The Work of Love

chicago_couples_counseling1[1]Relationship issues are one of the primary reasons people seek out counseling. Romantic relationships are at the top of the list. Your relationship with a romantic partner can be one of the most satisfying relationships you have in life, but this relationship is likely the most complex. The reality of romantic love relationships is they are hard work! It can be a wonderful, euphoric feeling when you first fall in love with someone, but relationships involve more emotions than just love and happiness. You may at various times feel anger, sadness, disconnection, hurt, and frustration because having such an intimate connection with another person who thinks, feels, and sees the world differently than you can be challenging to navigate.

We all know that these relationships are not easy, just look at the high rate of divorce and the depiction of these relationships in movies and novels that center around heartbreak and conflict. So what does this “hard work” involve and how do we nurture this relationship so that it is more satisfying than dissatisfying? In my training and experience in helping couples improve their relationships, I have found two essential aspects of the relationship must be a focus. First, a couple must become proficient at communicating negative emotions they feel toward one another. Dr. John Gottman has done extensive research in looking at what keeps couples together and what drives them apart. He has found that it is not the number of arguments or what the couple is arguing about that leads to divorce, but rather the way the couple argues. Couples that do not stay together tend to criticize one another, be intentionally mean, be defensive, and/or withdraw from one another. Learning healthy, respectful ways of expressing your negative emotions to your partner is key to a healthy, lasting relationship.

The second area that is involved in the “work” of a relationship is nurturing the love between you and your partner so that security and connectedness are at the foundation of the relationship. A helpful way of exploring how to create more love and connection in your relationship is by identifying and understanding you and your partner’s primary love language. Dr. Gary Chapman is the author of the the “Love Languages” concept. He identified that we all have different ways we both receive and show love. He describes five categories of love languages: quality time, words of affirmation, acts of service, physical touch, and receiving gifts. If a couple is not speaking each other’s love language then they likely feel disconnected, unloved, and dissatisfied in the relationship. Communicating negative emotions in a healthy way and exploring and expressing your partner’s love language can be difficult to do on your own. Many couples benefit from working with a professional counselor.

To schedule an appointment for couples counseling, email Dr. Rebecca Bergen or fill out the contact request form on our homepage.

To learn more about communicating negative emotions effectively and expressing love languages visit these websites:

http://www.gottmanblog.com/2013/04/the-four-horsemen-recognizing-criticism.html

http://www.5lovelanguages.com

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