Whether you are married, on your way to be married, or coupled up in a committed relationship, relationship dynamics can be difficult at any stage. As a Marriage and Family Therapist, my expertise lies in working on relational issues with couples of any gender, age and religious background. I work with heterosexual, gay, lesbian and bi-sexual couples who are seeking some kind of change in their relationship. As a couples’ therapist, I view interactions and dynamics in a relationship that become troubled in context. I seek to understand how the problems presented are informed by the relationship, as well as each person’s history and belief system that is brought into the relationship.
• Are you and your partner fighting and bickering more than usual?
• Has communicating with your partner over simple issues become difficult and frustrating?
• Have you lost the emotional or physical connection with each other that once seemed effortless?
• Has an affair come between you and your partner? Are you wondering how you can ever trust your partner again and recover from this?
• Are you co-habitating like roommates and wondering how it got to this point?
• Are you new parents and struggling with this major life transition?
• Are you having difficulty becoming pregnant or has infertility shattered your dreams of having a family together?
• Are you good at almost everything together but sex? Or vice versa?
• Are you facing boredom in your relationship?
Therapy can help couples become aware of the vicious cycle they get stuck in, and more clearly understand how their own part can predictably initiate their partner’s usual way of responding. Similar to a dance, partners have a recursive way of moving with each other, and the music (emotion) organizes the interactions between partners in that dance. Often the emotions felt strongest (e.g. fear, anger, sadness, hurt, etc.) determine how the dynamic and interactions of the dance play out. Couples can easily become caught in a negative cycle in how they relate to each other, developing set ways of processing and regulating emotional experiences. Unpacking key emotions and finding new ways to engage in emotional experience helps couples feel safe and cared for in their relationships.
There are many reasons why couples get stuck, struggling to connect and communicate as they once did. Some couples wait many years and are “on the brink” when they seek therapy. Other couples use therapy as a way to continuously negotiate and work through challenges they face over time. Whatever the reason, a committed relationship requires effort and time to nurture and maintain a healthy and satisfying bond. In other words, a happy and fulfilling relationship demands consistent and continuous work; it doesn’t happen on its own.
Keeping ones relationship sacred and a priority can be challenging. Busy schedules, work demands, parenting responsibilities, and other life requirements leave less time and focus on the relationship. Couples often slowly drift apart. Major life events (birth of a child, caring for an elderly parent, death of a family member, becoming empty nesters, etc.,) and personal challenges (depression, addiction, job loss) affect the relationship as a whole and can make it difficult for both partners to maintain a solid handle on the relationship.
Therapy can help couples process difficult challenges and find more effective ways to communicate and manage conflict. It can assist couples in committing to each other in a new way, and finding enjoyment and support in each other again. Through therapy couples begin to actively remember and nurture what they admire and appreciate about each other and not only focus on the negatives of what may not be working in the relationship. Partners begin to self-focus, take responsibility, and step away from their usual “blame-criticize-defend” stance and learn how to refine their communication skills. Other benefits of therapy include couples reaching out and responding to each other in a more loving, respectful, clear and calm manner. Any relationship can be recreated when both parties are dedicated to each other and can work together in a positive and caring way.
• Trust and Betrayal
• Intimacy or Sex Related Issues
• Managing Conflict
• Separation or Divorce
• Parenting or Co-Parenting
• Life Cycle Transitions
• Empty Nesters
• Traumatic Events
• Emotional or Physical Disconnection
• Dealing with and Managing the Extended Family
Not all relationships last. In and during my work with couples, I also help couples through the process of separation. This can be a painful progression especially if one person does not want the relationship to end. The goal is to honor each person’s perspective and choices and work towards a civil and respectful parting of the relationship.
In my work with couples, I utilize a Family Systems approach and have found the following two research based models of couples therapy to be extremely effective in helping couples renew their love and attachment to each other and heal from emotional injuries.
EFT is based on the research and clinical work of Dr. Susan M. Johnson and colleagues. This model supports attachment theory in couples. The intention of EFT is to reprocess emotional experience and redefine interactions to create a secure connection between partners, always with a focus on attachment concerns. Safety, trust and emotional contact are key in creating secure bonds in couples, and without it couples become distressed and vulnerable. In therapy, the goal is to heal attachment and emotional injuries that may have been created within the relationship. Couples learn to engage, reach, and respond to each other in a new corrective emotional experience. A couple that feels safe and secure in knowing their partner “has their back” and is there for them emotionally when needed is least vulnerable to becoming distressed.
This method was developed by John and Julie Gottman. With over 40 years of clinical study and practice they are the pioneers in couples research. They describe what distressed couples do that tends to break up their relationships, but more importantly what couples can do to promote and sustain healthy and satisfying relationships. Couples learn how to resolve conflict more effectively and turn towards each other with more understanding, resulting in a deeper connection and intimacy. Couples develop more respect and affection for each other, learning to better accept their differences rather than constantly trying to change their partner. Gottman’s research has shown how kindness and generosity among couples is a strong predictor in maintaining long lasting relationships.
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Dr. Olivia Schläpfer Colmer offers individual, couples and family therapy in Miami, FL. Her office is located at 4770 Biscayne Boulevard, Suite 1440, Miami FL 33137.
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