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What Couples Therapists Learn from Their Own Relationships

I am prompted to write this after being interviewed by Huffington Post about what couples therapists learn from their patients that make their relationships better. Before I delve into answers, let me say that marriage therapists also struggle with their relationships. I am forever thankful to my patients because I learn so much from interactions I observe in my office as well as continuous learning from the “Masters”, gurus of couples’ therapy field. So I want to share a few things that I try to do differently in my marriage of 20 plus years.

When my husband is angry at me, rather than attacking him back or being defensive, I try to understand what is underneath his anger. Usually, I somehow hurt him or disappoint him in some way. I want to know about this, think about it and comfort him. I want to reassure him that I care about this a lot and his heart is very important to me.

Another important aspect is to make him feel how important and appreciated he is. It has to be real and genuine. I am not talking about when there is no reason to feel that or if I do not feel that way at that moment. Many of us actually feel these feelings towards our spouse, but they don’t feel it from us. This creates anger, resentment, feelings of being unloved and sometimes rejected and leads to problems which sometimes include looking for these validations elsewhere.

Another thing I have learned is that you cannot and should not take your partner for granted. Statements like “he will never cheat on me” or “she will never leave me”, lead to complacency, laziness and not really caring about the relationship. I see how devastating this turns out for so many couples who think their partner will always be there no matter what.

Last point, related to the ones above is that many marriage therapists understand from the experience of working with couples in distress, the importance of romance and intimacy in a marriage, especially after many years together. This cannot be ignored, put on a shelf “until the kids grow up”. If you do that, there will be nothing left by the time the kids leave. So this must be nurtured and tended to very diligently and has to be a priority.