How do I slow down a relationship

Couples Therapy: Possibilities and Limits

Relationships can be a source of stability, joy, and happiness. But they don't have to. If togetherness is more suffering than joy, couples therapy can help. Dr. Maximilian Schallauer explains their possibilities and limits.

It usually begins with the overwhelming feeling of being in love, the butterflies dance around wildly in your stomach and you can't stand it for a minute without the chosen one. At some point it becomes love, you move in together, marry and possibly have children. And finally - when the years go by - everyday life hardly leaves any time for tenderness, nice gestures or kind words. Some couples then have to realize one day that they are standing before the ruins of their relationship. They hardly find anything in common, keep having arguments and trust each other very little.

When does couples therapy help?

But time can also change partnerships and make you feel misunderstood. In addition, different life plans, sexual problems or legacies from previous relationships can tarnish happiness. Affected couples sometimes ask themselves the question: Is everything too late or can we still save the relationship with professional help? “Couples therapy is appropriate if a couple is stuck themselves, if conversations are unsatisfactory and go round in circles or if frustration about the relationship persists. Crises in a relationship usually indicate that a next development step is pending, for example because external circumstances have changed or because one has entered a different phase of life. In what is known as Imago relationship therapy, we also assume that the real meaning of a good relationship includes mutual growth. This personal growth is only triggered by conflicts, ”explains Dr. Maximilian Schallauer, clinical psychologist and psychotherapist as well as member of the professional association of Austrian psychologists, from Walding.

Slow down the conflict dynamics

There are many reasons why couples seek professional help. "It revolves around all sorts of topics such as family organization, child-rearing, contributions to housework, money, responsibility, too little time for the partner, reticence of a partner, sexuality or a crisis after an outside relationship," the psychotherapist notes. But how can couples therapy help here? “A good couples therapist slows down the dynamics of the conflict. You can take a closer look at the topics, discuss them more calmly and relate to each other again, ”says Schallauer. This can break up deadlocked communication patterns.

Give the relationship a chance

In couples therapy, as with many other problems, the earlier you start, the greater the chance of strengthening what you have in common in the relationship. How often and for how long you have to see a therapist is difficult to answer and varies from person to person. While a few sessions are enough for some couples, others require a more intensive discussion. “An average couple therapy lasts around ten double hours for me. It can take longer if, for example, complex problems arise in the course of couples therapy and the couple wishes to resolve them together, ”says Schallauer.

Break up or try again?

Deciding to be with each other instead of separating is not always the goal of therapy: “This determines the couple. Most of the time it is about finding each other again, but some couples also want to be clear about whether they have a chance together or whether it makes sense for them to stay together under certain circumstances, ”says the health psychologist. Couples therapy can also lead to separation. Injuries cannot then be ruled out. In these cases, too, you should therefore rely on professional help in order to create a good basis for the future.

Readiness for therapy necessary

But there are also situations in which couples therapy does not make sense from the outset. When asked where the boundaries lie, Schallauer replies: “If one of the partners has already internally said goodbye to the relationship, if there is an external relationship that is not ended, or if the willingness of a partner is lacking, then couples therapy makes little sense . ”Conversely, this means: If the partners are open and interested in dealing with their own issues, the therapy has a good chance of success. “The prerequisites are ideal if you can feel that mutual affection is still there, even if it is masked by current conflicts,” says Schallauer.


MMag. Birgit Koxeder-Hessenberger
December 2013


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‌ Last updated on May 11, 2020