Sara Navarrete: “Relationship crises can be opportunities for change”

Sara Navarrete: "Relationship crises can be opportunities for change"

We have the pleasure of talking to the Valencian psychologist Sara Navarrete. Navarrete has an intense career as a therapist, and has defined her professional career mainly by assisting couples in times of crisis.

Because, in fact, couples’ therapy is one of the great unknown and many times we ignore how it works and what the key points are when dealing with a tense marital situation, helping each member to know themselves better and to improve in certain communicative and relational aspects.

Interview with Sara Navarrete: Couple’s therapy and its keys

Having attended more than 500 cases of couples who wanted to improve their relationship, we wanted to ask Sara Navarrete some frequently asked questions about this type of therapy , why it is useful and thus learn more about her experience in this field.

Bertrand Regader: How is the logic of couples therapy different from that of therapy for individual patients?

Sara Navarrete : In order to answer this question, we have to understand the myth of the better half. The myth of the better half argues that the couple wants nothing more than to be together. This myth implies that we have a soul mate out there dancing and that we have to find her in order to be a complete being again.

This idea of the better half really conveys an unrealistic image of what a couple really is, without also taking into account the damage it does to self-esteem to consider ourselves incomplete without having a person at our side. Therefore, the first step in couples therapy will be to differentiate between love and emotional dependence.

In the first instance, we will try to contextualize that a couple’s relationship is not based on the relationship between two incomplete beings that unite to create a complete being, but rather, it is based on two complete beings that decide to be happy side by side, it is something that is built on a daily basis. Therefore, answering the question, we see that in couples therapy a third entity appears (the couple), we work with the “you”, with the “I” and with the “we”.

While in individual therapy we work with the patient from “you” to “you”.

What are the main types of problems that are treated in couples therapy? Is it possible to recognize major sources of discomfort?

It is very important to keep in mind that each person and each couple is a world, so each person and each couple has different and very personal conflicts, we will have to spend some time to know the different circumstances that involve each couple. However, it is true that we can recognize several sources of discomfort or more frequent couple problems.

The most common reasons that lead to crises in the couple are the birth of children, problems in sexual relations, problems in communication, etc. We could summarize some common sources of discomfort in the following points:

  • Exhaustion of the relationship due to fatigue (living together instead of strengthening the relationship makes it more difficult).
  • The presence of a third person.
  • Conflict of interests (family, finances, illness).
  • Social differences (educational and cultural)
  • Character incompatibility.
  • Disenfranchisement.

In your experience, are there differences in the type of complaints expressed by heterosexual men and women during these kinds of sessions?

Over the years, I have come to realize that although, as I said before, every couple is a world and every couple has different complaints and resources to deal with crises. It is true that there is a common dialogue that is repeated in many couples. In general, for the heterosexual men who come to the consultation, part of the conflict could start in that they feel that their partner is not sexually attracted to them, since the frequency of sexual encounters is not what they would like.

On the other hand, we see that in heterosexual women it is extremely important to feel heard and understood, and they do not pay as much attention to sexual encounters.

Are there times when a small change in attitudes brought about by therapy leads to big improvements in the relationship, in a matter of days?

Yes, when the couple meets certain requirements, we see that in an average of three to four sessions a big change can take place. For this, it will be necessary that the couple has a low level of conflict, that is, although the conflict exists the number of negative interactions is at least equal to the positive ones, it is also important that there is commitment and a high level of friendship. When the couple recognizes the problem before it gets worse and the couple seeks professional help, it is usually short sessions.

What types of individuals or couples tend to respond most favorably to this treatment?

There are many reasons for a couple to respond favorably to treatment, but the most important is acceptance of the fact and avoidance of distortion on both sides. It is considered that a couple with problems must meet the following requirements for the treatment to be favourable:

  • Recognize yourself as a partner with problems or at least one partner perceives it.
  • That the rate of negative exchanges is equal to or less than that of positive ones.
  • That the couple presents problems in different areas (social areas, communication, sexual relationship, etc) but that they do not present character compatibility problems.

It is very important to keep in mind that each person and each couple is a world, so each person and each couple has different and very personal conflicts, we will have to spend some time to know the different circumstances that involve each couple.
However, it is true that we can recognize several sources of discomfort or more frequent couple problems.

The most common reasons that lead to crises in the couple are the birth of children, problems in sexual relations, problems in communication, etc.
We could summarize some common sources of discomfort in the following points:

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