Healthy relationships are vital for a healthy life. Creating a safe, loving relationship with one important person results in our having a secure base from which we go into the world. According to Dr. Susan Johnson (2008), the emotional security that comes from this base is a primary need for human beings, a compelling survival mechanism, wired into our genes.
Developing an intimate relationship with a partner can be the most important personal growth process of our lives. Difficult life events have a negative impact on relationships. Good couple’s therapy help’s people work through problems, learn to use conflict positively and develop a deep, secure, partner bond. Self-understanding and compassion increase one’s ability to understand and be compassionate with a partner.
When our primary love relationship is threatened it is normal to feel distressed. As Dr. Les Greenberg (2002) writes, “Emotions are fundamentally relational.” He points out that, “emotions give people information about the states of their intimate bonds, telling them if their bonds are in good condition, if they have been disrupted, or if they need maintenance.” Partners in a distressed relationship often have difficulty resolving their differences. Angry, defensive emotions prevent awareness of other feelings that play a role in loving connection. Couples get caught up with surface conflicts such as money, work, sex or parenting that can continue and become a daily battle that leads to disconnection. No relationship can endure constant conflict. The reason for the arguments eventually loses importance and the relationship becomes marked with anger, resentment, caution, and distance. When a couple has this type of relationship, both partners are deprived.
Good couple’s therapy can help each individual in the relationship become more conscious of their deeper feelings. That is what the therapist works with. An empathetic therapist works closely with both partners to help them discover feelings and thoughts they may have been unaware of. Partners can become stuck in negative cycles of interactions yet neither individual is “the problem.” The problems are the cyclical negative interactions which can be changed. Couples therapy is not about one person being right or healthier. It is not about judging or criticizing one person. It is about both individuals in the relationship. It is about the therapist guiding both individuals into becoming more aware of the thoughts and feelings under the defensive arguing so they can communicate with and genuinely hear their partner better. That is the soil in which healthy relationships grow.
Loving partner relationships help us increase our ability to interact well with others; children, family, friends, co-workers, etc. Learning how to deepen our connection with and ability to love one person will result in the deepening of connection with many. As Dr. Johnson puts it, “Love is improvisation,” and emotions guide the way.
Please read more about Anne’s thoughts for improving relationships on her blog.