I often work with clients who’ve been to couple’s therapy but are still stuck where they are in the relationship. In fact, most of the time one partner is “fine” while the other is not. I’ve often found that the one who is not fine is also the one who is trying harder to save the relationship.
Sometimes I am puzzled when I see that the “fine” partner doesn’t see anything wrong, and points the finger at the other person.
“She’s the one with the problem!” or
“He’s the one that gets upset!”
If comments like that have ever come out of your partner’s mouth during a therapy session, then you are most likely in a troubling situation.
When you and your significant other are in counseling, you are there to discover something about yourself that is causing the strife in your relationship. You are not there to get the therapist to side with you and gang up on your partner. In fact, if that happens, get a new therapist. Both of you have work to do when there is trouble in paradise.
The problems do often seem one-sided, but you are both feedback mechanisms for each other and what one does, the other feeds off of. If your partner yells and you recoil, you’ve completed the feedback mechanism and you both have something to look at in yourself. If your partner complains and you become frustrated and slam the door, you both have something to look at in yourself – even if one of you is really “the problem”.
That’s because when you’re in a relationship that has a problem, the problem is about both of you. It’s analogous to a fire that cannot burn without fuel. The fire burns brighter and hotter if you add fuel and will disappear without it. In the same sense, when your partner complains, it can stoke your frustration. It’s a perfect feedback mechanism that works almost every time… until one of you changes.
And when you think the other person has to change, then you are only adding fuel to the fire. When you know that it’s you that has to change, you regain your power. Even when there’s no doubt that your partner is to blame for everything, when you change – you make decisions that are right for you which changes the relationship. That’s why it’s so important to focus on yourself during therapy or coaching. The more you focus on how the other person has to change, the less you grow as a person and the more likely you will receive the same responses from them in the future.
When you change, you make healthier choices for you. And perhaps one of those choices involves taking care of yourself by getting rid of someone toxic in your life. Even suggesting that idea to your partner (leaving them or kicking them out) might be enough for him or her to “see the light” and start taking responsibility for what they need to do to heal within themselves.
It doesn’t always work out unfortunately. But no matter what, when you are focused on your own healing and growth you’ll gain what you need to make empowered choices. And that’s what get you unstuck.