Silva Neves Specialist Psychotherapy in Central London EC1 & Reading, Berkshire RG1

Couples Therapy . Love light

Couples Therapy.

It is common for couples to become unhappy in their relationship or marriage. Often couples stop communicating with each other. It is common for each individual in the couple to feel isolated, angry, resentful or just bored and unhappy.
Sometimes, sexual problems cause the relationship to become unhapppy. And sometimes unhappy relationships can create sexual problems.
Sometimes, living busy lives, managing careers, having children, not finding time for each other can be a cause for couples to slowly drift apart. Some couples can't remember what was once so attractive about their partner.
Being in an unhappy relationship can be very difficult because it can make life miserable.

The most common problems for couples are:

  • Communication problems in a relationship, including frequent arguments, rows, blaming. A relationship with frequent arguments, rows and blaming can feel like a toxic space. There is so much anger and resentment that it can bring up intense unpleasant feelings and emotions as well as unrecognisable behaviours. Over time, it is exhausting to be in such a relationship. Many couples in this situation feel stuck and unable to move on.

  • Differences in sexual desire within the relationship. It is perhaps one of the most common sexual problems with couples. Many couples feel stuck, unsatisfied and find it difficult to address this problem.

  • Sexless relationship. Many couples lose the desire to be sexual with each other. It can be caused by various factors including living busy lives, having children, getting older, feeling bored in the relationship or holding some resentment.

  • Healing after the disclosure of infidelity. Infidelity has a tremendous negative impact on relationships, marriage and sexual lives. It is very challenging for couples to heal from it individually and as a couple. The healing process and the re-building of trust and compassion can be long and challenging, but it is possible.

  • Lack of intimacy. Some couples lack, or have lost, intimacy with each other. They may be in a good companionship or even friendship but there is little sense of intimate feelings. Some couples start to feel like they are living with a stranger or a house mate. It can bring a sense of loss and sadness in which couples feel stuck.

    'The divorce rate has been 50% for the past 60 years, because people think conflict means you're with the wrong person' Dr Harville Hendrix

  • Couples Therapy . Sex addiction

    Recovering after an affair and infidelity

    The discovery or disclosure of an infidelity is heart-breaking and can be traumatic for the person who is betrayed. The person with the affair faces a tremendous amount of guilt and shame for causing so much pain to their partner.

    An affair shakes a relationship at its core, causing a lot of damage. For some couples, the affair marks the end of the relationship. For other couples, it can be an opportunity to heal, re-assess the relationship, find the areas in the relationship that needs growth and start to rebuild a new relationship.

    At the point of disclosure or discovery of an affair, the current relationship is finished, but a new one can emerge from the ruins.

    If you decide that you want to end the relationship, a short course a couples counselling can be helpful to separate in a therapeutic way which can be helpful for both partners. Individual therapy may be recommended so that the two of you have your own space to process your intense emotions and thought patterns to help you come to informed choices on how you want the next step in your life to be.

    If you decide that you want to repair the relationship, a journey of healing and growth is possible. There are three stages to repairing a relationship after an affair:
    Be together with the damage.
    The first step to healing is for the two of you to be with the damage. It is a very painful place to be but it is an essential step. At this initial stage of recovery, I will guide the betrayer to take full responsibility for the hurt and damage so that there is space for the betrayed to heal the wounds. Essentially, it is almost like putting the scaffolding onto a building that needs much repair. This first stage can last many months. Healing a broken heart takes time and cannot be rushed.

    The Second stage is understanding: putting together the pieces of the whole history of the relationship and identify what did happen in the past that set up the stage for an affair to happen: sometimes, there are previously unidentified deficits in the relationship, sometimes it is that the relationship didn’t grow as the partners aged and became an ‘outdated’ relationship. Sometimes it can be a slow relationship burn-out for specific or non-specific reasons. Understanding the narrative of the relationship isn’t a way to excuse the damaging and dishonest behaviours of the betrayer, it is a stage that encourages reflection and collaboration, instead.

    The last stage is the rebuilding stage. The relationship is over at the point of the discover or disclosure. So, after healing the broken heart and understanding the narrative, you can be ready for rebuilding as a couple. It is also a stage that can take many months: it takes time to consciously look at every pieces of the relationship and deciding which ones you are going to use to rebuild and which are no longer suitable and needs to be discarded.

    Trust is one of the essential element of a relationship that gets destroyed at the moment of disclosure or discovery of an affair. Trust will take a long time to heal and may not be re-established until the very end of therapy.

    The three stages guideline means that there is a particular process of post-affair recovery, however, every couple has its own unique process within the recovery process, and the stages can be overlapping. Other therapeutic interventions may be needed to add to the process.

    Healing and rebuilding a relationship after an affair is a deep, painful and courageous process. It is also the ultimate testimony of a couple’s commitment for growth and love.

    My practice of Couples Therapy for healing after an affair is non-judgemental, non-shaming and open-minded. I am fully trained with extensive experience to help you both in your post-affair recovery.

    Couples Therapy . Angry couple

    My article on couples problems

    Screaming and Shouting

    Couples argue sometimes. On occasion, it is even healthy for couples to argue. We’re only human. Sometimes we say the wrong thing at the wrong time to our partner, with the wrong tone of voice. And it hurts them. And it escalates into an argument. And sometimes, couples end up raising their voices at one another for a short time. Then they make up, apologise , and move on. This is life.

