I am stuck at home with COVID when I had planned to be in a beach house with Pete and our grandchildren. I’m feeling tired, disappointed, and also a little fuzzy in the brain. But even that doesn’t stop me from thinking about couples therapy!
I am thinking about what happens between two people that inhibits change and often frustrates therapists.
I’ll share 10 observations and I ask you to add yours in the commenting section below.
- Some partners believe they can’t change. They say, “I am set in my ways after all these years.”
- Some partners have little or no vision of what is possible and where they want to see their relationship evolve.
- Some partners believe and even state they have already tried everything and now it is no longer up to them.
- There is unresolved trauma from things partners have done to each other: infidelity, not being there in times of need such as surgeries, deaths, in-law challenges. The unresolved pain lives under the surface and prevents partners from being loving, caring and intimate.
- Partners say they will practice what they are learning but then they don’t.
- Partners have limited insight and awareness into their own role in keeping painful patterns going.
- Partners insist on partner reform rather than committing to their own evolution.
- When challenged and asked to be accountable or apologize, some partners regress into a victim position and say something like, “I can never do anything right.” Or “See I am unlovable.”
- Some partners won’t take initiative when the other does not mindread.
- Some partners believe only one can win when they differ or disagree. They will go to the mat to win rather than learn to collaborate.
This is just what comes to my covid-addled brain this morning. I’m sure you can add lots more and I will look forward to reading them if you put them in the comment section below.
With all these possible stuck interactions, it is no wonder some therapists say, “I’ll never work with couples again!”
So what do we do with this random, possibly discouraging list? A trainee described this as the challenge to identify and dismantle the diverse forms of resistance that clients all too often hide behind.
And that’s the treasure so I’m repeating it: identify and dismantle diverse forms of resistance that clients often hide behind.
Personally, I love this challenge. It is the intricate art of couples work. Can I find a way through and create movement in what one of my clients called treatment resistant subtle aggression? I believe this challenge mindset can make the entire process less daunting. The resistance is part of a puzzle, and it becomes remarkably rewarding to inch forward.
Being able to think developmentally is a great advantage in the face of this resistance. If you haven’t seen our free starter series you can get it here. For a bit more depth consider our “Introduction to the Developmental Model.”
Please comment below or add more to this list.