The Messy Art of Relationships (Part 1)

No topic has been more discussed, written about, and analyzed than the art of human relationships; the Barnes and Noble bookshelves and the Amazon warehouses are filled with books on relationships written by self-help authors, psychologists, life coaches, and counselors, and Hollywood has thrived on exploring relationship themes in the cinema . . . and with good reason: having positive interpersonal relationships is absolutely fundamental to our overall health and well-being. In psychotherapy, it is commonly understood by counselors that the therapeutic relationship, not the techniques employed or the theoretical orientation of the counselor, often accounts for most of the healing that takes place in therapy. This make sense since, as babies, we come out of the womb with the innate need to connect with others, our primary caregivers first and foremost, especially the mother. Indeed, we are hard-wired to make these human connections, and our default behavior is to seek out positive relationships with others.

But then why can relationships be so incredibly difficult? Why are they often so problematic and filled with so much conflict? The answers are complex, but one thing is certain: navigating romantic relationships in particular presents enormous challenges for many of us, as evidenced by a divorce rate of around 50% (and by the long list of professional marriage counselors in the Psychology Today directory), not to mention the countless others for whom the goal of finding that one fulfilling, lasting, fully satisfying romantic relationship remains elusive. I’ll dig into these difficult questions in more detail, so look for some insights into these and other questions relevant to the field of relationship and couples counseling in the next few blog entries.

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