Relationship difficulties are among the most frequently reported and distressing problems for people. While no relationship is perfect, each having its normal “ups and downs”, relational distress is different. Distressed couples experience pervasive disappointments and frustrations with each other. Arguments may occur frequently, with little or no resolution, leaving one or both partners feeling a mix of frustration, helplessness and emotional depletion, as well as feelings of being misunderstood, unappreciated, and unsupported. In some cases, people don’t argue but drift farther and farther apart, feeling increasingly disconnected and lonely. In other cases, people engage in affairs as a way to compensate for what is missing in their relationship, or as a prelude to ending the relationship. Some couples may even become aggressive, slapping, pushing, or hitting each other.
What are some signs of relational distress?
- Arguments that recur around the same issues, with no resolution
- Increasing frequency or volatility of arguments
- Withdrawal from each other
- Withholding caring gestures
- Loss of positive feelings for your partner
- Loss of friendship with your partner
- Disinterest in sex
- Nature and impact of relational problems
Common problems that people report in their relationships surround issues of trust, effective communication, problem solving, sex, finances, and emotional intimacy. Often these issues reflect the need for partners to develop new ways of coming together as a couple, communicating with understanding, and supporting each other. At times, couples may have difficulty adapting to the new roles and changes associated with normal life transitions, such as the birth of children or their movement into adolescence, or the retirement of one or both partners. Still, at other times, couples may experience distress related to other issues, such as substance use, mental or physical illness (of partner, parent, child), or losses (deaths, financial, unemployment). They may need the help of a psychologist/psychological associate to understand the impact of these events on their relationship, as well as ways of transcending them.
If left unresolved, relational distress can lead to sadness, depression, stress, anxiety, substance use, health problems, affairs, and divorce. Children, particularly where high conflict situations exist, are at risk for more emotional and behavioural problems than children not exposed to ongoing parental conflict.
At Chrysalis, we help couples with various goals, including:
- Communication and problem-solving skills
- Achieving greater intimacy in their relationship
- Dealing with life transitions and stresses such as illness, death, disability
- Separation/divorce issues
- Dealing with/healing from extra-relationship affairs
How can a Psychologist/Psychological Associate help?
Couples therapy can help people to build the skills they need to be effective and loving partners to one another. At Chrysalis, we offer two main types of therapy:
Cognitive Behavioural/Marital Behavioural Couple Therapy, helps clients learn to communicate and problem-solve, to improve understanding and conflict-resolution.
Emotionally-Focused Couple Therapy (EFT) is based on the belief that unmet needs for feeling close to, and loved by, one’s partner, create relational distress. Therapy focuses on helping clients to express their own needs and understand the needs of their partner, leading to a more caring and compassionate relationship.
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Getting The Love You Want. A Guide For Couples. (1988) By H. Hendrix. New York, NY: Henry Holt & Co.
Hold Me Tight. Seven Conversations for A Lifetime of Love. (2008). By S. Johnson. New York, NY: Little Brown and Company.
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The Gottman Relationship Institute: www.gottman.com
Ontario Association of Marital and Family Therapists: www.oamft.com
International Centre for Excellence in Emotionally Focused Therapy: www.eft.ca
American Psychological Association: www.apa.org/helpcenter/marriage.aspx