Why are long-term relationships so difficult? How is it that so many of us, feeling loving and close at the start, wind up feeling so alienated and distant, or angry and dissatisfied? My couples therapy gives good people who love each other — or who even once did — the insights and tools they need to recover the sense of closeness, understanding, tenderness, and passion that first drew them together.
Perhaps there is fighting or even verbal abuse in the relationship, infidelity, addiction, low levels of physical intimacy. Problems may be as severe as these or as “everyday” as, “we’ve just grown apart from one another.” My couple’s therapy has the power to change the most intractable-seeming difficulties.
I utilize methods developed over twenty years in conjunction with my husband, Terry Real, the creator of Relational Life Therapy, an approach that thousands of therapists across the U.S. and beyond have trained in. RLT is known for producing dramatic change quickly with its no-nonsense, get-to-the-heart-of-things style. I also use the gentle yet powerful techniques of Internal Family Systems, which offer access to deep-healing work of each partner in the presence of the other. These two methodologies, combined, provide an unbeatable blend of straight talking skill building with transformative emotional experience.
Couples quickly learn that it isn’t so much about content of the issues as it is the dynamic, the dance between the two of you. Couples identify the unique vicious cycle that has captured them — in RLT language, their “bad deal” (scolding mother to resistant son, angry pursuer to helpless withdrawer) — the self-reinforcing pattern that holds their dissatisfaction in place. Together, we learn how to transform their vicious cycle into a charmed one, in which positive new moves on one partner’s side meet positive new moves on the other, so that, for example, increased sharing on one side evokes increased vulnerability on the other, or increased tenderness on one side evokes increased passion on the other.
Beyond the critical work of learning — and transforming — the couple’s dynamic lies the equally important gift of learning to identify in yourself and in your partner which part of you is speaking – the mature, present-based part, or immature parts that are more interested in defensiveness than intimacy, learning how to work with these parts with compassion and loving firmness to re-parent them, nurture, and contain them so that the relationship becomes not a hindrance to your happiness and growth, but the crucible itself of satisfaction, transformation, and healing.
Most couples sessions are an hour to two hours either every week or every other week depending on logistical concerns and the gravity of the relationships issues.