Archive for stuck

One way therapy can help.

I feel admiration for my clients who decide to discuss their couple life with a therapist whom they trust. The trust is often a difficult thing because there may have been a breaking of trust earlier in either or both of the people in the couple’s lives. This will make the forming of trust over a period of sessions a very important and delicate part of the work.

Some couples will arrive at my Coupleworks practice with hope that the process will somehow magically resolve their presenting difficulty but realise over time that the magic becomes their own acceptance of the fact that they hold the key to the progress of a sense of repair and hope.

These feelings come about through better communication aided by the therapist who can listen and interpret their words with an independent ear and voice. The therapist should have no agenda with the couple other than helping to resolve repetitive issues which have become stuck. This could be compared to a log jam where the water is stuck on one side of the logs with only a stubborn dribble getting through a small outlet at the other. The therapeutic work together can free up the places where the logs got stuck and encourage the water to flow through in a steady passage. This in turn, helps to open different avenues where the water can flow and makes the whole picture look less constrained and trapped. The sight of a flowing river and free fall over a waterfall is a picture which captures many photographers. It is popular because it seems to represent different things to different people just as all couples are different.

That picture looks relatively easy but often there are sensitive places where easy flow is painful and constricted. This, in a couple with a stuck pattern of behaviour and words, needs to be carefully and gently eased into a place of security. That early feeling of security with each other may have been discovered in the first stages of the couple’s life together and that time needs to be held onto with care in order to return, in part, to those feelings of togetherness, trust and safety. This, coupled with the progress of life with all its good and bad times, can encourage growth and a shape which is unique, treasured and valued by the couple.

Nothing goes backwards in a couple it is all about advancement into a natural flow which incorporates all the good and some of the bad bits of a long life together. The good bits are easy and nurturing but some of the bad bits not discovered until the couple faces all the comings and goings of couple and family life, are harder to negotiate. With gentle encouragement from the therapist, the harder bits can be looked at, the source of their importance uncovered and a different approach tried to enable better translation as the words come out of one mouth and enter the ear of the other.

Therapy can open up duos and trios formed in earlier life which caused misunderstanding, pain, anger and resentment. Once memory helps to dig these difficult feeling up and look at them, it becomes easier to put them where they belong in an earlier life and disallowing them to surface again when an adult relationship ignites earlier unresolved pain. The couple will find ‘here and now’ domestic or couple annoyances stay in the couple and can be resolved rather than many other characters from their past entering into the argument and therefore escalating the atmosphere into something which has little to do with the couple.

Addiction in a Couple

In couple therapy where one has an acknowledged addiction, there is a real challenge for them to see that this situation can only be changed by both partners adapting their behaviours.
Addictions are based on distorted thinking and this is underpinned by the co-dependency that often accompanies these complicated couples.
Therapy can be a safe place to unpick the misconceptions that form the fragile shell that appears to protect, but actually blocks, a healthy way forward.
Therapists should be wary of allowing the addiction to be the sole focus when it is actually both of them who are keeping the couple stuck.
It’s sometimes hard for the seemingly supportive partner to acknowledge that their enabling behaviour actually exacerbates the situation. It’s difficult to understand that kindness can be a block, but by caring and sheltering the other they are co-operating with the addiction.
Intimacy for some couples can be based on the concept of one persons drive to rescue and the others apparent inability to escape their dependency.
Addicts suffer from low self-esteem and drama keeps them attached to their partner by the attention they receive. Many ‘carers’ are terrified of abandonment so by becoming pivotal to the situation, they keep the other close and connected. One thinks they show love by nurturing while the other is kept safe by being looked after.  The dynamic is seen through the window of one person’s distress and the other ones hope of rescuing the problem.
In therapy, clients can begin to unravel this by looking at the early systems from childhood that may reinforce repeated patterns in adulthood.  They can examine what processes may have led each of them to seek the role they adopt. And by understanding some of the unconscious systems that they follow they can, together with the therapist, begin to explore a way to change the situation.
Shame is very close to addiction, and couples can benefit hugely from the safe space offered in therapy where they can begin to feel able to discuss their vulnerabilities. Self-compassion is so important, as without knowing and tolerating our own faults, it can be hard to believe that it’s possible for an other to accept us.
There can never be true intimacy without vulnerability, but in the counselling room people can gently begin to reveal their fears and allow themselves the risk of being accepted and can then see that they can also love the other completely in spite of both their flaws.
By taking responsibility for their current situation, many people can free themselves from the fear of repeating negative patterns.
Breaking a serious addiction is the work of a lifetime and requires specialist help, but by giving up the toxic control and trusting that there is a better life, many people can, and do, triumph over their dependencies.

Christina Fraser