Your romantic relationship
Therapy can be used to explore and understand the dynamics of your romantic and sexual relationships. Perhaps you are feeling unfulfilled, disconnected, misunderstood, inadequate or disappointed? You don’t want your relationship to end, however, that would be a great shame. Neither do you want it to continue as it is.
Therapy for change
Change is at the heart of successful therapy. We are not able to change the ways of the world, nor the habits of our partners – however much we may want to do so. Instead, therapy can help you to change yourself.
This is not about you becoming a different person. Therapy entails a meticulous exploration of your less helpful beliefs and behaviours. Uncovering what they actually are – bringing them into the light of the therapeutic space – may feel surprising, embarrassing or even shameful. Ultimately, it is also likely to be empowering.
In successful therapy, you become consciously aware of what you are really doing, really thinking, and really feeling. Talking over these deeper thoughts and feelings with the therapist can be truly enlightening. It is then that you can really change – if that’s what you decide to do.
For instance, you and your partner take turns making dinner in the evening. You often listen to Six Music while cooking, while your partner tends to check emails on her phone. As you go along, you always try to tidy up after yourself. This is not something that she will routinely do.
When it’s her turn to cook, you find that you want to chat. She, on the other hand, will move easily between the cooking pans and the phone, seemingly paying you little attention. As she does not tidy and clean the kitchen as she cooks, you find yourself slow-boiling with anger.
You feel hard done by. This is unfair. As you cook, you also clean. When she cooks, she makes a mess of the kitchen space.
The therapeutic process
Through the therapeutic process, we discover that you are more hurt by your partner’s unwillingness to talk to you in the evening, than by her unwillingness to clean up as she cooks. In fact, you are not giving her the chance to tidy and clean up at all. Feeling anger that you do not express, you jump in and “do the cleaning for her”, keeping your sense of injustice alive.
If you left that splatter of passata on the hob, perhaps she would wipe it up later, but this is a side issue. Exploring your feelings, over weeks and months, we discover that if she talked to you more in the evening – rather than going on her phone – you would feel much happier in your relationship. You might even discuss whose turn it is to do the washing up, and when best to do it. (You might also discover that she finds your habit of always listening to the radio while cooking irritating and unintimate).
What therapy has brought to the surface is your need to communicate as a couple, if you want anything to change. It has also hinted at the hopeful notion that both you and she do desire a more intimate relationship. You are stuck in the rut of loud music, resentful cleaning and simmering injustice; she is detached while cooking, checking her social media feeds and irritated by your constant need for Six Music radio. It’s no wonder, that when you sit down to the meal, you barely feel together at all.
A second example: you’ve been together for seven years now. Your intimacy levels, and the frequency of sex, have been tailing off. Overwork and tiredness have contributed to a situation where you are beginning to feel like strangers to each other, in bed.
You sometimes feel libidinous and romantic urges, while cooking and listening to music, early evening. However you rarely act upon these feelings: there’s washing-up to be done. In any case, she’s on her phone and has barely noticed you, or given you any eye contact. "If I try something now, she's bound to knock me back," you think.
Your partner seems disconnected and detached - until you both get into bed. Then, she will sometimes make a move on you, before falling back into angry disappointment if you fail to respond immediately. She always seems to make her move when you are feeling most tired, resentful and generally unsexy.
Through months of painstaking therapeutic work, you become aware that neither you nor your partner are communicating – either your positive (libidinous, romantic, loving) feelings, or the more negative ones (resentment, insecurity and disappointment). The spontaneity of your early days together has faded. In therapy, you realize that, as a couple, you have failed to put the requisite work into keeping the relationship healthy, intimate, and excitingly sexual.
What is really going on when she’s on her phone and you’re feeling both attracted and insecure? What’s happening when she’s being sexually proactive and you’re thinking, "Not now"?
Both of you vaguely sense the other’s mood. Yet, through the therapeutic work, you discover that you have barely been aware of many of your own true, deeper feelings, never mind hers.
Successful therapy is a form of communication in itself. If you choose to embark upon the therapeutic path, you will become empowered to (re)start communicating with your romantic partner in different, more understanding, and less passive ways.
Therapy can provide you with the theory of a more successful, romantic relationship. Enacting the practical side will be down to you and your partner, back home - before, during and after you’ve had your dinner.