Maxine Gower, LCSW, NCPsyA - Boulder Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy in person, via skype, or by phone. Please email or call (303) 875-5046

Marriage & Couples Counseling in Boulder

How does a couple get to the point of needing marriage counseling?

There is nothing quite like an intimate relationship to show us the way in which we think, what we believe and how we are inclined to act and react. Our buttons are sure to get pushed by our partners and some parts of ourselves (that we would just as soon keep hidden!) are inevitably revealed. When this happens, we can feel terribly hurt if our partners are not skillful in how they approach us.

Most people enter marriage/relationships with unspoken wishes or desires that the marriage/relationship will cure what ails them and that difficulties will somehow be resolved. It rarely works that way. Economic status can change - as can various other helpful factors - but we still inevitably come face to face with ourselves within the relational context.

An intimate relationship/marriage serves in many ways as a mirror through which we can see ourselves, through the eyes of our partners. This can be both a wonderful and a terrible thing. When the mirroring partner reflects what we want to see and hear about ourselves, we are delighted and when she/he does not it can be devastating and the relationship can be strained to the breaking point, especially when we feel blamed, attacked or hurt by our partners in some way.

It is easy for us to blame our spouses/partners and make them the problem when a relationship sours. It is hard for most of us to consider that we have, in some perhaps unknown way, contributed to the problem. (This is not to say that they may indeed do, or have done, destructive things which we may not wish to be around, but we owe it to ourselves to track our part in what has unfolded.) Even though it is very difficult, it is our job to look first and foremost at ourselves and not distract ourselves with blaming and attacking our partners. In couples counseling the session is used to see what we think and how we feel about what has transpired and to reflect on how we are going to act in the present and in the future once our understanding has deepened.

Although couples work is hard to do, it is a great opportunity to use what surfaces in the relationship as a path to grow exponentially and make changes that will last a lifetime. Having a person with whom one can work through difficulties, no matter how daunting, is an opportunity not to be missed and an investment in oneself, one’s marriage/relationship and kids (if you have them).

What can one expect from marriage counseling with Maxine and how will it help?

I help couples at my office in Boulder, on the phone, or on Skype to become aware of the interpersonal dynamics that are playing out between them and the unique nature of those dynamics. I use a direct yet gentle approach asking relevant questions to clarify what has been going on with the couple in a way that no one feels blamed or singled out for criticism or judgment. Rather, we are all there to explore what went wrong, to understand the implications and to make changes where necessary. I seek to understand, and help both individuals to understand, how they came to be in the situation that they find themselves in and to highlight which factors from the present or the past have contributed, or may still be playing out, and adding to the marital/relational stress.

In individual therapy complaining about our partners for some of the time is acceptable practice, in couples work however, we focus more on two things: one, the roles and contributions of each individual to the couple dynamics and two, the marital/relational system that is in need of help and realignment.

In couples work there is a focus on both members of the couple learning to speak freely, calmly and honestly about themselves and what they experience in the relationship, in a way that can be heard by the other partner. When this becomes the ground for communication, safety and trust become the basis of the couples work and of the relationship in general. Once respectful listening and openness become routine, hope and love can return and healing and rebuilding can take place.

Typically speaking, the more motivated the couple is to stay together and work things out, the more quickly the marriage/couples counseling can progress. The more conflicted one or both members of the couple is about staying in the marriage/relationship, or, the more damaged the relationship is due to mistrust and hurt feelings, the longer it may take to reestablish a base for healing and repair.

If for any reason a decision is made to exit the relationship as a result of couples counseling, the counseling can also serve as a great stepping stone to any new relationship as much insight into yourself will have been gained and you will be in a better position to have a successful relationship the next time around. Ignoring the problems within a marriage/relationship does not resolve anything and one is likely to take the “un-worked out stuff” with us into future relationships.

We owe it to ourselves to develop the tools we need and the awareness and the skill that it takes to have loving relationships.

To see another article for couples entitled “Power struggles in intimate relationships” please click here.

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