Are you tired of fighting?
Do you want to be happy with each other again?
Do you want to build understanding?
Do you want to resolve ongoing conflicts?
Did you or your partner have an affair?
Have you grown apart over the years?
But problems develop. And sometimes, the best chance for developing solutions to those problems can come with the help of an unbiased professional.
In therapy, the goal is to develop a better understanding of a relationship's dynamics, what is going "wrong", and how best to help the relationship succeeed.
Relationship counseling can be difficult. There may be years of pent-up resentments and hurts -- but the fact that peple are willing to try once again is a key ingredient to success.
Remembering the qualities that brought people together in the first place is important. So is recalling the fun times -- and making sure you have fun times! That's the reason for suggesting "date nights". Research shows that couples need 7 times as many good times as bad! I use a lot of techniques from John Gottman, who has run a "marriage lab" at the University of Washington for over 25 years (see www.gottman.com ). His books include The Seven Principles of Making Your Marriage Work, and 10 Lessons to Transform Your Marriage, which I like because it has examples of better communication skills.
Sometimes identifying tools and skills that people use successfully at work, but never thought about applying to their personal lives, can help turn a relationship around.
I often use "divorce-busting" techniques and have been trained in this techbnique. The approach involves accepting responsibility for your own part in whatever is going on -- even your own part in contributing to your partner's "problem" behaviors. For more information on this approach, see www.divorcebusting.com, as well as Michelle Weiner-Davis' books Divorce Busting and Divorce Remedy.
I also like The Four Seasons of Marriage and The Love Languages by Gary Chapman, and Secrets to Lasting Love by Gary Smalley. Books that couples have found help their communication include The Love Dare, and Dr. Phil's Relationship Rescue. Several churches offer good support groups, and the Catholic Church has a program called "Retro Vi" that I've heard good things about.
I still always like the John Grey series of books, such as Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus, that help us see that our brains just think differently -- and that's really OK!
While an affair is often the most devastating event a couple has to deal with, I find it can often be the beginning of having an even better relationship -- once the couple understands what led to the affair and how to fix the "hole" that was in the marriage. While it is definitely a roller-coaster of emotions, a therapist can help a couple navigate this difficult terrain and weather the storm. Once a cheater does NOT mean always a cheater. One useful book in this situation is After the Affair.
Marriages may be made in heaven,
but the maintenance must be done on earth. (unknown)