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Awakenings Center for Intimacy and Sexuality

Couple

Eventually, when two people have been in partnership for a period of time, the romantic rose-colored glasses come off. One or both partners begin perceiving individual irritants that drive them crazy, but do not recognize the patterns as relating to a more complex dynamic.

“He doesn’t want to talk to me anymore.” “She never wants to have sex.” He expects her to do the laundry; she expects him to make more money. She’s jealous and checks his cell phone; he’s gone on business and is more evasive the more she monitors him. Or simple irritants like one partner not picking up after themselves can chafe unbearably over time. The specific combinations of problems are as endless and varied as the couple. Even deciding to come to therapy can be a battle. Life cycle changes of childbirth, new careers and aging bring many additional challenges that can destabilize a previously secure relationship.

To further complicate resolution/healing, individuals may feel the solution rests solely in their partner’s willingness to change, or transformation appears to depend on a contingent agreement which is never agreed upon. Worse, sometimes it feels that giving our partner what they want will annihilate us. Happiness begins to erode.

If a couple cannot communicate without blaming the other, every attempt to find a solution may result in arguments and hurt feelings. In order to avoid this outcome, one or both partners may avoid conflict altogether which only causes problems to fester.

Therapy will illuminate the bigger dynamic. Without taking sides, your therapist will help each partner see the way that individual change can facilitate change in the coupleship. It is very difficult to change without an absolute guarantee that your partner will do their part too. Therapy assists you during this growth process. You will learn to recognize and state your needs clearly without generating undue defense. You will be taught how to listen and respond in ways that deescalate anger and hurt.

Couples’ therapy goes beyond simple communication training or problem-solving skills and tries to help each individual build a bridge of empathy and deep understanding to their partner. We help couples take back assumptions about their partner, and begin for the first time, perhaps in years, to see their partner for who they really are.

All marital therapy includes a discussion of the couple’s sexual life as a reflection of overall functioning. In the bedroom, as well as in daily life, one partner often advances as the other retreats. This constant space between the two is not genuinely satisfactory to either. Yet, they fight or feel anxious when the distance changes. Couples therapy helps partners meet on common ground and connect.

FAQ

Will my insurance pay for couples’ therapy.

Yes. Ask your insurance carrier what benefits you have for both out-of-network providers and in-network providers for “mental health therapy.” Some insurance companies allow one partner to receive the diagnosis with the other partner attending sessions.

We tried marital therapy once before and my husband felt like he was ganged up on and doesn’t want to try again.

A poor therapist-client match can cause a person to lose hope about using an extremely powerful instrument for marital change. We will gladly spend 15 minutes by phone talking with your husband about his prior experience. It might also be good to schedule an initial session alone with him and one of our therapists to see if he finds the experience different. While therapists sometimes throw their weight against a destructive dynamic in a marriage, both mates should feel that they are treated with dignity and compassion. Sometimes therapy goes poorly because the therapist doesn’t stay neutral; other times, the personality fit isn’t comfortable.

My wife has just told me that she doesn’t feel in love with me anymore. Should I try therapy or call a lawyer?

Feelings of being in love wax and wane during a marriage. Your wife is probably feeling hopeless about those early romantic feelings coming back and scared too about what this means for the future. While we can’t say what she may want, if you want this marriage, it’s time to start fighting for it. Disillusioned couples often find a new path to deeper understanding and stronger bonds through therapy in the midst of desperate times. You can often change the couple patterns, even if she does not agree to come to therapy herself.

I just found out my husband is having an affair. We have children and I’m a stay-at-home mom. I can’t believe this is happening. I want to leave him, but I feel trapped.

Sexual fidelity is a sacred bond between two people and upon first hearing that it’s been broken, it can feel like the end of the world as you know it. But affairs are one expression of a multitude of problems. Perhaps some of the problems belong to the couple and some to the individual who chose to act out. It may mean the end for this marriage and you may decide not to forgive this offense. It may not mean this. While an affair is often a deeply hurtful way for one partner to convey something, it doesn’t have to mean the end of a marriage. Often with expressed remorse and deep understanding as to why the affair began in the first place, couples are able to move forward. Couples are shaken to the core over an affair, and while it may seem impossible at this moment of discovery, the outcome can change both people for the better.

Getting experienced help fast is the best way to find some meaning in this crisis. Therapy will offer you both a safe place to be angry, talk about why it happened, and figure out if you want the marriage to continue. Trust is regained through intimacy rather than merely depending on future vigilance.


The children have grown up and left. I now see that our marriage is dead. I want to be with someone for the last years of my life who cares about me.

Philosopher Peter Koestenbaum says “plan to have two marriages in every lifetime, sometimes to the same person.” Minimally, you will want to understand the ways that you contributed to the marriage’s deadening so that you can keep from repeating the same mistakes. If we have not changed, we often find ourselves in a second marriage that mimics the first. It is difficult to even be attracted to someone more mature emotionally than ourselves and difficult for them to be attracted to us. But sometimes we have matured, our spouse refuses to shift, and the marriage becomes intolerable.

Whether you ought to stay married or leave a marriage is up to you, but therapy can help you clarify your thoughts in the process.


I do not want to waste time and money through endless analysis. Can you help me with tools to change my relationship?

Yes and no. Many articles in Reader’s Digest and other pop magazines provide a synopsis of easy fixes. If these have not worked then perhaps the issues reach deeper than you realized. In fact, try those first. If you find yourself still repeating hurtful patterns, we can help. In couples’ therapy we do help spouses be more direct with each other about their concerns and requests. We help them understand that “no” is a legitimate response to a request rather than resorting to passive-aggressive avoidance. Once “yes” is the answer they agree to, then we help them with accountability to their promise. We believe both partners need to be fluent in the language of words, actions and the body as expressions of love. We typically do not give homework assignments as we see that it generates more resistance than growth. We believe, though, that examining and making transparent your unconscious expectations, family patterns and deep early experiences, gives you the power of choice over your relational blueprint.