How to Heal Your Relationship

Are you and your spouse at odds and unhappy, but want to stay together? Make 2024 your year to address these issues and find loving, mutually supportive solutions. As a psychotherapist in New York City working with couples, I have seen many couples who were in troubled relationships recover the love that seemed lost in their marriage. It is possible, if you are both committed to it.

Look at yourself first

Though it’s hard to admit, sometimes we need to start with “fixing” ourselves. Couples therapy should include a little soul-searching, and you might find that some of the triggers that your spouse always seems to be able to hit are actually rooted in past experiences in your life that hurt you. Your spouse may be accidentally reminding you of those past events and you may be responding, unconsciously, to that earlier stimulus. In therapy, it is important to identify clues that there might be something deeper going on. 

There may also be something else going on, such as stress at work, that may be causing you to be more on edge. External stressors are extremely important to consider when doing couples therapy. We can look into those, as well.  

Both spouses will need to examine their behaviors to see how they may be contributing to the turmoil. Be prepared to humbly recognize that you both need to change, and be committed to making those changes, for the good of your marriage and the good of each other. 

Learn how to communicate

My experience has shown me that the biggest issue couples have is communication. When couples develop the skills to properly communicate their feelings and their wishes, they are more able to resolve problems amicably, to the benefit of their marriage and family.

Communication is very complex, involving not just the choice of words, but also the tone of voice, body language, pauses, and more. Perhaps even more important in communication is the ability to listen. If the other person does not know how to listen effectively, communication literally will not take place. If you say one thing but your spouse “hears” the opposite, either because of your tone of voice or body language, or because of your spouse’s past experiences, you have not been able to communicate. 

Most of us listen in order to know how to respond, instead of listening in order to understand. When one is seeking to understand, one asks clarifying questions – sincere questions, not “gotcha” questions – so that deeper understanding can be reached. 

Learning communication skills is one of the most important aspects of couples therapy. Once you and your spouse master this skill, you will hear what the other one is saying, you will be able to discuss issues constructively, and most importantly, you will find that the other spouse is working just as hard to resolve the issue by focusing on listening.

Household and financial management

Finances and childrearing are two of the most common causes of disagreements in marriage. Another is taking care of the home. Financial decisions and housekeeping tend to be fairly easily addressed, once healthy communication has been developed. 

One’s attitude towards child rearing is often rooted in one’s own childhood experiences and one’s values, which cannot be easily compromised. Often, when we dig into the roots of disagreements, awareness of past childhood experiences and how they affect your present disagreements can provide insight into the foundations of your child-rearing goals and style, as well. With this knowledge, I work together with couples to find a compromise that can benefit both the couple and their children. 

Spend time together and apart

It’s important to nurture your relationship as a couple, independent of the children or the home. In other words, get out of the house together on a regular basis. It could be dinner or a movie, walking or biking, visiting museums, or going to a show. Find something you both enjoy or take turns introducing your spouse to something you love. For instance, if your spouse is into motorcycles and you are into classical music, go on a date to a motorcycle race and have your spouse explain why it’s so interesting and exciting. Then on your next date, go to a concert, explaining the composer and the musical pieces to your spouse ahead of time so that he or she can understand and appreciate it better at the concert. 

You should also spend time alone, doing something that fuels you. This quiet time can help you unwind, recharge, and appreciate your family all the more. 

If you and your spouse are in the NYC area and are looking to heal a troubled relationship or even strengthen a good one, reach out to see how I can help you.

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