If you and your partner have felt distant lately, have you considered couples therapy? Therapy can be an invaluable resource in building a better connection with your partner.
By Jaunai Staton, BBA and Lauren Grossbach, LMFT
Therapy creates a space where you can both get ready to engage in self-awareness and self-exploration. Just by recognizing the challenges that come to the surface, you can create more balance in your relationship.
Your relationship therapist can foster healthier dialogue between you and your partner. They can also help guide the experience of direct engagement between you and your partner. This can mean examining sensual, physical, emotional, intellectual, and energetic functioning. You only need one thing to be ready to explore all of these in therapy: willingness.
It is safe to say therapy can be unfamiliar territory for you and your partner, but it is a tool available to help process your commitment to one another. When initially joining therapy with your partner, there might be some fear showing up for you both. However, there is still the need to escape from how you’ve managed your problems at home. It can already be uncomfortable at home managing problems. How do you become comfortable introducing issues in front of someone else? Do you believe there would be judgment, shame, or embarrassment when first entering therapy together? These might be some thoughts running through your or your partner’s mind.
Opening Up With Your Partner In Couples Therapy
Indeed the therapy room can introduce transparency to you and your partner. Transparency is an essential part of building trust and emotional safety. The therapeutic process cultivates growth and maturity which will make it easier for you and your partner to have more openness within the relationship.
Therapy involves difficult conversations. It will take time to feel safe enough to share things that might not be easy to share with your partner. You may feel uneasy at first being more expressive in session. You and your partner may feel awkward at the beginning. However, this openness ultimately creates a physical and mental connection between you and your partner. By connecting with your partner, you become more willing to listen to their needs.
The truth is that the therapy room is a safe space for you and your partner. It will allow you both to escape from some of the challenges you both have been dealing with outside of the therapy room. Having a therapy session can be a jumpstart to a healthier connection.
Therapy is a journey that can allow you and your partner to explore feelings beneath the surface. This results in more vulnerability, which can feel raw and challenging. However, this is necessary for exploring feelings with your partner. Whether sitting in a therapy room or in a virtual session with a therapist present, it can feel like a safer place to share these feelings, but is it the only place and time when couples feel safe talking? Do you and your partner feel comfortable enough to genuinely engage with one another outside of therapy?
What happens when it’s just you and your partner, and you return to your normalcy? The truth is that you and your partner can maintain a connection outside of a therapy session.
Creating A Safe Environment At Home
Just having difficult conversations with your partner in an entirely different environment, like a therapy room, can give you both an advantage to begin to take away some tools to use while at home. Relationship therapists help you establish the root of the issue that has been damaging to your relationship(s)—including your relationship with yourself. From there, the therapist can provide the tools that can be used at home, both individually and together.
Coming to therapy might suggest that your therapist takes on the problems for you and your partner. When, in fact, the therapist is there to guide both partners to face their problems. It could be hard for one partner to talk about the past, and for another, they can be eager to do the work at home together. It is important to recognize how to effectively communicate and share some of the answers to the lingering questions you both may have. Exploring and making this connection outside of therapy can be essential to your relationship. It is also scary. Clients have shared that they return home to their normal patterns because it is easier than feeling uncomfortable doing assessments at home.
In my work with couples, getting them to actively engage with their partner in session often brings comfort and understanding. Should the engagement stop there? Absolutely not!
Engaging at home is vital. So, let me share some tips on how to recreate a safe, vulnerable space for you and your partner.
Couples Therapy Communication Techniques To Try at Home
Beginning the therapy process allows couples to process how to utilize more communication techniques at home. Communication for couples can be tricky when there is little time or no right moment for them to open up without escalating a fight. When you and your partner attempt to engage with one another and the therapist is absent, it can feel like unsafe territory. So what can you do together without escalating a fight?
- Share your world with your partner: Make time every day to share your world with your partner in any way that feels authentic to you. This means staying active, present, and understanding of the needs within yourselves and each other. The more you share, the less there might be “touch-and-go” with your partner. You and your partner can become more digestive to the things you are not willing to hear and less regretful for sharing those feelings. This technique (called Love Mapping) comes from the Gottman Institute’s research on lasting relationships.
- Keep the environment safe and open: When talking with your partner, it’s best to know what makes them feel comfortable and open. As one partner stays calm and becomes more reflective, the other partner can feel safe to be transparent. This can eliminate the feeling that you or your partner are hiding something from each other. Staying open (and kind) about your thoughts, feelings, and activities is an excellent way to build more connection with your partner. This creates trust, open communication, and a sense of security. Take deep breaths when you need to. This approach is called self-soothing, which you can read more about here.
- Stay connected in other ways: Couples need to find ways to stay connected, which doesn’t necessarily mean just talking. You can also do something fun and exciting, like taking a trip or trying to write poetry together. Experience life together with big and small moments. This can help bring more security into the relationship and allow you and your partner to focus on each other. If sticking to date nights is a struggle, check out these tips from the Gottman Institute.
Even happy, healthy couples can learn how to keep a connection at home. Couples can benefit from therapy engagement at any stage of their relationship; but how you and your partner maintain engagement when returning home is the important part.
If you’re trying to get closer to your partner but keep following the same routines, this means your thoughts and feelings are stuck in fixed patterns. Many more techniques can help you and your partner establish better communication and bonding in the future.