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Does Your Relationship Need Love Therapy? -Stephanie Bailey

Updated on December 21, 2014
Miss-Adventures profile image

My passion is writing about love, sex, dating, and relationships. I write based on my own personal experiences and those that I relate to.

There seems to be a preconceived notion that a successful, perfect relationship is the result of no verbal fights, emotional arguments, differences of opinion, challenges, etc. However, genuine, functional relationships are not perfect and lasting partnerships take work. Some couples can maintain the “honeymoon” stage for months—sometimes years, but there usually comes a point where the honeymoon stage fades and the disagreements begin. That’s when the real work starts.

All of a sudden (or so it seems), you realize that the person you are dating isn’t as ideal as you imagined. Conversations that were once comforting and easy are now filled with frustration and anger. You start to ask yourself, “Why doesn’t my significant other act the same way as when we first dated?” Or, “what am I doing wrong to feel less desirable to him (or her)?” Or, "why does it seem as if we’re fighting more often than making love?”

To think that you will always get along with your significant other and never argue is unrealistic. Of course, consistent arguing is also not healthy—there needs to be a balance. A strong relationship should consist of fewer arguments and more happy moments—more often than not.

Can two people who love each other argue in a healthy way? Yes, as long as they can listen with compassion—recognizing where their partner’s feelings are coming from. You may not always agree or completely comprehend their perspective, however, validating each other’s feelings is a significant step towards becoming closer and fighting less.

Recognition of emotions can be hard when the wall of communication separates you and your partner. Trying to clarify and figure out someone’s mind set and actions can be exasperating, especially if there is lack of communication and understanding. Is love enough to knock this wall down? That depends on what you are willing to do to keep the relationship—for me, it required a therapist.

The older I got, I started to notice that my vault of unsuccessful relationships seems to be overflowing. I was forced to have a serious talk with myself….and find a great therapist, ASAP.

With the help of my therapist, I figured out the deeper root to why my relationships where unsuccessful—I was drawn to men who were emotionally unavailable and I also have abandonment issues.

As a child, I was very close to my father. However, he was emotionally unavailable to my mother (this I found out this 20 years after his passing). I never knew his lack of emotional availability on a conscious level—since my connection with him revolved around a father/daughter relationship. Later, as I begin to date, I sought out men who were similar to my father—emotionally unavailable. By doing this it gave me an excuse to put walls up around my heart.

Don’t get me wrong, my father was an exceptional person in my life. He believed that I could accomplish anything that I wanted to. He taught me to be open to love, and to live my life in a compassionate, positive way. He often told me, “Don’t be sorry, just don’t do it.” He also emphasized forgiveness because people make mistakes: “Three major strikes before giving up”—which meant that I should always give people another chance (or possibly two). This lesson of forgiveness hasn’t been utilized as deeply in my intimate relationships as my friendship. With men, if my emotional boat is slightly rocked, it is time for me to swim to shore…quickly!

With my therapist’s guidance, support, and thought-provoking questions, I realized just how eye-opening and important therapy is for me. I became more aware of the obvious “red flags” that each of my past relationships were waving BOLDLY in front of me—that I blatantly chose to ignore. I quickly realized that my “type” of guy was someone that was emotionally unavailable. Great.

I also realized the specific role I played in these relationships—in other words, the things I would do and say to subconsciously sabotage the relationship’s success. I was constantly searching for faults, which in turn kept my heart at a distance. When I stacked up just enough character flaws against my significant other, I would have an adequate and justifiable reason (or so I convinced myself) to finish the relationship—or at least emotionally pull away, causing it to end.

In most of my romantic relationships, I let three strikes control the fate of our partnership. Digging even deeper, I recognized my desire for independence—I found that I could not solely depend on a man—out of fear of him leaving. I wanted to avoid depending on someone 100%, who could potentially leave me. This mind frame stemmed partially from the loss of my father when I was 20 years old…and even earlier when my biological parents “gave me up” for adoption. These abandonment issues negatively influenced the decisions I was making, and they had the power to alter my perception of the men I was dating.

