Many of us can relate to the experience of playing in the park or playground, and struggling to get along with a peer. Often, the adult responsible would say, “If you can’t get along, go play with somebody else”. This approach worked well then, or perhaps, the situation or relationship was short-lived. Messages like this can be problematic as they create an understanding, a pathway in our brain, that connects conflict with avoidance. We compile experiences that support a similar message. Conflict is too hard, it’s “drama”, and it’s a sign of a troubled relationship between people that don’t belong together. The biggest issue is that respectful conflict is healthy AND necessary to build an intimate and emotionally safe connection. Learning to resolve conflict, openly allowing conflict, and developing the skills to resolve conflict respectfully are essential in learning how to build healthy relationships.

Long-term relationships give us stability and comfort and allow us to create a family with a solid foundation. While the drive and process of creating a family are natural, it doesn’t mean it’s automatic or easy. We are drawn to someone when they help fulfill needs and create balance. We are often drawn to someone different in significant areas of life. For example, you may come from a large and involved family and find yourself connecting with someone who immigrated as an only child. For others, the attraction may be rooted in familiarity and comfort, such as coming from a similar cultural foundation. While these driving forces of connection are not conscious or intentional, they can offer balance and emotional security. The intentional force behind connection is linked to shared goals, values, and interests. We start to build connections through shared enjoyable experiences and interests. Deeper yet, it’s important for building attraction, which fuels passion and deeper connection. This is what makes us “like” our partner.

The Role of Couples Therapy in Strengthening Relationships

We learn through couples therapy that “liking” your partner is essential for “wanting” to do the work when relationships get hard. One must consider that every relationship gets hard.

Common or complementary interests, expressions of love, time spent together, and shared interests build an attraction between partners that connects us. Resolving conflict builds trust and emotional safety, the founding blocks that carry a couple through the decades. 

In many long-term relationships, Couples Therapy is often mentioned as a “threat”. If someone isn’t getting their needs met, it can be offered up as a lifeline or a “Hail Mary” on the path to separation and divorce.  Sometimes waiting this long to seek therapy isn’t helpful. As a therapist, I have witnessed so many couples learn to embrace conflict, build skills to navigate challenges and tolerate the discomfort it can bring. The result is a relationship that is much more resilient and intimate. This outcome, however, requires that both parties enter the journey of couples therapy willing and wanting to resolve conflict and heal hurt.

Therapists are not judges or jury, they’re not trained nor ethically supported in telling you to end your marriage or not. Therapists are, however, willing to walk with you and offer learning and support to build your capacity.  We can teach you skills to heal past hurts and respectfully and lovingly navigate arguments. Sometimes the ending of a relationship is what needs to happen or what is best for both individuals.  Sometimes this realization comes from the process of couple’s therapy, albeit that is not the goal.

The Value of Couples Therapy in Building Strong Foundations

All relationships are “good” when they are good, and lasting relationships are worth the work when relationships falter. Couples therapy can be an effective part of that “work”. A qualified couple’s therapist offers a wealth of knowledge and skills to help unlearn unhelpful ideas or approaches within relationships.  A therapist can help couples build foundations based on true partnership, mutual respect, appreciation, support, affection, and emotional safety.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is conflict resolution important in long-term relationships?

Conflict resolution is essential for building intimacy and emotional safety, which are foundational for healthy, lasting relationships.

How can couples therapy help strengthen relationships?

Couples therapy teaches skills to resolve conflicts, embrace challenges, and build trust and emotional safety, making relationships more resilient and intimate.

What role do therapists play in couples therapy?

Therapists provide support and guidance, helping couples heal past hurts, navigate arguments respectfully, and build a strong partnership based on mutual respect and affection.

Is couples therapy only for relationships in crisis?

No, couples therapy is beneficial for all relationships, helping partners learn effective conflict resolution and communication skills to strengthen their bond.

What can couples expect to gain from couples therapy?

Couples can expect to build a solid foundation based on partnership, mutual respect, appreciation, support, affection, and emotional safety, leading to a healthier and more fulfilling relationship.