There is considerable evidence to suggest that many distressed relationships exhibit a variety of dysfunctional patterns involving expressing their thoughts and emotions. This may include poor listening and problem solving. Expressing thoughts and emotions requires self-awareness, an appropriate vocabulary, freedom from fear of rejection by the listener, and self-control (not retaliating against the person). Couples engaged in therapy will work on skills that will facilitate effective problem solving, which involves obtaining the ability to recognize the problem, generating potential solutions, collaboration with family members to determine and evaluate advantages and disadvantages to each solution, and reach an agreement on the best possible solution. We also strive to help patients work on a plan and implement their proposed solutions.
What is also considered important in the therapeutic process is working on noncommunicative behaviours. These are acts that may by positive or negative (performing a task to achieve a goal or not doing so, like completing a chore or not completing one for the other person) that are intended to affect the other person’s feelings. Research by Epstein and Baucom suggests, that members of distressed relationships are more likely to direct more negative acts towards their partner than positive ones. One of the goals of therapy are to reduce the frequency of undesirable behaviour and increase the frequency of productive behaviour.
Epstein and Baucom propose that relationship satisfaction is largely based on behavioural patterns that have meaning for each partner. Some of the larger issues that are described by the authors include boundaries between each couple and their families, how power is distributed among them, and the amount of time and energy that is put forth into their relationship.
A trained psychologist or psychological associate can help use theory to identify patterns and help you move forward in repairing or imporving your relationship. Find out how we can help.