All relationships will experience problems. It is quite inevitable. Knowing how to solve those problems is another matter. Problem solving may not be a skill we were taught growing up, and both people in the relationship come from different backgrounds with different problem solving skills. This is where a couples, or marital therapist can help.
The list of problems couples experience can go on and on. The most common issues couples face are: a lack of communication, addictions, infidelity or incompatibility. To further complicate things, we learn our living skills from our family of origin. What we learn from our parents, siblings, and other relatives is often a mixed bag of good, and not so good things. I might see my husband as untrustworthy because he does not do things the way I think he should-he does things the way his father taught him. Neither way is wrong, yet, we want things done or said, our way.
In order to help couples improve their relationship I outline three basic steps in solving a problem or problems in a relationship. First, you must identify the problem(s). Second, you work to find a solution, knowing it will take compromise from one or both of you. Third, is to do the hard work to reach the solution. It can be simple but not easy. It takes a lot of hard work from both individuals in the relationship.
After admitting the problem and our part in the problem, we can work on the solution, which I mentioned may involve hard work. It is the Mental Health Professional’s job to guide the couple to reach the solution. To achieve that, I sometimes give written assignments, reading assignments or verbal assignments to the couple. Written assignments might be journaling or writing your couple autobiography. I may also give someone a reading assignment that is appropriate for the situation. An important verbal assignment that improves communication might be setting aside time to visit about your day.
Problem solving is a challenge. It can be exciting and scary, but hopeful. It’s exciting because it’s a new challenge. It’s scary because it’s going into the unknown. It’s hopeful because once you have solved your problem, you have hope for a happy and healthy relationship.
Dorothy Westin, LISW
Individual, Couples and Family Therapist Serving Sioux City, Iowa.