Through my therapy sessions, I was enlightened: I received the much-needed wakeup call about my emotional constraints and subconscious issues. In turn, I was better prepared—emotionally—to handle my next relationship. And since I was unaware of the kind of emotional issues he would be carrying, I made the decision that my next meaningful relationship would benefit from the guidance of a therapist. Someone we both didn’t know, but also liked equally.

After sharing concerns regarding my previous relationships, my last boyfriend and I found a couples’ therapist to keep our relationship healthy, strong, and progressing in the right direction. He had past issues (as everyone does!) that we knew would ultimately affect our partnership. Through our therapy sessions, he not only had a better understanding of how to deal with his internal conflicts, but also mine—why I shut down and pulled away and where my abandonment issues stemmed from. Through his clearer understanding, I pulled away less in comparison to my past relationships. I also had a better understanding of why he reacted the way he did, what his fears and abandonment issues were, and the communication style he responded and connected best with.

Through therapy, we learned to communicate with each other more constructively: with loving words, compassion, and understanding. Our conversations were effective. We worked on speaking from our hearts—transferring our emotions into thought-out words to explain how we were feeling. We try to implement “The 5 Love Languages” by Gary Chapman and “The Seven Principles For Making Marriage Work” by John M. Gottman, Ph.D—per our therapist’s recommendation to put us on the same “life” path.

Although therapy didn’t entirely stop us from fighting (don’t expect miracles!) it did lower how often we argued. The fuse that started the fights defused so much earlier. Through our sessions, we became stronger and more connected as a couple. I can honestly say that without therapy, we would not have lasted as long as we did. We would have missed out on a love journey due to our overshadowing egos, fear, and emotional crap.

Today, I feel blessed to have had a boyfriend who was open and honest about his past problems from the beginning. So, when things were “perfect,” we made the decision together to seek out a therapist before our issues prevailed. This was the most brilliant plan I've had with a boyfriend, and I regret not toying with the idea of couples’ therapy in my previous relationships. I truly believe that if a therapist could intervene prior to issues developing in new marriages, there would be fewer divorces as a result of the therapist’s support. I feel that many couples fear therapy; however, it is incredibly empowering for any relationship—and it has been for mine.

My therapist helped me open my heart and mind to accepting my partner as a whole person—his opinions, differences, insecurities, and more. I no longer felt the need to distance myself when I felt the relationship was changing; rather, I used my empowerment to not give up, and I could not be more grateful for her wisdom and advice.

Unfortunately, due to extenuating circumstances and the fact that he no longer wanted to see a therapist, my relationship with my boyfriend diminished. Together, we were not strong enough to keep a sturdy foundation—one built on open, honest, and loving communication. As my ex-boyfriend pulled away from therapy, our relationship suffered. His anger issues were too overwhelming for me to handle. Coming to this realization was not easy, but this revelation has allowed me to move on. I am hopeful that my next relationship will be healthier and more successful because of what my previous relationship has taught me. I also value a therapist’s advice and opinion even more, and I will seek outside help before the going gets tough.

These days, whether you are actively looking—or are currently in a relationship—therapy is an essential tool for finding “the one” and ultimately creating lasting love. Even if your current relationship doesn't survive after therapy, the experience will prepare you for the relationship that is meant to be. It's a win, win situation. You have a better chance at walking away with a strong head on your shoulders, a brighter outlook on love, a better sense of who you are, and how you can contribute positively to your next relationship.


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    • Miss-Adventures profile imageAUTHOR

      Stephanie Bailey 

      5 years ago from Denver

      Thank you lyndapringle for reading as well as commenting.

      I appreciate your story and even though you and your husband did not go through therapy, I like that you viewed, "going to therapy from the beginning might have prevented these issues as the therapist could have taught us how to communicate better, how to not keep secrets and view each other as each other's best friend. The therapy could have provided me with reassurance that the marriage would not disentangle at the first signs of major problems." Amen to that. :)

    • dashingscorpio profile image


      5 years ago from Chicago

      “Why doesn’t my significant other act the same way as when we first dated?” “What am I doing wrong to feel less desirable to him (or her)?”

