I enjoy working with couples and helping couples work on their relationships. I believe ‘the issue is not the issue’. This perspective is a comfort and a ‘real breath of fresh air’ for most couple who see me. They have gotten so tired of getting beat up emotionally, of dealing with the problem/s head-on and trying to deal with things from their limited viewpoint. This is exhausting. They usually have been reduced to finding fault and blaming their spouse or themselves for the problems. This perspective also drains love, positive regard, warm feelings, and intimacy from the relationship. When I say the issue is not the issue, I mean what we are focusing on is not what we should be focusing on to bring about healing, a solution, or growth and greater intimacy. This pattern of getting stuck typically has a long history for us in our lives, we just haven’t seen the thread as it wove its way through our past. Focusing on where we see the problem (e.g. between my spouse and me) if often the best way to stay stuck and to drain love and energy from our relationship. Using a small zoom approach to our problems tends to reinforce patterns and cycles of behavior and reactivity which hinder achieving our goals and dreams for our relationship. It also creates a tranquilizing effect and leaves us feeling dead inside, powerless, helpless, and hopeless. I began seeing a couple who came discussing issues of feeling very distance, angry about parenting issues, depressed about having no hope for change and unhappy with their behavior and the way they treated one another. She complained “He too wrapped up in his work rather than me and his family”. He complains, “she is disorganized and over focuses on the kids, she has forgotten all about me”. She complained, “He is just too strict with our ADD son”. He complained, “She is too lenient with our son and lets him get away with almost anything.” They acknowledge arguing and feeling tense and distance from one another over these issues. Early in our talks together I told them “Your problems are not your problems, that’s the good news.” I then made the statement, “We are going to look at things you have been avoiding looking at for years to find our solutions, that’s the bad news.” They felt a large relief. I shared with them they had come to believe their spouse was the problem, or their child was the problem, or how they interacted was the problem, or that they felt distance was the problem. These are not problems THEY ARE SYMPTOMS OF THE PROBLEM. This is why dealing directly or head on with a relationship problem usually does not work out, or at least does not work out for long.
So, what are the problems. The wife had never learned to free herself from her parent’s disapproval and rejection. She had come to see/view/react to her husband like she did as a child in her family. Feeling rejected, feeling unloved, feeling unsupported. He had grown up with little intimacy or affection. I his house growing up “bringing home the bacon” was the way to show you loved your family. He was angry with a sister who was undiagnosed with ADD and felt angry about her behavior and how his sister and his mother interacted. This became re-experienced with his ADD son and how his mother/his wife interacted with the son. They each had developed an intimacy allergy growing up, so being and staying emotionally close was and is very difficult. They just don’t know why they argue and feel tense and un-accepting of the other. This serves very well to keep a couple from having to look at intimacy and closeness in ways that are very threatening. Most couples say they want to feel and be close to one another. Most couples do everything to avoid it (like creating lots of symptoms). This keeps them safe from dealing with these issues. After they realize they have this intimacy-allergy, they can begin to make changes to get at the root of the problems, and the symptoms tend to fade away. It is amazing how it can happen
Again, my advice is don’t deal with problems head on, often this is only a rehearsal and recycling of the SYMPTOMS. If you feel stuck in your symptoms, give me a call.