Many couples are stressed by emotionally intense situations. Others simply drift or grow apart. It can be very difficult to keep a strong emotional bond in our fast-paced, ever-changing society. Being in a relationship is full of promises, especially when partners approach each other with respect, curiosity and the willingness to introspect in front of each other. Naturally, every couple must face personal and interpersonal challenges, as well as the strains of change.
Grief Can Shake the Foundations of Relationships
When grief hits an intimate partnership the very foundational structure can be affected. Often partners process their grief differently and may have difficulties empathizing with the other’s experiences. For example, many men have been conditioned to go covert with their intense emotions, whereas, generally women tend to be more open or overt with their feelings. Clearly, in the modern spectrum of non-binary gender and sexual orientations, these coping patterns and differences apply to many and varied individuals and identities.
Despite the value of diversity in relationships and couple’s therapy, a deep understanding of grief and mourning helps to ground the treatment in helpful universal healing principles. Perhaps most importantly, couples learn about their capacity for resilience, which is the ability to adapt well in circumstances of adversity.
Couple’s Therapy and Couple’s Grief Counseling
The Center’s model of couple’s therapy helps partners communicate with increased empathy and optimal responses aimed at more open dialogue and collaboration. The result is a stronger and more healthy attachment.
We have found that when stressed, couples inadvertently resort to defensive patterns that are used for purposes of self-protection rather than increased vulnerability and openness. The unfortunate result tends to be disconnection, frustration, disappointment, and anger. Acting out and acting in behaviors further damages the relationship causing deep hurt and mistrust. In order to re-establish closeness and connection, partners must be willing to face—with open eyes—their defensive coping patterns and learn new skills that facilitate emotional regulation, insight and an array of more productive behaviors.
Growth and Development in the Midst of Grief
A critical aspect of couple’s work involves more than just listening. We encourage partners to listen with respect, but also to learn skills that help to repair rifts and ruptures in the relationship. So often we find ourselves feeling alienated from our partner due to a build-up of small, but significant misunderstandings or misapprehensions. We recognize that to know another person’s mind is rife with puzzles and mistakes.
Therefore, our therapists both teach and model core principles of open dialogue. That is, we encourage partners to share with each other in the relative safety of a therapy session in open and accepting ways to promote mutual knowledge of each other as thinking, feeling beings with different perceptions. Moreover, skills of observation help to break down seemingly insurmountable problems into smaller and more manageable pieces. Couples learn that problems can be solved much more easily in the context of being understood.
Defensive patterns tend to be relaxed when individuals are listened to, respected, and better known. In addition, when empathic rifts and ruptures are quickly and efficiently repaired the relationship can more easily flow toward new levels of growth and development, even in the midst of grief and mourning.