The relationship with the primary person in our lives is meant to be the most trusted, enriching, supportive and lovely relationship of them all. It is meant to be the place where we find that we are loved unconditionally, and where we learn how to offer unconditional love in a consistent enough way. When this relationship breaks down, the feelings that arise in each person can be catastrophic. The loss which we feel when our central relationship falls apart can be intense, and can affect the way we feel about almost every other aspect of our life.
In my work with couples I have come to recognize how difficult it can be to love and be loved in a healthy and life-affirming way, and how much work we need to put in, in order for the relationship to survive, let alone thrive. Most often, relationships come undone when there is an unwillingness to think non-judgmentally about the thoughts and feelings of the other person. Usually this happens when we feel so hurt, that we have to function defensively in order to survive. The work of couples therapy, broadly speaking, is to soften each person’s defenses just enough to make it possible to have open conversations about each persons feelings and thoughts.