Therapy for One with a Portland Marriage Counselor

June 6, 2012 by

I’ve been working as a Portland marriage counselor for a number of years now, so it’s pretty easy to spot when one member of a couple doesn’t want to be there. Whether it’s a man or a woman, the signs are the same – sighing, eye-rolling, distraction, complaining, and worse.

Traditionally, the thought has been that both members of a couple need to be present to resolve relationship issues, and in many cases, this is true. It does little good for a husband to complain to me that his wife is constantly criticizing him other than to offer advice on how he can talk to her about how she’s making him feel. There’s a chance this will work, but it’s just as likely that his wife will continue her behavior.

But trying to work with a person who genuinely doesn’t want to be there and thinks the therapy a waste of time can actually make matters worse. So, how can a single person work on relationship issues without their partner? The trick is to find things to fix in yourself.

Portland Marriage Counselor: Fix Yourself to Fix Your Relationship

Going to therapy to make yourself better isn’t a new idea – millions of people do it every day. The difference between true individual therapy and going to “couples therapy for one” is that the goal is specifically to change behaviors that you believe are hurting your relationship.

What do I mean? Take this example: a wife is growing frustrated that she and her husband fight all the time. Whenever she calls him out on his actions, he gets defensive, which makes her angrier (and him even more defensive). In therapy, she came to realize that when she “called him out,” she tended to criticize. Instead of saying, “I would appreciate it if you could take the trash out more,” she’d say, “Are you just too lazy to take out the trash?” In this way, she was making a value judgment about him as a person, not just complaining about an action. Faced with that, why wouldn’t he get defensive?

Together with her therapist, she worked on changing the way that she dealt with her husband’s actions. At no point did she tell him that she was doing this – she just made a decision and did it. After a few weeks, she happily found that he was a lot less defensive with her, and that they weren’t fighting nearly as much. By simply altering one small aspect of the way they related to each other, she was able to change a frustrating dynamic of their relationship.

If you’re wondering whether or not “couples therapy for one” is right for you, contact a Portland marriage counselor today to learn more.