Therapy Can Work

Katherine Rabinowitz, LP, M.A., NCPsyA

Licensed Psychotherapist & Psychoanalyst
Union Square, Greenwich Village, New York, NY

We have detected that you are using Internet Explorer 9 or older.
Please upgrade your browser to access our website.
Upgrading your browser will improve your browsing experience.

Upgrade Your Browser.

Therapy Can Work

Katherine Rabinowitz, LP, M.A., NCPsyA

Licensed Psychotherapist & Psychoanalyst
Union Square, Greenwich Village, New York, NY

Relationships

“Let us be grateful to people who make us happy,
they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.”
~Marcel Proust

Not Easy

Relationships are usually about interacting with other people, though the word can be applied to a myriad of connected ideas. Because we all come from our unique history, families, religious (or non-religious) and cultural backgrounds, even when much is similar, relationships are difficult. They’re difficult because we are not clones of each other, and if we were, even then it would be difficult. There are not only the environmental issues (what we come from) to contend with, but what we come into the world hard-wired with – our personalities, which are also unique. So there are bound to be moments or periods of irritation, frustration, anger and disagreement – clashes big and small.

Keys to Success

There is no formula that guarantees a successful relationship (and while generally in therapy the primary focus is on intimate relationships, it’s often also about family relationships, or how certain patterns you’re stuck in interfere with relating well to people in general), but several very important basic factors undeniably contribute to a stable and healthy relationship:

These are by no means all. Commitment, honesty, a sense of humor, an ability and willingness to forgive transgressions, resilience in the face of adversity, a mutually satisfying sexual relationship and many other elements one could name undoubtedly play a part in the success or demise of any relationship, but without the first five-named elements firmly established, most relationships will have difficulty.

Communication: Easy Concept, Difficult Reality

Communication is an easy concept to grasp in principle but difficult to carry out in reality. You think you are communicating just fine, but very often in the therapeutic process we discover that you aren’t. You’re convinced that because someone knows you well, because you’ve “clicked” from the get-go, because you’ve found your soul-mate, what you want and need is obviously understood without your having to say it. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

No one can read your mind. No matter how well you may know your spouse, significant other, parent, child or good friend, there is always room for what you think they understand to be misheard or misinterpreted. And the same goes for you. You’re sure you know exactly what someone means, and you turn out to be wrong. Often poor communication leads to the beginnings of a breakdown in the relationship, as might lack of respect.

Lack of Respect

Being insulting, sarcastic, hypercritical, not listening to the other or frequently interrupting while someone is speaking (if you’re talking, you’re not listening), using a dismissive tone of voice, making important decisions without consulting the other are all hallmarks of a lack of respect. A relationship will have difficulty surviving if this is the predominant flavor of your interactions. Of course love is the cement of a healthy relationship, but a relationship can’t survive on love alone. Love cannot be defined – you know it when you see it, you know it when you feel it, you know it when it’s missing, and too much anger stored up over time will destroy the love you had.

Love vs. Intimacy

“The value of the personal relationship to all things is that it
creates intimacy and intimacy creates understanding and understanding creates love.”
~Anaïs Nin

Love and intimacy are not exactly the same. You can love without being intimate, and you can be intimate without loving. Intimacy is that ineffable quality that authenticates a sense of closeness. What does it mean to be intimate? Some might say, “we have sex, so we must be intimate.” While sexual relations can be one of the most intimate of human experiences, it is possible to engage in sexual activity without a drop of intimacy. Intimacy implies the willingness to expose yourself in all your naked vulnerability, to admit when you are wrong, to rejoice in the other’s triumphs. Intimacy means sharing your feelings and accepting without judgment those shown to you. Difficulty with intimacy doesn’t necessarily mean a relationship falls apart, but surely its presence solidifies one, and its absence is an indication of a lack of true relatedness. For more on this subject, see Intimacy & Sexuality.

Feeling Safe

A healthy relationship is one that makes you feel safe. It’s generally easy and comfortable to be together, and it’s ok to let your guard down when you are. Not that you never have moments where you wish you didn’t have to be with that person tonight.  It’s normal to occasionally have those kinds of feelings, but by and large you look forward to being in each other’s company, and enjoy sharing your lives, the good parts and the bad. If you dread going home, find excuses to stay late at work, find it more enjoyable to be in the company of other people than your partner, then your relationship could be in trouble.

Intervening with couples therapy can sometimes prevent the irrevocable failure. But marriages do fail, and sometimes it happens that a couple comes in past the point of possible repair. To have the best chance to save a marriage in trouble, it’s important to get help before the point of no return. There is help for troubled relationships, therapy can work, and sooner is always better than later.

Back to Top