Couple’s therapy: a help to rebuild bonds
Couples therapy is a type of help that many couples or people involved in dating use to get out of their relational crises.
This option breaks with the idea that psychotherapy is a place where one attends only to express ideas that affect only oneself: psychology can also be applied to emotional ties and communication between two people.
Interview with Cecilia Martín, psychologist
On this occasion we interviewed Cecilia Martín from the Instituto Psicode, so that she could explain the keys to couples’ therapy.
What are the types of problems for which couples go to therapy the most?
Although the reasons are varied, the most common reason couples come for consultation now is infidelity.
Infidelities are becoming more frequent in couples, both in men and women. And infidelities are forgiven. They are not a cause for breakup. But for a person to be able to forgive and regain trust in his partner, he needs therapy.
At the Instituto Psicode we work on the deep crises that couples go through after discovering an infidelity. And in 90% of the cases, couples recover and even come out of it stronger. “I never thought I could forgive him and now I’m so glad I found out about the cheating. We love each other much more and we feel closer than ever and I trust our relationship” are some of the testimonies of our patients.
Another great reason for consultation in couples therapy is that we help you to regain your passion. Passion with a capital letter because people want to feel for their partner and they want to feel loved and wanted by them.
After many years of relationship, the routine and monotony often wears out the couple and the sexual desire decreases. This is a current complaint of both men and women. Low sexual desire is often interpreted by the other as “you don’t want me anymore” or “you don’t want me anymore”. And these misinterpreted messages cause a lot of suffering for people. One of the key points of our couples’ therapies is to recover the spark in the relationship, to recover the passion and burning desire for the other.
In other cases it may be jealousy, dependence on one’s own, problems of lack of space and care for oneself, or difficulties in decision making.
Sometimes they come to make the decision whether to stay together or not. Not because they don’t get along as a couple, but because there is a conflict in values, each one has a scheme and they don’t manage to “walk together”. For example, having or not having children, giving up a professional career to accompany the couple to another country, the demand to have open sex by a partner, etc.
And in other cases, it is the recurring discussions and conflicts that are the main reason for consultation.
Couples want to learn how to solve their differences on different issues, for example, with the in-laws, education of children, social relations, domestic responsibilities, and they do not succeed in reaching agreements. In some cases communication becomes aggressive and discussions occur in front of the children, which further aggravates the situation.
In these cases what is done in couples therapy?
In couples therapy, they learn to solve those problems that they argue about over and over again. The couple enters into a daily conflict loop that they cannot get out of. Why does one seemingly simple topic cause so much excitement and aggression in the other?
Not only are these issues of communication and different points of view, but there are more emotional components involved. Possibly this theme is carrying a lot of history from the past and is touching on everyone’s weak points.
All these factors are what we analyze in therapy: the fears of each one, the life stories that have marked their character, etc. Once you get to the click! It is easy to find solutions and couples manage to stop arguing.
Many times, when couple’s therapy is depicted in audiovisual fiction media, scriptwriters focus a lot on discussions and conflicts that erupt during the sessions. Are discussions really part of the normal functioning of this type of therapy?
In our consultations, we try not to let these scenes happen. Our philosophy is that “you don’t pay a psychologist to argue, because they already know how to do that on their own”.
Couples have enough to do with the wear and tear of their discussions at home to reinforce it in the office. Besides, allowing it would be helping to create more distance, because when the psychologist is in front of us, due to the fact that we all like to be right, everything is magnified more (consciously or unconsciously) so that the psychologist takes our side.
That is why we avoid these situations but do not avoid the problems. The psychologist must know how to mediate correctly and prevent the climate of tension in the consultation from rising. The objective is that the session ends well and that the couple leaves strengthened of each session and having learned something.
What are the main objectives of this form of psychological intervention?
The main goal of therapy is to get the couple to believe in love again. To feel that their relationship is worthwhile and to feel that they have chosen someone special to share their life with. When the couple achieves this, they feel empowered and motivated to resolve any adversity.
