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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. 

In a relationship dynamic, perceptions play an important part regarding how we interact and perceive a spouse or family member throughout the course of our interactions. For example, if a wife sees her husband as ‘over sensitive’ or ‘touchy’ this may influence how the two of them interact. Consequently, because our perceptions influence how we view people they tend to superseded other cognitions. This also means that perceptions can change. New information that we practice can alter the way we dialogue with our partners. However, some people may find it extremely difficult to alter their perceptions likely as a result of life experience. For example, if a man generally sees his wife as a selfish person he will likely hold this view in his general perception of her. This also means that if his wife does attempt to change, the new information and changes will always be judged in the light of that initial perception (she is selfish). A well-trained therapist combined with good rapport, can help people challenge this rigidity.

Sometimes we may hold distortions that are not initially apparent. Therapy can help bring awareness to these distortions:

Selective Attention: The tendency to fixate on certain aspects of an event that occurs in a relationship and to overlook other important aspects (e.g., focusing on other people’s words and ignoring their actions).

Attributions: Inferences (conclusions we make based on evidence) about factors that may influence a partner’s actions (e.g., thinking that a partner didn’t respond to your message because he or she wants to control the situation or make you feel bad).

Expectancies: Making predictions that a particular event will likely occur (e.g., expression feelings about something will result in your partner ‘blowing up,’ in anger.

Assumptions: Beliefs about a person’s characteristics (e.g., a wife assumes that men don’t need emotional support).

Standards: Beliefs about characteristics that people ‘should’ have (e.g., partners should have no boundaries between them and everything should be open, including thoughts and emotions).

Being mindful and questioning your thoughts will help bring better awareness of distortions you hold about your partner. This in turn will help you become aware of what thoughts need to be challenged or modified regarding your relationship.

Many relationships experience difficulties from time to time. Sometimes these difficulties can occur simply because of the natural transitioning from one life stage to another. Usually, individuals begin to mould themselves to fit the situations they are confronted with and as a result the dynamic in the relationship changes. Each partner may manage with stress differently and this sometimes creates conflict on how needs are communicated. Sometimes people may hold irrational and unrealistic beliefs about their partner and the relationship. They may also make negative evaluations when their partner doesn’t live up to their expectations.

Our goal is to help partners:

-       Challenge thoughts and create realistic expectations for their relationship.

-       Challenge observable behaviours and how they factor into the relationship.

-       Recognize precipitants of disagreements.

-       Focus on how to make decisions that are best for their relationship instead of the self. 

-       Work on active communication through the use to research supported techniques.

-       Work on facilitating or rekindling a connection.

We have staff that are highly trained and are members of the College of Psychologist’s and College of Psychotherapists. We welcome you to call or email and find out more about how we can help nourish and support your relationship.

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