If you are thinking about seeking Couples Counseling in West Seattle for concerns about your relationship, Congratulations! That is a very healthy thing to do–to stop and wonder, “Hmmm, maybe someone outside the system will be able to see what is going on more clearly, not take sides, and actually be able to TEACH US something about our relationship that we can’t quite figure out!”
As a counselor for both individuals and couples, and as someone who has experienced both really good and really bad Couples Therapy (read: very helpful, and completely not), what I have come to truly appreciate is the importance of: 1) an experience in real time, in the session, of an authentic shift in perspective that opens me, and gives me/us more more options for thinking and behavior, and 2) good information about what is happening–in my brain and nervous system, in my emotional and energy body, with my thinking and my belief systems, and even spiritually. Your relationship’s emotional dynamics or tone, your communication styles, or understanding the differences between each of you without always going to blame or defensiveness, these are some things that I, as an outside witness and guide, can really help with.
To begin your journey, below I have included a list of traits that are essential for vibrant, committed relationships. This is a great first step in assessing where you stand in regards to how you see both yourself and your partner. If you learn something, anything, and it spurs you to seek some further guidance, and you decide to go for some Couples Counseling in West Seattle, give me a call, text or email! 206-650-7449
Traits of Healthy Relationships
A list of what makes for a good relationship could be quite lengthy and might differ from couple to couple. But here are some characteristics mentioned over and over by marital therapists. Ask yourself what’s important to you and whether or not your current relationship meets your needs on a scale of 0 (not there at all) to 5 (high). This isn’t a quiz; just something for you to think about as you look at the whole relationship.
___Respect for Each Other: In a healthy relationship, couples need to make compromises. But neither partner should ask the other one to change things about themselves central to who they are or what they want out of life. Respect is also about treating each other in the way you’d like to be treated, even when you’re angry and frustrated. Other signs of respect include caring about the things that are important to your mate and recognizing that differences are OK.
___Support and Empathy (see below): In a healthy relationship, partners are there for each other with warmth and affection through both good times and bad. Even when their opinions differ, supportive spouses try to see things from their partner’s point of view. Without keeping track on paper and pencil, people in workable marriages attempt to be there equally for each other. Otherwise, partners can get burned out.
___Communication and Sharing: Honest, direct communication is a key part of any relationship. The ability to share your thoughts, feelings and desires in an open and honest way are essential to the level of intimacy and connectedness the two of you share. People are not born knowing how to best communicate and send the right non-verbal signals. It’s a skill that can be learned like any other—if the two people are willing to learn.
___Mutual Trust, Honesty, and Fidelity: Honesty leads to trust, which leads to feelings of safety, probably the most important ingredients in a happy committed relationship Trust paves the way for the confidence to share your feelings, emotions, and self with someone else. When someone lies to us, it erodes trust and drives a wedge between the two people in the relationship. Because trust provides the foundation for nearly all relationships, the bond is threatened.
___Enjoying Time Together and Time Apart: Couples also need space for other friends, their own interests, and private time alone. This shouldn’t be threatening to well-adjusted partners—after all, they’ll want some time to themselves, too. When people don’t have enough of their own space, they begin to feel trapped and suffocated. HCPS tend to be enmeshed.
___Fairness/Equality: Relationships marred by power and control struggles lose their intimacy because you can’t afford to be vulnerable with someone who might use it against you. When one or both of you are enmeshed in a power struggle, the simplest decisions (e.g. where should we go to dinner?) become fraught with angst and conflict. It often takes a therapist to unveil the real issues beneath the predictable fights.
___Connection/Intimacy: Emotional intimacy and connectedness happens when we feel loved, accepted, and safe to reveal who we really are, warts and all. The safer we feel, the more we’re willing to share. The rewards are great; it helps us get to know ourselves and it may be the closest we can get to another person in our trip on planet Earth. It is the essence of being loved.
___A Mutually Rewarding Sex Life: The sexual relationship works well and is satisfying for the both of you. This may mean striking compromises about frequency of sex, who initiates, and so forth. Neither partner should try to force the other to do what is beyond their comfort level—although it’s also a good practice to try new things you and your partner might enjoy.
Empathy is the experience of understanding another person’s condition from their perspective. You place yourself in their shoes and feel what they are feeling. Empathy is known to increase prosocial (helping) behaviors. While American culture might be socializing people into becoming more individualistic rather than empathic, research has uncovered the existence of “mirror neurons,” which react to emotions expressed by others and then reproduce them.
With sex, of course, there is such a range of what works/doesn’t for individuals and couples, it is a very good idea to open up an authentic conversation in a safe way, and for many, that means utilizing the “container” of a therapy office. So please consider me for your Couples Counseling in West Seattle needs, and contact me to set up an appointment.