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What We Might Learn in Couples Therapy

Like many things that help our relationships,
couples therapy has a habit of sounding appallingly unromantic, involving patience, gruelling
work and a host of embarrassing conversations about matters it would be much nicer never
to have to think about – let alone discuss with a partner and a trained stranger. Our
culture teaches us to trust and follow our feelings. But couples therapy knows this is
to be a disaster, for our feelings are for the most part errant and encoded with primitive
responses from a troubled past. So instead, it encourages a far wiser response: standing
well back from our first impulses, neutralising them through understanding and where possible
rerouting them in less self-punishing and more trusting directions. Related image Living
alongside another person is obviously one of the hardest things we ever attempt; we
should expect to get it wrong unaided and feel unashamed about the need for in-depth
training. There are a number of vital things we might learn in couples therapy: – For
a start, in a quiet room, we finally have the chance to define what we feel the problems
in the relationship really are – without things immediately degenerating into shouting,
sulking or cynical avoidance. We’re normally far too cross with, or upset by, our partner
to be able to share with them, in a way they’d understand, what we’re so angry and upset
about. It helps to be in front of a stranger we’re both a little intimidated by and have
to behave ourselves with. It is highly unusual to be able to put things so starkly but also
so reasonably: ‘That you never touch me and behave so limply and unenthusiastically
when I touch you is slowly killing me – and though I love you, I don’t know how much
longer I can take it…’ How much better than a decade of low level sniping and repressed
fury. – Secondly, therapists are skilled at teasing out from us why what bothers us
bother us. Normally, left to our own devices, we don’t unearth the emotional meaning behind
our positions. We squabble about where to go on the weekend, rather than explaining
what exactly going out or staying in represents for us internally. And as a result, the other
finds us merely stubborn and mean; and all that is interesting and poignant in our position
is lost. – Thirdly, therapists break up unseen repeated patterns of upset and retaliation.
A classic therapeutic game is to ask both parties to fill in the blanks: When you ….., I
feel ….. – and I respond by …. So when you disregard the children, I feel rejected
and then respond by trying to control who you see in the evenings. Or when you don’t
touch me in bed, I feel invisible and respond by being ungrateful about your money. – With
the therapist acting as an honest broker, new contracts can be drawn up, along the lines
of: If you do x, I will do y… Once we get a little bit of what we really want (but usually
haven’t properly asked for), the other’s needs feel a lot less onerous and hateful.
– Sometimes the advice is almost beautifully pedantic. Name three things you resent about
your partner. And, next, three things you deeply appreciate. Also, keep the criticism
specific: not ‘you’re cold and ungrateful’ but ‘if you can call me when you’re running
late, then…’ Families can be kept intact with little more than this. Image result for
matisse paintings love – Through therapy, we are challenged to abandon some of our grimmer
ideas about how people can be and what will happen to us in love: If I am vulnerable,
I am not necessarily going to be hurt… I might try to explain, and the other could
listen… We are given the security to throw out some of the scripts we grew up with about
the futility of ever trying to be understood. – We can start to be moved by one another’s
pain. What does it feel like, a good therapist will ask, to hear your partner explain how
it is for them when you… We can start to take care of each other. A remarkable idea
comes to the fore; that this isn’t really our enemy, that they – like us – have
some very bad ways of getting across what are, at heart, some very understandable and
touching needs. Couples therapy is a classroom where we can learn how to love. We’re normally
so embarrassed at not having the first clue how to do so, we leave things until we are
too angry or despairing to do anything but hate. The most hopeful and therefore romantic
thing we can ever do in love is sometimes to declare that we haven’t yet learned how
to love – but, with a little help, are very keen to learn one day. The School of Life offers professional couples counselling with qualified psychiatrists that can benifit people at all stages of their relationships. If you would like to learn more, click the link on your screen now.

