by James Robbins, Licensed Counselor and Relationship Expert
Couples generally come to couples counseling wanting more from their partner. Maybe you want more quality time, more trust, more physical intimacy, more positive feedback. Whatever you’re wanting more of, you’ve probably expressed this to your partner time and again, in different words and with a variety of approaches. But does your partner really seem to be hearing you? Couples often choose couples counseling when they feel they are at a frustrating impasse. But how does couples counseling help you and your partner get more from the relationship?
I do a lot of career and small business coaching. Business owners often have a familiar complaint: They want more from their employees. More attention to detail, more positive attitude, more follow-through, etc. They express their wants to their employees in various ways. They try the carrot, they try the stick, but nothing seems to work. So I ask the business owner: What more are you offering? Are you offering a raise, a bonus, more vacation time? Are you at least providing more positive feedback? Because employees need incentive. Working harder without some concrete benefit doesn’t make much sense from the employee’s point of view. It can be hard for the business owner to get out of her own head and see things from the employee’s perspective. It can easily turn into a combative relationship, each side feeling resentful toward the other. It’s easy to forget that both employer and employee are on the same team, ultimately sharing the same goal: to thrive in their own roles within the workplace.
A romantic relationship is obviously very different from a workplace relationship, but certain basic truths apply to both. If you want more form your romantic partner, you have to give more. Lecturing your partner isn’t going to do the trick. Neither is giving him the silent treatment or making him sleep on the couch. Punishing your partner, giving him even less isn’t going to get you what you want. Maybe you’re waiting for your partner to give more first. Problem is, you’re partner is likely doing the same. So who is going to take the first step? Maybe you resist giving your partner more of what she wants because it simply seems too difficult to give. But if you can challenge yourself to dig deep, to let go of ego to better meet your partner’s wants, you may find–as if by magic–your partner is willing to make changes that exceed your most optimistic expectations. Couples counseling helps couples explore these difficult areas. And if you give all you can but feel your partner still isn’t meeting you halfway, you still have the option to exit the relationship–but you would do so in full confidence that you gave it your very best effort.