Couples Therapy

Couples Therapy

  • Imago Therapy
  • Marriage—Divorce
  • Non-Violent Communication
  • Relationship Issues

Couples Therapy in Nashville, TN

Couples have come to me for therapy at a variety of different points in their relationships.  Sometimes individual patients bring their new partners for couples work, because they are aware of their difficulties in former relationships, and they want to develop new skills to make the new relationship more successful.  Some couples have come to me after an affair, to try to understand why this occurred, and in the hope of healing from this painful disruption.  Many couples have come for therapy while raising children, realizing that in part their focus on the children has subsumed their own emotional and sexual connection. Still other couples have come to me seriously questioning whether they should stay married, and for my help in either re-energizing their relationship or assisting them in separating and then rebuilding their lives.

My work in couples therapy utilizes the theory and practices of Imago Relationship Therapy (IRT), developed by Harville Hendrix.  I also draw extensively on the approaches of nationally known couples therapists with whom I have trained, including John Gottman, Ellyn Bader, David Schnarch, and Terrence Real.  Imago theory helps to explain how the choices we make, in whom we fall in love with, almost guarantee that we will eventually find ourselves in difficult and painful power struggles with our partners.  As Terrence Real has written, “We marry our unfinished business.”

I explain to couples that frequently relationships end as a result of these repetitious power struggles, each member of the couple believing that “I must be with the wrong partner.”  Often, it is not that I am with the wrong partner, but that I lack the relational tools needed to negotiate the power struggles.  Marriages also may disintegrate as a result of repeated criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling, which John Gottman has called the “Four Horseman of the Apocalypse” in marriage.

Successful couples therapy, in my experience, is partly the result of learning new communication skills, which interrupt the universal tendency toward defensiveness, enabling each partner to become a better listener as well as feel more heard by the other partner.  Also, couples in conflict keep trying to get the other person to change.  We say and believe, “If only you wouldn’t be so……., we would get along better!!”  The coin of the realm in couples work is recognizing, “I’ve got to change my own reactions and reactivity, for things to get better.”

Most of us did not learn good communication and conflict management skills from our parents.  Instead, we often tend to practice what Terrence Real has called the “Five Losing Strategies” of marriage:  “needing to be right, unbridled self-expression, trying to control my partner, retaliation, and withdrawal.”  In good couples therapy, we learn how to interrupt these losing strategies, how to turn complaints into requests, and how to have deeply satisfying and fulfilling love relationships.