Reynold King

84 Replies to “What We Might Learn in Couples Therapy”

  1. I honestly find School of Life videos hard to watch. They speak directly to the issues in my life. I realise I can watch philosophy and politics and history and comedy videos all day long, then I get a SoL video and I skip it. I ask myself why and it's because they cut right into that raw part of me. That part that doesn't want to reveal itself. That part that hurts really badly. I realise then that these are the videos I need to watch the most.

  2. I would like to forgive my ex boyfriend so we can continue with out lives and raise our daughter. So much stuff happened and I feel like, after more than a year, I still can't see him and feel peace at the same time. We have been thinking about going to therapy together, but still it might be something I have to work by myself.

  3. Yeah it helps to go to counseling if even if u both in healthy relationship, usually couples try to go at a point where there at point of breaking , its better have a stronger foundation then repairing it while it falling apart

  4. Such a great video. I really enjoyed it <3
    When 2 people understand each other, it is a beautiful thing.
    Let go of expectations that were put on you by the society! Enjoy each other company without expectations. Apply rules only to yourself and not the other person. RESPECT their wants and needs. Life is easier when you learn to love yourself first <3

  5. Kinda irrelevant but there were two girls (not in my year) who went to my school who hated and I mean hated each other. The type of hatred where you don’t think they’ll ever be okay.
    One day apparently a teacher sat down with them to talk things through and while they didn’t become friends they did become civil.
    It just shows having a third party to talk things out can really help even in a situation you think that could never be improved.
    There’s always hope for a positive change 🙂

  6. Couples therapy should begin and end with deeply angry and even slightly disturbing sex. I'm taking open disdain. I'm talking about a ruthless session of missionary pounding on top of divorce papers. For the ladies, put a paper brown bag over his head and staple a picture of a copy of Mark Zuckerberg's tax returns on it.

  7. Be sure to share this video with a friend. It helps our community to keep growing. Have you ever considered couples therapy? Or had positive experiences with it? Let us know in the comments below or we have a discussion going on right now on our app available free here:

  8. A good therapist will teach us to teach ourselves how to be transparent while choosing empathetic words to do so in the compony of our partners.

  9. If only my parents would have had the opportunity and the will to see a couple therapist. I have a great hope that psychotherapy and couples therapy can actually make the world a better place. Well done School of Life! keep going

  10. 1. You can find the most profound conversation I have ever heard about love if you search for this:

    " The True Hard Work of Love and Relationships", Alain de Botton, on the " On Being with Krista Tippett" podcast.

    2. If you want to know exactly how a couple's therapy works, you can listen to a podcast by one of the most brilliant therapists on the planet, Esther Perel. As I said the other day under another video, you can find it on Itunes, or on her website if you search for:

    " Where should be begin".

    To be honest, even the mere idea of living with a partner makes me feel claustrophobic and I thought I would really feel like suffocating listening to those real therapy sessions with real couples who are in real trouble!!

    But to my surprise, I found it terribly interesting, very enriching and eye opening. Perel is incredibly smart, wise. and compassionate. She even helps couples with a single 2 hours- session and here is the most fascinating thing about it:

    She says that people come to the session with one story and leave with another! She has that quality of attention and wisdom to re-tell you the story of your own life in a totally different way.

    This reminds me of what Gabriel Garcia Marquez says at the beginning of his autobiography
    " Living to Tell the Tale":

    " Life is not what you lived, but what you remember and how you remember it in order to tell it".

    It is exactly the same thing for the life of a relationship. Two people may have totally different memories from the very same experiences.

    The therapist can help you to find a common way to remember them and tell them in a new, more constructive way, so that you can move on…

    3. These two books by our Alain are also excellent:

    How to think more about sex
    The Course of Love

    4. Friends who have a problem with always being the one who cares the most, who gives the most, even to a point of sacrificing yourself: Stop doing it!

    The following episode from the wonderful " Shrink Rap Radio" podcast can help you to understand what is going on:

    "Mindfulness and Relationship Enmeshment: Disentangling without Detaching with Ann Chanler PhD"

    5. Friends who speak Spanish; we can learn so much from the interviews and books by the psychotherapist Gabriel Rolon. Don't miss his book:

    " El Lado B del Amor".

