Relationship Difficulties

Tackling Relationship Problems Openly & Honestly

Why Are Relationship problems so hard to overcome?

The reason why relationship problems are so hard to overcome is that we all have blind spots that we can’t see that cause the difficulties in relationships.

These behaviors are what psychologists traditionally call psychological defenses. Our relationship patterns began with early life attachments, and when not addressed become the difficult relationship patterns that we encounter as adults.

The relationship behaviors are what are what we would call procedural memory or implicit memory. What this simply means as they become second nature and we use them automatically without thinking. It is like learning to ride a bike. At first, the learning is explicit in that you are very aware of what you are doing in concrete behaviors. Over time when riding a bike it becomes second nature and you don’t think about it.

Relationship behaviors are what we would call procedural or implicit memory. What this means is that these behaviors become second nature over time, and we use them automatically without thinking. It is like learning to ride a bike. At first, the learning is explicit in that you are very aware of what you are doing. Over time when riding a bike, it becomes second nature, and you don’t think about it. Learning to relate a certain way is a lot like that. Psychotherapy is a purposeful effort to re-wire early attachment behaviors that do not serve us well.

Is It Normal That My Relationship Problems Make Me Depressed And Anxious?

Absolutely. First it is important to understand the difference between being depressed and anxious and having an anxiety disorder and a depressive disorder. The former are states of being and the latter are clinical diagnosis. Having relationship problems can certainly make you depressed and anxious.

As humans, we are wired for connection. This is why solitary confinement can be considered a kind of torture. It really does not feel good to be alone. When we do not get the human connection that we yearn for we can develop depression, anxiety, and health problems. It can be a way that our mind and body communicates “something is not natural here”.

From my clinical experience, relationship problems, particularly those related to attachment trauma, can be responsible for both anxiety and depressive disorders. And when we have learned maladaptive behaviors due to problems in early attachments, this can lead to many difficulties such as: lack of worthiness, being overly critical of oneself, having difficult time expressing needs, and difficult time with intimacy and being emotionally close to people. We can experience an internal state of loneliness even though we have people in our lives.

How Can Relationship Therapy Help?

Relationship therapy is a broad concept and applies to any therapy that focuses on you, your strengths, your relationship patterns, and how those patterns lead to problems in relationships.

Relationship therapy techniques can include helping you challenge distorted ideas and thoughts you have about yourself and others (Cognitive), helping you practice and engage in more healthy relationship behaviors (Behavioral), helping you understand your inner conflicts and how they bear on your current relationship relationships (psychodynamic), and help you become aware of and experience avoided experience and emotions responsible for relationship difficulties, often in relationship to the therapist (experiential).

In my clinical experience, all techniques, cognitive, behavioral, psychodynamic, and experiential are important components of effective relationship therapy. It is also my experience that experiential therapy, which allows you to experience your challenges here-and-now with your therapist can be the most transformative. It can lead to a new way of understanding and experiencing yourself that leads to character change and not just symptom reduction.

Does My Partner Need To Come To Therapy For It To Work?

For individual therapy, your partner does not need to come to the session for it to work. In fact, it is expected that you come alone. Relationship therapy is for you to work out the individual issues that you have that impact your relationships. For some clients, bringing in a partner can be a way to avoid their own issues.

If you feel it is best for you to work through your relationship problems with your partner you may want to consider couples therapy. Couples therapy will help you as a couple and treat you as a functioning unit that needs help.

Sometimes when we are in a strained relationship, we are not sure whether we need individual or couples therapy. Sometimes our individual issues are so great that it would be impossible to get anything out of working through things as a couple.

Good questions to ask yourself before making the phone call to a professional include: Does this problem repeat itself in all of your relationships? Have you been diagnosed with a serious mental health disorder or otherwise feel you have serious emotional problems that impede your relationships? Have you been diagnosed with a personality disorder?

If you are still not sure, then calling a mental health professional and discussing your issues over the phone before scheduling an appointment is a good way to go.

What Relationship Issues Can You Help Resolve?

Given that there are as many relationship issues and problems as there are people, and given that my approach is holistic and integrative dealing with people at their core, I would have to honestly say there are few relationship issues that I can envision that I can’t treat or deal with.

How Is Your Approach Different?

As I have said, we can have blindspots to our relationship difficulties. One of the goals of psychotherapy  is to help you see and work through those behaviors about yourself that you would not normally see that are dysfunctional.

My approach, while integrative, is highly experiential and emotion -focused. In my experience, there is little that is more transformative to clients than for them to see their behaviors in the present moment in the here and now. I pay as much, or even more attention, to how you are relating to me as what you say about your current relationship problems. As one of my former mentors once said “Patients will show you their trauma history”.

I will work with you to go beyond the surface and  get to the core of your issues. I will work to relate to your heart and not just your head. As a result, you will learn to feel your way through relationships with your heart as well.

Perhaps a short story about a client would be helpful to explain. I once worked with a woman who told me in the first session that her previous therapist told her that she was codependent and gave her a book to read and helped her process her relationships and gain insight. She said that while she liked her previous therapist she did not feel like she experienced much change and that is why she made an appointment with me. As we worked together, I noticed how she had difficulty owning anything and would be quite compliant and went along. It was like she was a student receiving information from the professor.

Yet she was a very successful business woman owning her own business, so I knew there was so much more to her. I came to understand that she avoided conflict with people because her own anger made her very uncomfortable. She did this with her husband where she would just go along with his decisions thus becoming “codependent”.

 

As I worked to get to know her by asking curious questions, I noticed her having a reaction to me. As I asked her about her reactions, she would try to wiggle away and get defensive. I challenged her because I appreciated her strengths and helped her notice that, at the heart, she was avoiding her irritation because she equated this with destroying relationships (She shared that she could go off the handle and get physically destructive and come from a physically abusive home).

I not only helped her “see” these things but also helped her experience her anger in the session and helped her have a healthy relationship with her anger. She became much more assertive with both her daughter and her husband, was able to voice her own desires and do them, and felt much less anxiety and depression as a result.

This story simply demonstrates the power of working beyond the head level and helping clients experience authentic change. I achieve consistent positive results with my clients. I am able to do this due to my extensive videotape training and experience.

Get In Touch With Me

If you’re ready for this kind of support, I would welcome the opportunity to work with you. My services are cash-based and I am accepting clients now.

My office is in Annapolis, MD and you can reach me for a consultation by calling (410) 562-9647 or sending me an email at mail@annapolispsychotherapy.com.

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