As human beings we have a tendency to stay stuck in patterns- We are creatures of routines. A pattern doesn't have to be enjoyable for us to repeat it, just familiar. It is what we naturally do without intervention. Some of our patterns are positive (our waking up routine, putting on a seat belt). Some are problematic. They are frequently “below our radar”; we don't recognize when they occur, we just notice afterwards that they don't work.

In relationships each of us comes with models from our families of how relationships should be. It is not a conscious choice, nor is it blaming our parents (they had parents too). It is noticing how each of us might do some of the things either or both of our parents did, both positive and negative. Over time we create our own model- often a mixture from both families. Sometimes problems begin to occur.

Conflict is normal in relationships. When it is excessive, violent, or often does not lead to resolving an issue, then there is a problem that needs to be addressed. Below are some of the mistakes couples make that keep them “stuck”.

1. Going with the flow- Sometimes in disagreements we become sidetracked from the original disagreement into other things that bother us. When that happens multiple issues get voiced, frustration increases, and little, if anything, gets resolved. We need to remain focused on the disagreement at hand, even if we need to write down other topics for future discussions.

2. I know what he/she thinks- After living with someone we feel we know them enough to anticipate how they would react or think. We may be right, or we may be wrong. We would not feel comfortable with someone answering for us, we need to do the same. We can ask if they think or feel that way, but need to respect their boundaries.

3. Getting stuck in history/Ignoring history- The value of looking back is in examining what happened and using that information to make a decision and/or make changes. Sometimes we get stuck in the past. We argue, someone brings up something from the past and, again, we “go with the flow” arguing about what happened or bringing up other past issues, not resolving anything. If we wish to move on, let's recognize that we were hurt, discuss solutions and hold each other accountable to change. Stay focused on what needs to occur today and now.

4. If it were me- Each of us is different; different biological families, different histories, different genders, different cultures, different thoughts, different values, different priorities-we are not the same. Though we may be similar in some ways, we are different in others.

5. We're different people- While we can sometimes use our reactions to predict how they might react in a different situation it can often be incorrect (see #2 above). It is best to ask.

6. Responding without listening- Sometimes in our haste to respond we don't listen to what other's say. Many times I have to point out to couples that they are actually saying the same thing a different way! We need to take turns and listen to each other.

If we keep repeating patterns despite our attempts, continue to have conflict or when problems in the relationship are causing significant stress help is needed. We can only see so much in ourselves and our partner. Someone outside the relationship is unbiased and has a clearer view; it is a human condition.

Couples therapy by a trained therapist is invaluable. Many insurance companies keep lists of therapists providing couples therapy in addition to other specialties. The therapist should have considerable training and experience. - We recommend a Masters or Doctoral degree in Social Work or Psychology in addition to years of practice. They should be able to answer your questions about their experience and style.

Couples therapy is not arguing with a therapist there as a referee. It is about noticing patterns, eliminating problem behaviors, finding mutually acceptable solutions and initiating them. Breaking patterns takes time and practice. Awareness of our mistakes come first, then we continue to make progress. Our goal should be to continue to grow, one day at a time.

Author's Bio: 

Randolph Bleiwas, Director of Harbor Crest, has a Masters in Psychology and Social Work as well as a number of certifications. These include a NYS License in Clinical Social Work, a NYS Credential in Alcohol and Substance Abuse Counseling and a Certification in Hypnosis and Hypnotherapy. He is a member of the American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress, the National Center for Crisis Management and the American Psychotherapy and Medical Hypnosis Association.

He has worked in mental health and substance abuse for over 20 years providing individual, couples, family and group therapy to children, adolescents and adultsas well as hypnosis and hypnotherapy.

At Harbor Crest we don't use a "one size fits all" method. Treatment is based on the needs of the person we meet with, not our needs. Though we focus primarily on here and now there are times we must go back to move forward. We give feedback and do not merely reflect back to a client what he or she says. We work together to help our clients reach their goals. As human beings we sometimes will get lost in unfamiliar territory. We can blindly search an hope to stumble on one of the right paths, or we can ask someone who knows the way. We are here to help.

His clients include people affected by depression, anxiety, eating disorders, chronic or terminal illness, victims of traumatic events, victims of physical or sexual abuse, children and adolescents with behavioral problems, individuals with alcohol or drug problems, or people struggling with problems in relationships.

His approach is eclectic, utilizing multiple techniques including cognitive behavioral, gestalt, psychodynamc, RET, (plus play therapy and sandplay for children) and others to help clients reach their goals. He believes in providing direct feedback and working as a team to help individuals, couples and families break problematic patterns. He is also an expert in hypnosis and hypnotherapy.
Hypnosis, our newest offering at Harbor Crest is a tool that has been used for many years
with significant success. Performed by Mr. Bleiwas, Certified in Hypnosis and Hypnotherapy,
it is used to resolve problems and difficulties either alone or as an adjunct to therapy.