    Personally, the sentence that got me the most by him, is:

    " No todos los amores merecen ser vividos".

    6. There is a very interesting episode of the Hidden Brain podcast from NPR. It is called:

    " When did marriage become so hard? ".

    7. The other day I have heard a woman saying:

    " Once me and my husband even had an argument about what time it was"…

    Well, can two people get more miserable than that?? Is it really necessary to be THAT close to someone?

    I really don't think so.

    That's why if a couple's therapy doesn't help you to save your relationship, it can at least help you to finally get out of it safely, which is something to be equally grateful for.

    8. Friends who are not yet married, before you decide, please watch these three moves with your partner:

    -"Scenes from a marriage" by Ingmar Bergman
    -"Who is afraid of Virginia Wolf" by Mike Nichols
    -"Before Midnight" by Richard Linklater

  11. In couples counseling i learned how to argue efficiently. I learned how to stay on point, say how i feel, and exactly what i mean. I learned how to listen better. I dont just hear what she says but i do my best to understand what makes her feel act the way she does

  12. Couples therapy is a good idea if you can find a coach or a therapist who actually cares about your relationship, vs siding or vilifying one person or the other. Do your homework before you bring in a third party or it will be more damaging than not going at all.

  13. "I consider marriage a very important institution, but it is important when and if two people have found the person with whom they wish to spend the rest of their lives — a question of which no man or woman can be automatically certain. When one is certain that one’s choice is final, then marriage is, of course, a desirable state. But this does not mean that any relationship based on less than total certainty is improper. I think the question of an affair or a marriage depends on the knowledge and the position of the two persons involved and should be left up to them. Either is moral, provided only that both parties take the relationship seriously and that it is based on values." ~ Ayn Rand, Playboy interview, March 1964

  14. We've been married for 35 years, couple's therapy is a luxury we couldn't afford, we solved our problems the old-fashioned way, we talk, yelled, slammed doors, yelled some more, made up, said sorry then went to bed. ❤

  15. Couples therapy, and psychotherapy in general, is poorly presented as a service. Based on some experience, I doubt that the metropolitan area in which I live (population about one million) has anyone competent to do this work. I question the intelligence, wisdom, and competence of most so-called psychotherapists, but the real problem is that there is no way to find out. We can go to friends of acquaintances for recommendations, knowing we should take most of them with a grain of salt. Professional qualifications are no help at all. And some of them are simply money-grubbing charlatans. So we do the best we can by watching School of Life. And even though School of Life offers this service in London or over the Internet, I don't see any credible evidence of its quality or performance. At £100 or USD 125 for 50 minutes, thats an expensive experiment.

    Am I alone in considering that the psychotherapy offering damages the credibility of this otherwise superb organization?

  16. I watch The School of Life videos because they make me feel I'm smart and like I'm doing something useful on YouTube. It makes me feel good about myself. I don't know if this is a good thing or not especially since sometimes my brain finds it difficult to process the information because of the beautiful English accent and voice.

  17. ugh. my sister went to couples therapy with her "meh" boyfriend and the therapist did everything he could to salvage this ridiculous relationship. Now she's been sending me pictures of engagement rings. This shit works, but it also might not actually be in the best interests of the people in the relationship. Sometimes people just shouldn't be together.

  18. I love you guys. You have allowed me to gain control of a lost and troubled/suicidal thought filled mind and I cant thank you all enough.

  19. As the channel has been going fo a few years now, I feel we take much of its content for granted. The insights are golden, and the animations are so beautiful they are basically art. They come fairly frequently so we do not stop to appreciate it fully. So thank you <3

  20. Doesn't work with a narcissist. When you tell them how hurt you are by something, the narcissist takes mental notes on how to turn the screws on you. It's actually hurtful to believe that sharing your feelings and vulnerability is gonna make things better.

