I often hear the following:
- I love her more than anybody. Why do I hurt her more than anybody?
- I love him more than anybody. But he frustrates me more than anybody else does.
Often, articulate and effective people who are good communicators in most arenas find themselves unable to communicate effectively with their partners. It hurts to want to connect with someone so badly and have them feel like they are far away. Even when you might want your spouse to come closer, it can be hard to ask: What if your spouse doesn't respond positively? Many would rather not ask (and pretend it is not a big deal) than face the discomfort and hurt of asking and not receiving a positive response.
We are created to want a partner who is accessible to us, responsive to our needs, someone who is trustworthy and is a stable base we can come to after dealing with the stresses of life. To feel like the other is a "soft place to land", that the other "has your back", and "a shoulder to lean on", that the other delights in love for you is important. Woman, culturally, are better able to ask for these things, but men long for and benefit from these qualities in a relationship just as much.It's hard to be a guy and be expected to be verbally emotionally available in ways that actually feel emotionally distressing.
Therapy can help a couple figure out how to short circuit the regular "fight pattern" to ensure that the other feels heard, to find ways to ensure you are heard. Therapy can address lifestyle factors that influence and affect a couple's ability to be close, like work, children, and alcohol.
Therapy can help create and build understanding so the other's behaviors are understandable in the larger context, and don't feel like so much of an attack--that there can be successful repairs when mistakes are made. Therapy can work with each spouse to allow them to create space for themselves in the relationship, and to express their dreams, desires, hopes, and wishes--to have them be able to comfortably express an opinion. Safe ways to discuss sensitive topics like sex and finances are explored.
"It doesn't have to be like this" is something I often tell couples in the first session. And together, we find ways of making the marriage more like each couple wants it to be.