How do we get it? Well, sometimes you have to work on things from the past. Reprocessing and closing the past in order to look at the present. Couples come with so much mistrust, resentment, disappointment. If you don’t work out the resentment of the past, it boycotts the present.
We work on the expression of feelings and increase the emotional rapprochement between them. We teach them effective communication techniques, we mediate discrepancies, we help them to recover their passion and above all to feel like a “team” again in order to solve future difficulties that are part of everyday life.
What are the most common and recurrent variants of couples’ therapy, and how do you know which one is best suited to each case?
The variants of couples therapy depend on the therapeutic approach that each professional works with. At the Instituto Psicode we work under an integrative approach, with techniques from different approaches: systemic therapy, cognitive-behavioral and even psychodrama techniques for the most emotional work.
Each couple is unique and requires a unique job. There are usually no universal solutions that will work for everyone. For this reason, couples do not find solutions by looking at their partners of friends. It is a deep work that is often more complex than individual therapy.
What kind of measures are promoted from therapy so that couples who come to this service are committed to making progress?
Ideally, both partners should be motivated to make changes and to work towards staying together. When this happens, therapy is usually brief and changes are achieved in a few sessions.
But that’s not usually the case. Usually both of them, or at least one of them, is already very tired of fighting for the relationship. They usually ask for help when they are already exhausted and when they only see the separation as the only way.
In these cases we have to work on motivation and look for the strengths of the relationship. Help them find the reasons to stay together.
Is it normal to go to couples therapy without having much hope of improving the situation?
It’s the usual. We assume that most people when they call us for an appointment, it is because the break-up ultimatum is just around the corner.
They say that when they come, they’ve already tried everything, but it’s not true. They have tried over and over again solutions that don’t work, or that even make the situation worse. They need the expert psychologist to help them see what they don’t see.
Some, when they ask for an appointment, in spite of giving them as soon as possible, we find that many times in those days the couple already ended the relationship and do not go to their date. It is a pity, because they did not exhaust the last cartridge.
Other times if it is true that they come too late. For example, in infidelity problems, it is common for couples to ask for therapy when the infidelity has been repeated several times. Here the person who has been betrayed comes so disenchanted that more time is needed to restore trust. If couples were to seek help after the first episode of infidelity it would be much easier to work.
The good part of the unbelievers in the possibility of improvement, and who nevertheless tried, is that they are then rewarded for their efforts. They are the ones who are most amazed by the changes and therefore most grateful to their partners and their decision to start the process.
Does this pessimistic perception of things usually change in the course of sessions?
Sure. As the process advances and they see the changes maintained over time, optimism and credibility in the couple appears. Many couples, after experiencing the results of couples therapy, recognize that if they had known they would have come sooner. Couples therapy works.
When couples therapy does not seem to progress, what are the causes?
When one of the members doesn’t really intend to fight for the couple because he doesn’t want it anymore, but continues the couple’s therapy, just for a secondary gain for himself. It can happen that one of them wants to save the relationship, but he is clear that he needs to see a real involvement in the other in therapy because if not, he will separate.
We have seen cases in which one of the two who wants to stay in the relationship but not because he loves his partner, but because the breakup involves a series of losses that he is not willing to assume and comes to couples therapy to prevent his partner from leaving him.
For example, the fear of losing their purchasing power, not wanting their children to live with separate parents, etc. The attitude of these people prevents the real development of couples therapy and it is very difficult to move forward.
In what situations would you recommend going to couples therapy? How do you know if the problem is significant enough to take this step?
We recommend going when a problem appears that causes suffering to the couple and that they cannot solve by themselves. Sometimes, if the couple comes to ask for help soon, in a few sessions the problem is solved and the couple can continue to be happy.
If the problem has not been solved and they just let it go, that problem will come up in the future and make the situation even worse.
What would you say to people who are starting to wonder whether their relationship is viable?
Important decisions in life are made from a rational state, from calm and serenity. If you find yourself in a situation where you are emotionally overwhelmed because your partner is constantly confronting you, resentment and anger will not let you see if the solution to the separation is the right one.
In the short term it can be a relief, but in the medium or long term you may find that there were other options.