dynamics that are fueling conflicts. Reactivity in a relationship is usually an indicator that couples are managing their anxiety in self-destructive ways. Therapy can help partners learn to mature and differentiate, which increases intimacy and eroticism.
Marriage counseling also teaches couples new ways to handle power struggles, decrease avoidance, and strengthen direct communication, dramatically improving emotional and sexual satisfaction in a committed relationship.
Self-Confront and Grow
My work with couples is greatly informed by the differentiation approach developed by David Schnarch and documented in his books Intimacy & Desire and Passionate Marriage. Schnarch’s work challenges partners to become honest about their limitations and self-delusion, to self-confront and grow into more developed, mature versions of themselves. Guided by his pioneering work on sexual desire and intimacy, I help couples disentangle their emotional fusion so they can freely participate in a mutually satisfying sexual relationship.
Often this process of growing in self-awareness is uncomfortable and challenging, but is highly effective because it produces lasting change. Being able to sustain an intimate relationship over time requires more than just feeling closer through validation and empathy. A marriage or committed relationship can only be as healthy as the two people involved. Differentiation therapy makes people grow up so they can have an enduring and satisfying marriage.
It can be hard to make the decision to get professional help for marital difficulties. But these relationship problems can undermine a marriage if left untended, and help can be remarkably transformative.
Elizabeth Perwin counsels couples and individuals in Washington DC and Silver Spring, Maryland. Contact Elizabeth for an initial consultation to see how marriage counseling can improve your relationship.