      There are two things I've learned over the years with regard to relationships and marriages. It's not always about (you).

      1. The "infatuation phase". Just about every (new relationship) has one!

      It's a period where (both people) make the other person's happiness their "top priority". They seldom use the word "no" as they don't want to say or do anything that may jeopardize them being with the object of their affection. It is during this period where most people believe they have found their "soul-mate" (again). Over time however people start to reveal their "authentic selves" and their mate's happiness is no longer their (top) priority. With effort and wisdom one learns not to leap off the mountain during those first 3-6 months, over commit, or become too emotionally invested. You can't truly love someone until you've met their "authentic self" which is usually after the first major argument. Some folks deliberately pull a "bait & switch" in order to win people over whom they find attractive. Time does reveal.

      2. The longer someone is with you the less "infatuated" they become!

      Note we see this with just about everything that is "new". We treat the "new" better than the "tried and true". The longer you own anything, have a job, or are in a relationship with someone gradually most people stop putting in the same type of effort and actually began to take things for granted. Subconsciously being married or in a "committed relationship" for a lot of folks means they can now RELAX. No longer do they have to edit what they say to their mate, keep up with their appearance, or concern themselves as much with their mate's happiness. However it's unrealistic to (expect) people to stay in unhappy relationships/marriages. When we change our circumstances change.

      I believe therapy is great if one is interested in making changes in them self because they're unhappy with the results they are getting out of life. However if one goes with the intention of hoping their mate will change they may be disappointed. Most people would rather attempt to change the world than to change themselves!

      The vast majority of couples don't seek out a therapist until after one of them has mentally given up on the relationship or has fallen out of love.

      As you stated there is no such thing as a "perfect relationship". There is no one who will fill the rest of your days with sunshine and rainbows. Nevertheless the goal is to find someone who shares your same values and wants the same things for the relationship. It's also important to be clear (in your mind) as to what your "deal breakers" are.

      I applaud you for taking some ownership in your relationship choices. So many women in particular would rather throw up their hands and say: "All men...etc" Very few acknowledge the following basic truth.

      Each of us (chooses) our own friends, lovers, and spouse.

      Hopefully we all learn to become "better shoppers". :)

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      I know many people who go to therapy, either individually or as a couple, and it has worked out quite well for them. Relationships can beome dicier as they age, once the novelty of the honeymoon period fades. What were previously cute annoyances and differences can escalate into major fights. Sometimes I find myself fighting with my husband over the most stupid things such a replacing the toilet paper. In time, I learned to save the fights for the major issues that could seriously affect the marriage as a whole and toilet paper was not of them. So, if the toilet paper needs replacing, I'll do it. If the dishes have been sitting too long in the sink, he will wash them.

      However, there are major issues that do crop up in a marriage or relationship that need to be confronted and that can be a difficult endeavor if one of the partners has a fear of abandonment. I am one of those. It is is illogical but I think that my whole marriage is going to fall apart if we argue about an important matter very central to us as a couple. I have father issues as you do but different ones. My parents separated when I was a child and I never saw my father all that much so that has caused me to be clingier to men who care for me.

      However, I have learned that standing one's ground is necessary for the good health of a marriage. We've had 2-3 major crisis that truly needed addressing or else matters would have escalated. The issues did not deal with infidelity but more with financial and personal addictions. One cannot just ignore those issues away. The financial situation was not entirely resolved to my satisfaction but, due to my confrontation, it never occurred again and we now communicate more with each other before major expenditures are made. The personal addictions (mine) were easier to handle because I was willing to admit I had a problem and get help. However, the key was to face up to my fear of telling my husband and to his reaction. I found him to be a man of incredible support and we got through this together.

      As for therapy, while we did not need therapy to get through these crisis, going to therapy from the beginning might have prevented these issues as the therapist could have taught us how to communicate better, how to not keep secrets and view each other as each other's best friend. The therapy could have provided me with reassurance that the marriage would not disentangle at the first signs of major problems. So I agree with you-that therapy can be a major help in relationships.


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