Couples Therapists Reveal: 15 Lessons I’ve Learned About Relationships
Relationships are hard, no doubt about it.
There’s no magic elixir or method to making them work. But there are certain skills and insights you can learn when it comes to communicating better, resolving conflict, building real intimacy and having an all-around healthy relationship.
For wisdom, we spoke with several couples specialists, who reveal the valuable lessons they’ve learned in their profession along with what makes happy, solid relationships.
1. Relationships are complex.
This seems like a no-brainer, but many of us don’t appreciate a relationship’s complexities. Think of it this way: Each person has their own multilayered thoughts and emotions, which bring a variety of intricacies to the table, said Robert Solley, Ph.D, a San Francisco clinical psychologist. In fact, “Some estimates place the number of possible interconnections in the brain at more than the number of particles in the universe.”
Then add to that social interactions, relationships with loved ones and your partner, other experiences and even language (which tends to be ambiguous), Solley said.
Plus, we’re even unaware of many of our own feelings and thoughts. According to Solley, “A surprising amount of what we think, feel and do is simply not available for our own self-observation.” Take the example of a son who acts just like his father — something others see clearly — but he’s oblivious to. These off-the-radar patterns of thinking, behaving and feeling originate from templates that “were established in us in infancy before we even had language.”
We also tend to create inaccurate or distorted explanations for our partner’s behavior. “We may think that our partners are doing something uncaring, or to punish us, when in fact they are just doing what is natural for them and it has very little to do with us.” We also might be collecting evidence to substantiate these distorted beliefs. “In relationships all of these things can serve to sustain negative cycles and keep us stuck in painful patterns.”