Monday, November 2, 2015

Six Ways to Fail in Couples Therapy

Failure

  1. Don’t go. The surest way to fail in couples therapy is to simply not give it a try. Come up with criticism of the process without actually having tried it. Speak of therapy as though it is a spiritual path that you don’t believe in. Suggest it is a step that should have been taken years ago, but is now too late.
  2. Make it about your partner, not your relationship. Instead of focusing on how you relate to each other, focus strictly on how your partner has been a disappointment to you. Make sure that your partner feels thoroughly criticized by the end of the first (and last) session. Suggest that the therapist is insensitive to your pain if he or she tries to direct you back to how you relate to each other.
  3. Make it about you, not your relationship. Avoid any perspective other than your own. Your views, feelings and desires are all that count. Feel entitled to get all that you want without compromise. Believe that your pain entitles you to be the focus, not how you relate. Excuse your behavior based on your feelings. Suggest that the therapist lacks empathy if he or she directs you away from yourself to the relationship.
  4. Quit if there isn’t immediate improvement. Quickly evaluate whether your relationship has changed. Focus on whether your partner is treating you better, while playing it safe by not contributing yourself to a better relationship. Be dramatic in expressing that the lack of improvement surely is a sign that the relationship cannot improve. Take every opportunity to express hopelessness.
  5. Quit at the first sign of improvement. If you begin treating each other nicely, then take this as a sign that your relationship is solid and you don’t need therapy. Suggest that the issues that remain can be tackled without further visits to the therapist. Point out how easy it is to change and minimize the problems that led to seeking therapy in the first place.
  6. Promise change, but don’t. Appear committed to change. Reassure your partner that his or her satisfaction is your goal. Tell your partner that you understand his or her pain. Explore how you have contributed to your relationship difficulties. Then, don’t change. Don’t allow goals to focus on specific things you and your partner can do to improve the relationship. Exchange platitudes but not improved behavior.

Following any of these guidelines will ensure that couples therapy will not lead to lasting change in your relationship. Problem interaction will not improve or will improve superficially and then the old patterns will return.

To be fair, changing in your relationship is difficult. It requires enough motivation, courage and trust to try to contribute to an improved relationship. It requires patience and enough maturity to realize you will not get everything you want. But the rewards are great if you can find a path toward lasting intimacy.