At Tribeca Therapy, we’re concerned about the ways that healthy is often conflated with conventional. Fewer and fewer people have a “conventional” relationship. Our patients have inter-faith and interracial relationships, second marriages and blended families. They are queer, their relationships involve intentional rejections of gender norms or they’ve explored open relationships. They’ve perhaps been on the brink of divorce or struggled with identity. Our job as couples therapists isn’t to clean that up. We see a rejection of convention, in whatever form that takes, as an opportunity to help couples discover more creative ways of being together and to define for themselves the sort of relationship and families they want to build.
Relationships are messy–in many ways, filled with frustrations and compromise. They can also be wonderful. So much of what our patients at Tribeca Therapy struggle with is the conflict between how they imagine their relationships should be, what they wished they’d be and the reality. We help couples approach the difficult task of refusing to settle for less than a great relationship while simultaneously working to recognize imperfections. Both are vital.
Conflict Is Opportunity
Sometimes conflict just sucks, but other times, in addition to being a drag, it’s simply essential to confronting issues that need air. Every couple has things about which they disagree. That’s always the case. Conflict is the nature of how that gets worked through so decisions can be made. Couples without conflict end up avoiding decisions or making decisions by default. We work to help couples not so much avoid or reduce conflict, but become more skilled and fluent at conflict. How can couples resolve to address these issues and not avoid them while also discovering the particular ways that they, as two individual people, need to communicate?
Conflict is filled with emotional baggage, some of which is apparent and some of which may not be. Identifying and exposing that baggage can help couples both better “own their stuff,” as well as look out for their partner’s “stuff” and approach conflict in ways that accommodate their partner’s limitations while also challenging their partner to grow.
Relationships Need To Be Constantly Defined and Redefined
The assumption in marriage/long-term relationship is that you start out, you get to know each other, and then that’s done–you know each other. What that doesn’t leave room for is the endless ways we can continue to discover who our partner is, especially how they are constantly growing and changing. Being continuously curious about this discovery is a vital part of what it means to build and adapt the relationship over time.
In a certain sense, couples may need to redefine a set of terms or even, in some ways, the whole relationship every few years. The world is changing. Jobs change. Bodies change. Kids grow older and need different kinds of things. We grow, we struggle. All of that disrupts the relationship. We work to help couples accept that this is normal and to actively find ways of making self-conscious decisions together. These disruptions–while often scary–can be opportunities to revisit or recreate relationship habits that haven’t been working.