Marriage and Relationship Therapy
A good relationship is more than something we want—it’s something we need to be our happiest, healthiest, most productive selves. A recent 75-year long Harvard study indicates that our relationships are the most important element that impacts overall feelings of joy and happiness in life. But at home or work, supportive, fulfilling relationships don’t come automatically. They take an investment in time and energy as well as social skills that can be learned.
If you are lonely, experiencing conflict and/or dissatisfaction in your relationship with your spouse/partner there are steps you can take to repair this connection and build a meaningful, long-lasting, loving relationship together.
Intimacy in Marriage and Attachment
Intimacy is about being emotionally close to your partner, about being able to let your guard down, and let him or her know how you really feel. Intimacy is also about being able to accept and share in your partner’s feelings, about being there when he/she wants to let their defense’s down.
To be able to share our ‘inner-world’ with a partner we love, and to be able to share our partner’s experiences, is one of the most rewarding aspects of a relationship. Intimacy often doesn’t need words, but being able to put feelings and experiences into words makes intimacy more likely to occur.
The ability to have intimacy is often a reflection of our attachment patterns. By recognizing our attachment pattern we can understand our strengths and vulnerabilities in a relationship. An attachment pattern is established in early childhood attachments and continues to function as a working model for relationships in adulthood. This model of attachment influences how each of us reacts to our needs and how we go about getting them met.
The attachment style you developed as a child doesn’t have to define your ways of relating to those you love in your adult life. If you come to know your attachment style, you can uncover ways you are defending yourself from getting close and being emotionally connected and work toward forming an “earned secure attachment.”
When to Seek Relationship Counseling
Ideally, couples seek relationship counseling early on in their relationship in order to build a solid foundation for their partnership. This can be during the dating process, pre-marital counseling, or early in the marriage. This approach is akin to going to the doctor for your annual check-up and taking preventative measures for your health. Relationships and marriages can be solid and still utilize relationship counseling to help them navigate transitions such as moving, job changes, having children, caring for elderly parents, etc. This can enhance your relationship and deepen your intimacy. Learning effective communication and conflict resolution skills will help a couple be able to navigate the ups and downs of life. This is much easier to do when couples are in a healthy place, are open to one another, and are not entrenched in destructive conflict patterns.
Most people wait until their marriage or relationship is in distress before they seek counseling. This approach is akin to waiting until your arm is broken before seeing a doctor. While the process of counseling can take longer in this state, there are effective treatment approaches for marital distress. People in a distressed marriage are fundamentally unhappy with their relationship, conflict is frequent and often unresolved, or couples begin to detach and alienate from one another.
Frequent arguments that don’t get resolved, the loss of good feelings, and the disappearance of friendship, sex and vitality are other signs that a marriage is distressed. Behaviors such as contempt, withdrawal, violence, and a complete loss of connection signal that a marriage is in desperate trouble and that it is at high risk for divorce. Furthermore, you do not need to be legally married to experience “marital distress.” Serious, long-term, committed relationships can experience the same kinds of major problems.
Our Relationship Therapists
At Knoxville Counseling Services we understand how difficult and sometimes complicated relationships and intimacy can be. We are here to guide, support and empower you and your partner toward lasting change and commitment. We use a variety of therapeutic approaches including Emotionally-Focused Therapy (EFT), The Gottman Method, Prepare and Enrich, and others to help you and your partner improve your relationship.