No matter what your situation is, know this: every relationship develops to a place where the things you need most from your partner are the most difficult for him or her to give you. At the same time, what your partner needs most from you is the hardest for you to give. This is normal relationship development and it happens because every human being unconsciously seeks a partner who matches unresolved emotional patterns from the past; including a difficult childhood history and/or past unhappy relationships. We seek someone who is similarly wounded because we are looking for a safe, loving relationship where we will be able to be loved in a way that heals those old wounds. At first, this “match” feels good. Like a soul connection. Simpatico! The deeply connected feeling comes from a visceral awareness that our match understands us. Our wounds are similar. Our life stories bring an easy empathy. But over time, those wounds that initially attracted us act in the background of our lives until we find ourselves wondering why we chose this person in the first place!
No matter how consciously you try to “choose” a healthy partner and create a relationship that is “different” from what you grew up with or different from unhappy past relationships, your relationships will inevitably bring you right back to the unresolved issues and hurts that you may have personally wished to leave behind. The truth is, what you bring to relationship and the patterns you helped develop in each of your previous relationships will remain the same – no matter who you are in relationship with. You will always be you in relationship. This is why your relationship presents you with the unique opportunity to heal yourself while it offers your partner the same opportunity. With the right guidance and cooperation, you and your partner can experience deep, lasting healing that leads to greater life satisfaction for each of you individually as well as for you together, as a couple.
Unfortunately, most people who get to this point in relationship decide – too soon – that the relationship cannot be saved.
In reality, you have three choices: 1) Stay in your relationship and tolerate the discomfort you are feeling without making any change, 2) Work together to support each other while you confront the developmental tasks your relationships is inviting you to overcome or 3) Separate.
Many people choose option one. Most of the time this is because fear of making change keeps people feeling stuck. When making this choice, you feel several things simultaneously: the fear of change, the pain of your current situation, and fear about what will happen if you don’t make changes. If you or your partner decide to stay with this choice, you still have the option of working on yourself until the time comes when you decide to work on your relationship together. However, the risk in working on yourself is that you could inadvertently be working toward option three. Individual therapy often brings changes which affect our lives and relationships in ways we didn’t initially expect. If you choose to move forward with therapy on your own, look at our individual therapy page to understand what that would entail and to see if that would be a good fit for you.
Let’s look the second choice. To effectively accomplish the second goal, you will need several things:
You need a sensitive guide who has the ability to help you understand how each of your past experiences have led you to where you are today as a couple. Even more importantly, you need someone who will help you identify how your past experiences intrude into your current interactions with your partner. It is common for couples to get into a stalemate because their past experiences match each other in a lock-and-key pattern that keeps each partner believing that the other partner is the cause of his or her discomfort. The truth is that the cause is usually a combination of perception, underlying “favorite” assumptions and undetected influences of past experiences. When these things become clear through the help of your therapist, you will each be able to make more informed, conscious decisions and loving actions within your relationship.
You need a guide who holds the optimism of someone who has walked this developmental path personally and who has supported many couples to successfully overcome the difficulties of a relationship haunted by past hurts. You need a guide who doesn’t get discouraged by what seem to be setbacks in the therapeutic process, but continually points you toward a satisfying, healthy, conscious relationship. The truth is, getting to where you are today was not a linear process. There were ups and downs. And there will be ups and downs in the process of recovering your relationship. Your therapist will help you remember that by reviewing your progress; pointing out change that may not be obvious but are clear signs of growth.
You need a guide who can help you navigate the delicate balance between what your past introduces into your relationship and what your partner brings. Sometimes, it can be very difficult to tell whether you are responding to something from your past or whether your partner is being uncooperative or difficult. At The Center for Healthy Relationships, we are expert at helping you understand how to tell the difference and how to talk about those differences together, leading to deeper intimacy and healing.
You need a clear understanding of how your needs may not have been met in the past and a crystal clear view of the unsuccessful strategies you have used to try to get those needs met. Then, you need a guide who will teach you the steps to getting what you need, while honoring your partner’s needs. Many of us learned that “either” you get your needs met “or” I get mine met. You need a guide who is ready to teach you a “both” you “and” I approach. So both of you understand how to get happy and stay happy in relationship.
You need an experienced, compassionate guide who stands ready to show you how to create safety in your relationship. The truth is that part of the reason you are where you are in your relationship right now is that it is natural to want to “protect” yourself when you begin to believe that your partner isn’t looking to take care of your unmet needs. It is very common for both partners to arrived “protected” to couples’ therapy. The first step to deep connection is identifying and establishing what makes you both feel safe in relationship. Your guide will take the process as slow as necessary – with you setting the pace based on increasing feelings of safety within your relationship.
You need to understand how stress creates and maintains conflict. You need effective tools for talking about and managing stress together. Couples often have a vague idea of how stress affects them, but your therapist will teach you how to assess your stress levels and effectively personalize a plan to protect your relationship in order to “stress proof” your relationship.
We are here to help you work together to overcome this developmental crisis in your relationship and help you experience a corrective emotional experience with your partner. During couples therapy, we are looking for those opportunities to help you restore your emotional connection and sense of empathy for each other. This is less dependent on communication skills and more dependent on the way you listen to each other. We stand ready to help you understand this process and make our tools your tools.
Regarding the third choice, we understand that you may be considering separation. This is an option that is often in the back of any couple’s minds when they seek therapy. Couple’s treatment can help clarify what each of you need. And, it can help you determine if one or both of you is unable or unwilling to continue to participate in the relationship, given the current developmental crisis. We understand that ongoing growth in relationship is a choice and that this choice must be freely offered to each partner on a continuing basis in order for the relationship and each partner to truly thrive. And while we will work with you to help you achieve increased safety, a deeper connection and a more secure attachment, we understand that not every relationship can weather the storm of past hurts. When this is the case, we will provide supportive counseling to help you adjust to the changes you need to move forward in a healthy way.
At The Center for Healthy Relationships, it is our goal to support you in developing a safe, healing relationship that allows you to nurture and help each other continue to grow as individuals and as a couple. We will work diligently with you to help you develop the skills and characteristics necessary for a happy, stable relationship.
The Center for Healthy Relationships
350 S Lake Ave suite 201, Pasadena, CA 91101, USA