Perhaps the most common problem that couples bring to therapy is difficulty communicating, and intertwined with that is the feeling of not understanding each other. There are some valuable and easy to explain skills that can help couples deal with this difficulty and I will probably spend time helping you with those skills. But something much deeper and richer is hidden behind this basic problem. The painful conflicts, confusions and misperceptions that tear us apart are the very path to that deeper understanding. Therapy provides the opportunity to walk on that path with a guide who isn’t as easily caught in the pain of misunderstanding and fear.When we get into a conflict with an intimate partner, we tend to think that if only we could agree on the objective reality of what happened, the conflict would evaporate. Each partner also tends to think they already know what that objective reality is. This misses the essential mystery of self and other and the world of subjective reality.
We think we know our partners but in reality they are essentially entire alien worlds, worlds where it seems that the very laws of nature are different from those laws in our inner world. This problem isn’t simply about the huge differences between men and women; the very same problem appears in intimate relations between two men or between two women. We need to enter the alien world of the other with utter respect for the strange nature of that world and with total humility about our lack of knowledge. If we don’t do that, then we are trying to enter that world like a conqueror, as if the only way that we can deal with our fear of the unknown is by imposing our understanding and erasing the unknown. Along with our respect and humility comes the other’s invitation to explore their realm because their need to be understood is as deep as our desire to enter their world.
There is an even deeper mystery hidden in this challenge. We and our partners can fully understand our own inner worlds only through our interactions, only through welcoming the other into a profoundly respectful exploration. The painful conflicts, confusions and misperceptions that tear us apart are the very path to that deeper understanding. Therapy provides the opportunity to walk on that path with a guide who isn’t as easily caught in the pain of misunderstanding and fear. If you are experiencing pain or confusion in your intimate relationship, I hope you will contact me to explore how psychotherapy might bring about change and deeper understanding.