  21. IF you cant be honest with your partner…why get married? maybe 'we' need to learn how to be responsible adults BEFORE we get married. be kind always. be honest and ACCEPT your partners honesty ….take more time to be alone with your REAL FEELINGS. get a babysitter once a week WITHOUT FAIL…kids will end your marriage faster than cheating

  22. I went to mine and learnt:
    1. You cannot make someone love you who is not invested in you.
    2. No matter how much you do, you can never make a selfish person reciprocate.
    3. If your spouse dislikes you for no apparent reason and is irked with everything, the relationship is over.

  23. Get one of those pop filters for your microphone, I'm about to kill myself listening to your sharp s pronunciation, had my volume up and almost went deaf.

  24. Yes! AND… Learning new ways to touch, soothe and pamper your partner can extend the magic of a relationship for years! When hands can say what words can not – Here's where you can learn how –

  25. But how do you know if you should try to salvage the relationship vs just stopping it because it's just too hard? Shouldn't the person you fall in love with be easy to be with? Someone who shares your values and respects you?

  26. Is it unusual for me to have teen-like arguments with my parents into my late late 20s? Like about job searching and my spending? If so am I childish and immature, or even a bit pathetic?

  27. As a rule: All Therapy is about learning to tolerate something that is uncomfortable- not about fixing the problem. I liken it to learning to live with a sliver under your skin- instead of removing the sliver and letting the skin heal.

  28. I wish I could have watched this video five years before it had been published; however, I am grateful for it now

  29. Unfortunately I'm open to couples therapy but my partner is not. He has this bad view or perspective on couples therapy thinking that they're going to tell him he's a horrible person.

  30. I went to couples counseling three times with my ex in an attempt to FIX our problems. Unfortunately, the resentment and abuse that went on had done it’s damage and counseling did not save us. It only prolonged the abusive situation and I stayed entirely too long. It did, however, help me have a healthier future relationship. I have used all the learned communication tools with my husband and I am so glad I had that knowledge to bring forward with me.

  31. Couples Therapy can only work when BOTH persons participate.
    Not trying ensures failure of relationship.
    Silent treatment is worst dehumanizing verbal abuse.

    Be courageous. Reach out. Communicate with grace, gentleness, kindness, compassion, tenderness, and FORGIVENESS.

  32. As a couples therapist I’ve learned several things. Here are those that stand out:
    1) Go before you need it and continue. Waiting until things are on the brink of divorce is like waiting until your car engine is emitting heavy smoke before calling your mechanic. It would have been better if you had gone regularly and fixed smaller things along the way.
    2) Communication is not the problem. Every single couple says they are in therapy to improve communication but they can’t really define what that means. No client has ever said “Bob cheats on me but our communication is awesome.” Ask yourself what you are fighting about most and there you will find the source of this supposed communication problem.
    3) A good therapist will at some point in the process, upset each member of the couple by calling them out on their pettiness and unfairness. It’s the therapist’s role as a mediator to point out flaws in logic and mistakes in perception.

  33. I would love if in the future, you created a dual version of every video with "simple" or "straightforward" language while labeling your current videos "nuanced" language. Just because I know many people I would love to send this to, but they would either full out acknowledge they didn't understand half of that, or they would simply unconsciously zone in and out, with the difficulty of spinning the ideas in their head that correspond to the deeply nuanced language.

  34. Well, me and my wife have been separated for 3 months. After a difficult a couple of months over Christmas we spent time together and went out on a date the following week. We have agreed to try couples therapy, but it seems that we have different vie on what outcome we both want? Let’s hope we are able to repair what’s ever been happened.

  35. BTW, fun fact (according to my Mom), you are who the other person is to you. If you're an asshole, don't be surprised the other person is an asshole to you. If you're a nice and friendly person, don't be shocked that the other person is nice and friendly toward you. My friend pretended to be honest with his wife, she pretended to stay married with him.

  36. I got help about my marriage conflicts with those guys: It changed my life

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  38. I have always struggled with communication, either being with my partner or friends and family, therapy can do wonders. I personally went to, he did wonders!

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