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  • Like many things that help our relationships, couples therapy has a habit of sounding appallingly

  • unromantic, involving patience, gruelling work and a host of embarrassing conversations

  • about matters it would be much nicer never to have to think aboutlet alone discuss

  • with a partner and a trained stranger. Our culture teaches us to trust and follow our

  • feelings. But couples therapy knows this is to be a disaster, for our feelings are for

  • the most part errant and encoded with primitive responses from a troubled past. So instead,

  • it encourages a far wiser response: standing well back from our first impulses, neutralising

  • them through understanding and where possible rerouting them in less self-punishing and

  • more trusting directions. Related image Living alongside another person is obviously one

  • of the hardest things we ever attempt; we should expect to get it wrong unaided and

  • feel unashamed about the need for in-depth training. There are a number of vital things

  • we might learn in couples therapy: – For a start, in a quiet room, we finally have

  • the chance to define what we feel the problems in the relationship really arewithout

  • things immediately degenerating into shouting, sulking or cynical avoidance. We're normally

  • far too cross with, or upset by, our partner to be able to share with them, in a way they'd

  • understand, what we're so angry and upset about. It helps to be in front of a stranger

  • we're both a little intimidated by and have to behave ourselves with. It is highly unusual

  • to be able to put things so starkly but also so reasonably: 'That you never touch me

  • and behave so limply and unenthusiastically when I touch you is slowly killing meand

  • though I love you, I don't know how much longer I can take it…' How much better

  • than a decade of low level sniping and repressed fury. – Secondly, therapists are skilled

  • at teasing out from us why what bothers us bother us. Normally, left to our own devices,

  • we don't unearth the emotional meaning behind our positions. We squabble about where to

  • go on the weekend, rather than explaining what exactly going out or staying in represents

  • for us internally. And as a result, the other finds us merely stubborn and mean; and all

  • that is interesting and poignant in our position is lost. – Thirdly, therapists break up

  • unseen repeated patterns of upset and retaliation. A classic therapeutic game is to ask both

  • parties to fill in the blanks: When you ….., I feel ….. – and I respond by …. So when

  • you disregard the children, I feel rejected and then respond by trying to control who

  • you see in the evenings. Or when you don't touch me in bed, I feel invisible and respond

  • by being ungrateful about your money. – With the therapist acting as an honest broker,

  • new contracts can be drawn up, along the lines of: If you do x, I will do y… Once we get

  • a little bit of what we really want (but usually haven't properly asked for), the other's

  • needs feel a lot less onerous and hateful. – Sometimes the advice is almost beautifully

  • pedantic. Name three things you resent about your partner. And, next, three things you

  • deeply appreciate. Also, keep the criticism specific: not 'you're cold and ungrateful'

  • but 'if you can call me when you're running late, then…' Families can be kept intact

  • with little more than this. Image result for matisse paintings loveThrough therapy,

  • we are challenged to abandon some of our grimmer ideas about how people can be and what will

  • happen to us in love: If I am vulnerable, I am not necessarily going to be hurt… I

  • might try to explain, and the other could listenWe are given the security to throw

  • out some of the scripts we grew up with about the futility of ever trying to be understood.

  • We can start to be moved by one another's pain. What does it feel like, a good therapist

  • will ask, to hear your partner explain how it is for them when youWe can start to

  • take care of each other. A remarkable idea comes to the fore; that this isn't really

  • our enemy, that theylike ushave some very bad ways of getting across what

  • are, at heart, some very understandable and touching needs. Couples therapy is a classroom

  • where we can learn how to love. We're normally so embarrassed at not having the first clue

  • how to do so, we leave things until we are too angry or despairing to do anything but

  • hate. The most hopeful and therefore romantic thing we can ever do in love is sometimes

  • to declare that we haven't yet learned how to lovebut, with a little help, are very

  • keen to learn one day.

  • The School of Life offers professional couples counselling with qualified psychiatrists that can

  • benifit people at all stages of their relationships. If you would like to learn more, click the link on your screen now.

Like many things that help our relationships, couples therapy has a habit of sounding appallingly

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What We Might Learn in Couples Therapy

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    Evangeline posted on 2018/08/21
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