Almost 100 percent of couples who come in for therapy start out by saying, "We need help communicating." I listen for a while about the arguing, the distance between the two, and how they wish things were back to how they were in the first years of relationship. Often I ask what is happening in the bedroom and nine times out of 10, the problems communicating extend between the sheets...and couples are looking for ways to improve their sex lives.
Often it takes our sex lives breaking down before we are willing to ask for help. The moment when a couple walks into a therapists office can be a pivotal first point of transformation. This event often means:
- "Something has to change."
- "I cannot live like this anymore."
- "Our emotional/physical stuck-ness cannot go on."
- "I am afraid that things are going to stay the same…and if they do, I may just leave."
This "stuck-ness" is often referred to as an emotional gridlock. When you are in this place of gridlock it can be difficult to figure out how to create the change that you want. If you try to tell your partner to change…
- "I love you but I am so tired with the kids and work. I don't want to have sex."
- "Why aren't you more affectionate with me like you were when we first got together?"
- "It feels like you aren't attracted to me anymore."
- "I have sex with you because otherwise you get mad and frustrated with me. I'm tired of doing that."
- "We are married and haven't had sex in four months! Who am I supposed to have sex with if not my wife?"
These statements are an effort to create change in a relationship that is in gridlock. Frequently, however, they trigger your partner and create a lot of anxiety in the relationship. And then, an argument ensues…to include but not limited to:
- withholding affection
- quiet resentment
- shutting down, walking out, slamming doors
- triangulating with family, friends, or children
- name call, belittling, yelling
Quickly a couple will abort the mission to change and loop back around to business as usually. They might say, "Well, I tried to talk to Mike about it but he wouldn't listen. We just ended up in a fight."
The couple engages in 'pretend normal' for a period of time until something blows and the cycle continues. Your task is to create change in your relationship while maintaining a sense of stability.
The problem that most couples encounter in this process is that they are looking to their partner to provide them with a sense of safety, stability, and a positive sense of self. In other words, each partner wants the other to be for them what they cannot be for themselves. It is much like the drowning person grabbing onto their rescuer and pulling him under with her.
Let me be clear, when you depend on your partner to give you a sense of safety, stability, and enough-ness it becomes nearly impossible to do the growth work in the relationship because that safety, stability, and enough-ness gets jostled.
Throw Out The 50/50 Motto
Healing your emotional gridlock is not a 50/50 proposition as we commonly think of it. It is necessary that you take 100 percent accountability and responsibility for:
- What is going on now, and
- What you are willing to do to make it different.
Often I see couples who are waiting for the other person to change by prodding, shaming, cajoling, manipulating, and demanding that their partner do something different. Real meaningful change only happens when each party takes 100 percent responsibility for themselves.
When your sex life starts breaking down, it is an indication that your relationship is ready for change in order to experience new growth. It is a delicate and rigorous process and one that can produce healthy and vibration emotional and physical intimacy. If you find yourself reading this thinking, "Yes! This is how it is for us!" Then call today to schedule an appointment. If not now, when?
Jenny Glick, MA, MSC, LMFT is a licensed marriage and family therapist and owner of the Counseling Center of Cherry Creek. Jenny employs a number of contemporary tools and practices to coach her clients to achieving the vibrant and fulfilling relationships that they so want. Call 720.457.3342 today for your free 20 minute phone consultation or book online now. Decide. Show up. Transform.
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