Where these differences are not respectfully and assertively managed, communication can break down, a negative emotional tone sets in and the focus shifts from partnership to opposition.

We tell ourselves that it absolutely should be "right" all the time and if it's not, then it's broken, or just not good enough...

This popularized perfectionist attitude to relationships is ultimately the cause of relationship problems. Paradoxically, telling ourselves that everything should be perfect, is the ultimate undoing of the relationship itself.

We fall into the trap of setting perfect expectations and then we convert our natural differences into issues of incompatibility and conflict.
Too many relationships are discarded because the reason for being together is lost in the midst of this conflict. After separation and often when it's too late, both sides of the broken relationship look back and recognise what they have lost.


But It Can Work

In spite of this high potential for disagreement and conflict however, healthy relationships still represent the majority.
This is not simply based on common interests and shared values. It's a result of flexibility, compromise, open communication and mutual respect for the differences that each person brings to the relationship.

Strong and enduring relationships are defined by a mutual understanding of each other's needs, compatible values and most importantly, the willingness to flex, negotiate, adapt, tolerate and accept individual differences.

Ask any long-term loving couple why they stayed together. It's always because their mutual connection was stronger than their inevitable differences.


So Where Does It Go Wrong?

Problems can arise in relationships where the underlying emotional tone of the relationship becomes negative over time or when breakdowns are triggered by a crisis.
This is maintained by the automatic cognitive and behavioral reaction of each individual, both in terms of the relationship but often also because of a problem that one or other partner is experiencing.

When this negative emotional tone persists, conflict increases, attitudes harden and behaviours become progressively counter-productive. The partnership starts to break down and the focus shifts to criticism, neglect or withdrawal.


What Causes The Problem?

Research by John Gottman a leading marital therapist, shows that the success or failure of a relationship can be predicted with 96% accuracy. This is based on the presence or absence of four simple behaviours.

  • Criticism: Attacking your partner's personality or character, usually with the intent of making someone right and someone wrong.
  • Contempt: Attacking your partner's sense of self with the intention to insult or psychologically abuse him/her.
  • Defensiveness: Seeing one's self as the victim and continuously warding off a perceived attack.
  • Stonewalling: Withdrawing from the relationship as a way to avoid conflict.

You can take the Couples Conflict Questionnaire (CCQ) to see how these behaviours affect your relationship. Visit https://thinkcbt.com/couples-conflict-relationships?catid=55 to take our secure online assessment.


How CBT Works For Couples

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is used to work on couples and relationship problems.

This involves identifying the triggers, negative expectations, beliefs, behaviours and communication patterns that keep the problem going; whilst agreeing and practicing flexible and realistic alternatives.

There are six steps in the CBT for couples process:

  1. Undertaking an initial assessment to understand the problem and the different factors that maintain relationship disatisfaction or distress.
  2. Agreeing joint goals and exploring relationship values.
  3. Using the CBT for couples model to explore the triggers and maintenance factors that keep the problem going.
  4. Identifying and practicing new cognitive and behavioural patterns.
  5. Developing more effective communication behaviours.
  6.  Agreeing a relationship "contract" to consolidate the changes in expectations, behaviours and communication.

Couples are encouraged to adopt a positive emotional tone by actively building a shared vision for the future. Relationship resilience is developed by shifting the focus and over-riding conflict with a willingness to respect and tolerate each other's differences.

It's difficult to achieve change when one or both parties in the relationship are locked into unhealthy or destructive behaviours. Seeking help and facilitation is not a sign of further weakness. It's a sign of commitment and a clear willingness to change. You can visit www.thinkcbt.com to find out more about how CBT is used to help with a wide range of emotional and behavioural problems.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for couples brings the same rigor, structure and focus to the problem that it provides for many other psychological, emotional and behavioural problems.

Follow the evidence and take a positive step towards changing your situation.

Call us now on 01732 808 626, click here to send a message or email us at info@thinkcbt.com

Think CBT is committed to providing access to affordable independent Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. Our aim is to support tangible improvements in the psychological health and well being of our clients, contributing to better lives worth changing for.


Think CBT is committed to providing access to affordable independent Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. Our aim is to support tangible improvements in the psychological health and well being of our clients, contributing to better lives worth changing for.

There are many psychotherapists and counsellors offering cognitive behavioural therapy. Always ensure that your therapist is professionally accredited with the British Association of Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapy (BABCP).

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