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Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Can Relationship Coaching Help You and Your Partner?

If you and your long-term partner are having relationship problems (not including physical abuse) don't wait until it's too late!

Carefully look over the following list that research states as proven symptoms of relationship deterioration that are associated with an increased probability of a breakup or divorce down the road, or at least an unhappy relationship:

1. Feeling Distant from each other
2. An Increase in Arguing or Negativity
3. A Lack of Affection (from smiles to sex)
4. Increased Anger, Hostility, or Sarcasm
5. Avoidance of Each Other on a regular basis
6. Trust Issues

If you're already experiencing one or more of the signs listed above, be sure to take action soon to improve your situation... instead of losing the relationship.

I'm a firm believer that most couples don’t actually need psychotherapy, and that the majority of divorces did not actually have to take place if the couple had sought help soon enough. The main problem is usually simply a lack of skills in the areas of communication, assertive communication, expression of anger, commitment, conflict resolution skills, connection and/or intimacy and affection skills, to say the least.

It may seem obvious when you read this, but so many couples make the mistake of doing nothing until their own or their partner's unhappiness has become extreme. Here are the two most common situations:

1.) A couple comes in for a session, not sure whether they are separating or willing to try to put effort into saving the relationship by changing it, when one of them already does not believe there is much hope. They may have even been expressing their unhappiness or anger for a long time, but the other partner didn't believe the relationship would really come to an and... and basically ignored all the warning signs, hints and threats, until now.
2.) A couple comes in for a session, not sure whether or not they can fix their relationship because one partner has announced that they want a separation or divorce. The other is usually in shock, unaware that their relationship had become so bad that their partner would want to end it - even though there were many warning signs (if they had been watching and listening). As we talk it is revealed that the one who wants out has been telling the other for months or years, possibly beginning with demands or requests for changes in the relationship, but nothing was done.

How can it be that so many couples have been having such a tough time that statistical rates are so high for separations and divorces? Quite simply, there were no courses in school on relationship skills when the parents of today are divorcing. Whether within the family-of-origin, a friend's parents, or from watching television (yikes!) we only learned what we know by watching our role models. With that in mind, consider that not just your partner, but you also, may not know how to successfully resolve ongoing hurts/resentments, betrayals of trust, verbal abuse, and/or distance/lack of closeness in your relationship because you were never shown how. Think about it: If you were not receiving the love and attention you want/need do you know how to change that situation?

The good news is that these skills can all be taught. Even if only one partner is motivated and the other is simply willing to give it a try, coaching can make a big difference! How does relationship coaching help?

Imagine a basic problem of not feeling cared for.
Here's a homework assignment that the couple might be given:

Sitting face to face and holding hands or just having your knees touch, take turns sharing something that you appreciate about each other. Do three rounds, once a day. It can be something basic like, "I appreciate how well you take care of the kids" to "I really liked the effort you put into my last birthday present." If anything like that is still too difficult, it can even be, "Thanks for supper."

Give it a try and let me know how it went for you and your partner.

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