It is extremely common in my practice for people to begin individual or couples therapy because of relationship issues. Often, these challenges are related to an imbalance in he relationship between intimacy/connection and individualism/separation. This imbalance may be the result of issues related to communication, boundaries, self-esteem and power/control differentials. The following are examples of relationships that are not balanced or mutually beneficial.
Couples that are enmeshed have few outside friends or relationships and spend virtually all of their free time together. It is a set up for too much dependency and isolation from other sources of support.
Disconnection is where there is little intimacy or shared time or experiences.
When there is a power imbalance, one partner has more influence and control than the other, which can be the result of self-esteem issues or in more serious cases-- physical, emotional or verbal abuse.
Instead of these dysfunctional relationship models, the ideal should be interdependency.
A balanced relationship is interdependent. A partner is a whole, complete self (like a circle), and the relationship is where the two circles overlap. The circles do not eclipse one another, which would involve one partner almost completely overtaking the other and not allowing them to have their own separate life outside of the relationship. Interdependent partners are equal (circles are the same size) and the relationship is mutually supportive.
Therapists help individuals and couples find this healthy power balance in their relationships.
Individual psychotherapy can be a place to:
- Define one’s identity and sense of self
- Practice authentic and assertive self-expression
- Explore your personal boundaries and learn to set healthy limits
- Explore your relationship history with regard to intimacy, commitment, attachment, connection, etc.
Couples counseling can help you and your partner by:
- Addressing issues of power, control and respect in your relationship
- Defining boundaries that allow for healthy connection and separation
- Improving communication and conflict resolution skills
- Foster emotional and physical intimacy
We all can benefit from therapy and counseling in our lives--and so can our relationships! Don't wait until you are in crisis to seek couples counseling. A little tweak in therapy can get your relationship realigned to promote happiness and success in your life.