    However for many couples, arguments do not occur in this way. Some couples argue so frequently that they cannot remember the times when they do get on. Or when they have a good time with their partner, they cannot enjoy it because they are always dreading the end of the ‘good time’ and expecting the next argument to explode at any time. Some couples find it impossible to resolve conflicts. Once the shouting is over they are left without a resolution, the problems then fester, only to have the same problem resurface a week later with another argument.

    Many people that come to see me report that the arguments are so frequent, with so little resolution, they feel completely miserable. In my previous blog, I wrote about good relationships being good for us because it boosts the immune system and is a source of happiness. By contrast, a relationship that is soaked in anger, resentment, disagreement and arguments can make one ill. My clients have reported getting frequent colds, having panic attacks, feeling muscle tension, having frequent headaches, insomnia, and sometimes feeling so hopeless they start to have suicidal thoughts. Living in such a relationship can chip away your self-esteem little by little until you lose your sense of self.

    Some couples are so angry that they argue about everything: who takes the rubbish out, who does the dishes, who takes all the cover s in bed, where to go on holiday, who picks up the children from school, and so forth.

    In some relationships, the anger and resentment is so deep that the breach it had created between the two partners is too wide to repair. Some people in this situation decide to leave the relationship. If this is the case, and depending on the length of the relationship, a therapeutic ending may be advisable, for proper closure.

    Many people in angry relationships feel they cannot leave the relationship because, deep down, they love their partner. Indeed, they were once in love. But there are just too many arguments and bad feelings, and they believe things need to change. This is often at this point that people decide to come to therapy, either as individuals or as a couple.

    In couples therapy, the anger, resentment and lack of conflict resolution between the two partners can be healed. They often learn that it is hard to fully understand the other person’s world. In fact, sometimes, it is not possible because we all experience life differently. We all have a different set of emotional responses to some events. However, by facilitating a process of therapeutic dialogue, each partner can begin to build a bridge between their own worlds and meet in the middle, free of anger and resentment.

    Good communication is one of the key elements to a better relationship.

    There are five easy communication tips that each partner can use to begin to decrease anger, resentment and, in turn, the intensity level of arguments:

    1- Use the ‘I ’- statement. Saying ‘you’ makes you be a parental figure and will trigger a defensive response from your partner. Instead of saying: ‘you make me angry’, how about saying: ‘I feel angry’. Replace ‘you never do the dishes’ with ‘I notice the dishes have not been done today’.

    2- Try to avoid words such as ‘should’, ‘must’, ‘mustn’t’, ‘shouldn’t’. It is likely that when you hear these kind of words, you will be reminded of authoritarian figures such as your parents or teachers. Again, it will trigger a defensive response from your partner. Instead of saying: ‘you should stop smoking’ how about: ‘I feel smoking is not healthy and I worry that you might get sick in the future’. Replace: ‘you must tidy up the house before our guests arrive’ with ‘I would appreciate if you could help me get ready before our guests arrive. If I cook the meal, would you be happy to clean the house?’

    3- Listen to each other actively. When you ask your partner: ‘how was your day?’ be prepared to hear more than ‘fine’. Be curious about your partner’s life. Ask more questions: ‘what do you mean by fine? I really would like to know’.

    4- Clarify what you heard your partner say and validate it. For example, if your partner talks about a bad day at work, and you don’t have experience in the field of work of your partner, you can validate and clarify saying something like: ‘I don’t understand what it is like to have a boss like yours, but I can definitely hear that it is very hard on you. When you say you are fed up, what do you mean? Tell me more.’ This type of conversation is not about an attempt to fix things for your partner or make things better for them, it is only about being curious about your partner’s life and truly being present in the relationship.

    5- State your needs clearly. Often, couples think they can read each other’s mind. But this is not true. Couples only make assumptions, and often assumptions are wrong. Therefore, it is important to state your needs clearly to your partner. A common example is sex. When one partner initiates sex and the other doesn’t want it, if there is no dialogue, you will make assumptions: ‘I’m not attractive enough’, ‘why doesn’t he /she want to have sex with me?’, ‘is there someone else?’ However, if you state clearly what is going on, the dialogue would sound something like this:
    ‘I have had a really busy day at work and I feel exhausted. I would rather sit on the sofa with you and watch television.’
    ‘You do not want to have sex with me because you are exhausted. Am I right?’

    Another example of stating your needs clearly would be:
    ‘I know it is my turn to wash the dishes, but I really don’t want to do it today. Is it ok if I do it tomorrow?’
    ‘It has been ages since we have done something nice together. I really would love going out to a restaurant sometime soon. What do you think?’

    Often, problems of anger and resentment in the relationship are more complex than just a communication problem. Couples therapy is very valuable to look at all of the issues that may contribute to the wedge that is established in between the partners. The communication tips above can be used to start the process towards better dialogue but it is not the only challenge that many couples need to address in order to have a better relationship.

    These tips seem simple, but they can be difficult to stick to in a relationship. It is often easier to get started with a new way to communicate with the help of a trained couples therapist than on your own. But, with time and effort to change the couple’s dialogue, negative emotions can be overcome.

    Of course, we’re only human , so there will be moments when you say the wrong thing at the wrong time with the wrong tone of voice, but these instances will be less and less frequent, and, hopefully, mutual intimacy will replace what once was anger and distance between the two partners.

    Posted by Silva Neves on 25th March 2014.

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