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Individual Growth Within the Context of Couples Therapy

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Intimate relationships bring meaning and purpose to our lives, but they are not easy. When difficulties emerge within our relationship, we often want to take the “less painful” route, which means avoiding those issues we are too scared to confront about ourselves and our relationship. By doing so, however, we overlook the fact that by confronting the challenges within our relationship we can grow as an individual while simultaneously strengthening the relationship itself. For example, developing a stronger sense of self and being able to hold onto that sense of self does not mean growing apart from your partner. In fact, it means quite the opposite. Allowing your partner to really see you for who you are, which is the foundation for a truly intimate relationship, significantly enhances the strength, resilience, and meaningfulness of your bond.

Most couples come into therapy with the expectation that the reason they are there is to “work on their relationship”. Yet, in most cases, they clearly see their partner’s contribution to their relationship problems, but they remain unaware of their own. Therefore, they enter therapy seeking a way to change their partners, while holding fast to not changing themselves. This is not unusual nor is it unexpected, because change can be painful. The notion of “pain for growth” may sound cliché, but if growth and change were truly easy, then deeply passionate and enduring intimate relationships would be the norm as opposed to the exception.

The reality, however, is that intrapersonal and interpersonal growth is a challenging process that requires us to look at ourselves and confront those issues that we all try so hard to avoid. One reason this is so difficult is that we are prone to trying to control others as opposed to controlling ourselves. From this position it is impossible to confront issues within our intimate relationships. That is why I believe the first step in working with any couple is to help each partner get what they want from themselves, as opposed to focusing on how to get their partner “in line”. Though slightly paradoxical, this in turn allows them to look at their relationship and their partner from a new and different perspective. By helping each partner focus on the self they want to bring to their relationship, clients become more willing to face the challenges within their relationship constructively, as opposed to wasting their energy blaming their partner. When both partners are willing to self-confront and work on themselves, they are actually working on their relationship. Time after time I have observed that as an individual changes, so too does his or her intimate relationship.

I strongly believe that personal and interpersonal growth is an ongoing, life-long process. As opposed to the end of couples therapy signifying the end of such growth, my goal as a therapist is to provide clients with the tools they need in order to continue to pursue this growth both individually and within their relationship. When couples leave my office they will inevitably continue to face challenges in their lives and in their relationships. However, it is my greatest hope that through my work with them, their ability to handle these challenges will be far improved and the potential for an enduring and meaningful intimate relationship will be possible.

To learn more, please feel free to contact me at 310-892-2572. My office is centrally located in Hermosa Beach and I provide couples therapy, as well as individual therapy, to clients in Manhattan Beach, Redondo Beach, El Segundo and the entire South Bay area.