Relationship satisfaction is associated with overall happiness with one’s life at all ages – it even protects older people’s overall happiness levels from the pains of aging and increasing losses, which all of us will encounter at some point. You are never too old to benefit from the personal growth to be gained from a psychotherapy focused on your relational needs.
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Relationship problems are one of the primary reasons people present for psychotherapy. Whether individually or as a couple, psychotherapy provides an opportunity for someone to clarify their concerns and identify underlying issues, ideally with the goal of improving communication and intimacy.
Conflict in committed relationships consists of a complex web of interlocking factors that can be difficult for partners to discern, understand and resolve. It is often frustrating, discouraging, infuriating and burdensome for each person, and can lead to increasing withdrawal, distance and possible breakups. The relational factors involved can include conflicting needs, poor communication, unrealistic expectations, distorted beliefs, negative perceptions, high emotional reactivity, among others.
There are believed to be 3 main causes of relationship distress and dysfunction – each competing for the number one spot. Selfishness is considered by some to be the primary culprit – be able to put one’s needs on hold for the sake of one’s partner is a characteristic of successful relationships. Unresolved past issues, or “emotional baggage,” is another strong contender -- this can be because individual and couples problems often exacerbate each other, and because such issues can be invisible at times, “under the radar” so to speak. Interactions contaminated with criticism and contempt for one’s significant other is actually a predictor for divorce. And of course, violence is always a poisonous dynamic.
Learning to communicate with your partner in a non-accusatory way is crucial for a healthy relationship. Skills can be taught in therapy such as “speaking in the I,” developing the art of listening carefully, learning the language of emotions and expressing feelings appropriately, taking time out each day to be together and update each other on areas of mutual concern – these can be practiced in both individual and couples therapy to improve the quality of interaction and intimacy. And having an objective, professional third party in the room can facilitate a dialogue that can lead to positive results.