A couple therapist who receives patients in a marriage counseling center often hears this question, especially when it comes to conflict in a relationship that has been going on for a long time. Spouses or partners are unable to solve recurring problems on their own and the longer this situation continues, the more they lose hope for a positive outcome. They feel that they have already talked many times on the same subject and that agreement is impossible. Meanwhile, the human psyche works largely on the principles of unconsciousness, which is why we are unable to see many things in ourselves.
Covert problems, serious crises in a relationship
Often, everyday matters or a recurring topic of conflict hide a different unsolved problem. Spouses may argue about the division of responsibilities at home, while in fact it is about the need to support or take into account the opinion or plan of the other person’s day. This is the purpose of marital therapy, so that a third party – a therapist – observes the unconscious mechanisms of the pair from outside and, together with clients, looks for solutions suitable for each partner, and thus for their relationships. The psychotherapist helps to reach those needs and topics that are at the heart of the problem and have not been realized until now.
Betrayal – the most difficult crisis situation in a relationship
One of the most difficult crises in a relationship is betrayal, which, if it occurs, usually causes the loss of hope for building a positive partnership. Often the person who has betrayed feels guilty, the betrayed feels wronged and hurt and may have difficulty forgiving and re-trusting. There are thoughts of parting with which the couple report to the psychotherapist. This decision to start therapy for couples is a situation from which a lot can change, because betrayal is often a signal about the emotional distance of partners. Of course, it is difficult to rise above the feeling of harm and see the betrayal immediately, it takes time.
Searching for the causes of a relationship crisis
The psychologist and the couple search for reasons for their mutual distance, learn the history of the relationship and unresolved and unspoken desires. In this case, marital therapy also has the task of healing previous injuries in relationships, finding and voicing unmet needs, and seeking solutions to satisfy them.
Relationship crisis and therapeutic help
This does not mean, of course, that conflict in a relationship, whether connected with betrayal or not, always ends in continuing the relationship. Partners can apply for couples’ therapy to find out what worked in the relationship, what the possibilities of change are, and whether they want to continue the relationship at all. It also happens that a couple in the course of therapy or before its start decide to part. In the process related to saying goodbye and re-establishing relationships, they may be accompanied by a psychotherapist – if they feel the need for additional support. However, it is worth waiting with such an important decision to break up and not give up without trying to rebuild the relationship. Each relation puts a lot of energy into shaping and developing it and in trying to find agreement. There is always something that binds the partners, and which in difficult moments is easy to forget. Therefore, the crisis, although painful and discouraging, can be the beginning of a new look at the situation and can bring a new quality into the relationship with the appropriate support of a psychotherapist.
Barbara Matla – psychologist, psychotherapist.
She works in the psychodynamic and systemic approach. She conducts individual psychotherapy and couple therapy.