When I tell people I am a relationship positive therapist, they sometimes wonder if I am the hopeless romantic type; the kind of person who not only loves a good Hollywood romance but also believes the Hollywood romance is real. Since that is definitely not what I mean, it would probably help if I clarify what I do mean by “relationship positive.”
In the relationship cycle, all couples go through a romantic phase. It’s often called the “honeymoon phase” and we all know what this phase looks like: our partner is amazing and they can do no wrong (i.e., we don’t notice the “red flags”). During the honeymoon phase, we feel so safe with our partner that we confide our deepest secrets in them. The romantic Hollywood movie typically ends when the couple has just entered into the honeymoon phase of their relationship. We are supposed to believe that the couple will live “happily ever after” yet we never get to see what happens next. If the film kept rolling and the romantic relationship played out on screen, we would see the couple enter into the next phase of the relationship cycle - the “conflict phase.” How do I know this? Because that’s what happens with every relationship.
When couples enter the conflict phase, they often wonder where they went wrong. How could they be so deeply in love at one time and now they can’t stop fighting. Because they don’t see their friends fighting, they’re sure there must be something wrong with them, or more specifically, something is wrong with their partner. When that couple comes in for couples counseling, they often come with some dread, a fear that I will confirm that there’s something wrong with them and they don’t belong together as a couple. One or both partners may worry that they’ll be blamed for all the problems in the relationship.
Couples counseling is not about figuring out who’s right and who’s wrong. The therapist is not a judge and you are not a plaintiff making your case against your partner. It is my job as a couples therapist to help you figure out why you’re stuck in conflict, why it seems as though you have the same fight over and over again.
So here’s where the idea of relationship positive therapist comes in — there is a reason you fell in love with each other and those reasons have not changed. When we get stuck in conflict, however, the reasons tend to get forgotten and connection is lost. As a relationship positive therapist my goals are to help you work through the conflict, restore your connection and remember why you fell in love with each other.
Conflict is part of the relationship life cycle. After that honeymoon phase, every couple experiences the conflict phase. There’s no way around it, it will happen. How couples navigate their way through the conflict phase is the key to a successful relationship and many couples need help during this phase. This is when you can turn to a couples therapist for support.