***Disclaimer: My dear reader, in this article by the word "couple" we mean a union of two or more individuals of any gender or sexual orientation.
Our relationship is growing and evolving, just like a child. It goes through developmental stages, as well as growth pains. In couples therapy, I often hear my clients say “We are not what we used to be… Things have changed.” Of course, they have! Our relationship is changing, growing, and evolving, and will continue to do so.
The relationship is the Process of Relating. How we relate to each other has a lot to do with how we relate to ourselves. A good relationship with ourselves means we have a good sense of self-worth and feel deserving of love. This, in turn, translates into our ability to connect and extend love to our partner. Conversely, the more critical, insecure, and rejecting we are toward ourselves the more of it will be reflected in our relationship.
Once we are in a relationship, our personal emotional baggage becomes shared baggage. If one partner carries a charge of unresolved anger, for example, it will sow the seeds of anger, resentment, arguments, and quarrels in the relationship. Compromised self-esteem and beliefs such as “I am unworthy” will create a sense of not-enoughness, inadequacy, rejection, and even contempt in the relationship. Once we see ourselves as inadequate, we will use this lens of perception not only to gaze inward but also to look outward. The world around us, including our relationships, will look inadequate, lacking, and deficient.
Same-sex and gay couples tend to carry an additional layer of shame-based trauma. Growing up in a world that labeled us inappropriate, less-than, damaged, and even perverted, we internalize some of these notions. Despite the progress of the LGBTQI+ community in advocating for equality, we still have ways to go until true equality is achieved.
Sense of inadequacy, worthlessness, wrongness, and inappropriateness are common concerns in the LGBT community and among the clients I see in my Los Angeles clinic for individual counseling and couples therapy. This additional layer of baggage often contributes to challenges in same-sex relationships. Our partner becomes the mirror for the sense of rejection and unworthiness we carry, leading to a breakdown in trust and intimacy.
Our intimate bonds have the potential to bring great richness and joy into our life, however, there is a catch. In order to experience the co-creative power of our unions we have to work through the baggage we brought into our relationship.
We are unaware of the unconscious process that draws us together - we call it "chemistry." However, we always fall in love with a partner who is able to bring up within us all our wounds. We are attracted to partners who are best equipped to push the buttons of the unresolved baggage we carry from our childhood and past relationships. Our happiness lies just behind the door of our old wounds and baggage. Couples therapy is here to grant you the key to unlock this door.
At this point, you might wonder how can couples therapy and marriage counseling help you overcome relationship difficulties. What can couples expect in the process of couples therapy and what are the benefits of marriage counseling?
How can Couples Therapy and Marriage Counseling help my relationship?
Previously we talked about the unconscious nature of our attraction - we fall in love with those who can trigger all of our wounded parts. The honeymoon stage is sometimes jokingly referred to as the anesthesia stage. It precedes the more challenging phases of a relationship in which all of our unresolved “stuff” comes up to the surface. The magnitude of the challenges we encounter in our relationship corresponds to the magnitude of the emotional baggage we bring into the relationship. The greater the baggage, the greater the difficulties. The phase in which our past baggage is brought up for resolution is challenging and hurtful. This can be the time of crisis in which couples often seek couples counseling or marriage therapy, hoping to alleviate the hurt and turbulence in the relationship and re-establish harmony and connection.
The role of couples counseling and marriage therapy is to help partners work through and resolve their baggage in a focused and controlled manner, preventing unresolved negative emotions, past trauma, and limiting beliefs from creating further hurt and damage in the relationship. The role of therapy is also to help the couple rebuild intimacy, trust, connection, and harmony.
Once the couple is able to recognize and resolve the unconscious emotional patterns stemming from their past, the healing process begins. Harmonious and loving intimate relationships are a powerful tool for healing and growth. Through a loving relationship, we are able to align with our nature and purpose, to have the courage to be present in our life, to explore what life has to offer, and to enjoy the security of the loving home waiting for us at the end of each day. Our relationships have the potential to bring up our old hurts, but they also are incredibly powerful tools for healing and growth.
How does therapy with Dr. Harel work?
In my Los Angeles, California online therapy practice I have developed a 3 step approach to help you restore loving connection - the A-R-C approach:
Awareness – During the first Power-Step we will discuss what brings you in, what is the current state of the relationship, and what is it that you would like to experience instead. We will talk about the history of your current relationship, as well as your past relationships and personal history. This background information will provide a rich foundation for our work together. Here we will uncover the recurrent patterns in each of your life experiences and identify both the problem and the solution.
Release – In the second Power-Step in the couples counseling process I will meet individually with each partner to address the personal emotional baggage that each partner brought into the relationship. Here we use the advanced mind-technology of Neuro-Linguistic-Programming (NLP) to create a rapid and profound shift in your experience. NLP is a powerful tool to release the old emotional baggage of unresolved negative emotions and limiting beliefs and clear the path toward the relationship of your dreams.
Co-Creation – The third Power-Step of couples therapy is experienced by the couple together and here we focus on learning important relational skills to establish a sustained trajectory of connection and growth. We will establish a shared vision of the relationship you desire and set you on the path of joy, purpose, and fulfillment.
I see the role of a psychotherapist as that of a guide. When you hire a guide to navigate an unfamiliar terrain, you expect the guide to take you to your destination in the shortest and safest route, while you agree to follow the guide and to do the walking. I can help you find your path and support you in achieving your heart's desires, under one condition – you will have to do the walking.
Is psychotherapy for me?
My clinic proudly serves the diverse and multifaceted communities of Los Angeles and California at large. Sometimes I am asked whether as a therapist I can guarantee results. This is an important question to answer. When we talk about guarantees, there are two key elements to consider – you and me. As a therapist, I can absolutely guarantee all my clients receive absolutely all of my knowledge, expertise, experience, attention, and support. I can also guarantee that if my total commitment to your success is met with the same commitment from you, our work will have a transformative impact on your life.
My 100% success guarantee comes with 3 necessary attitudes on the part of my clients:
Ownership of full responsibility for our life. Knowingly or unknowingly, intentionally or unintentionally, we are 100% responsible and our life, including our relationship, is our making.
Willingness to let go of the old baggage, including resentments, anger, grief, old beliefs etc.
Full commitment to making all changes necessary to achieve our goals.
This single-minded commitment to your success and well-being is the key component of our work. From my clinical experience at my Los Angeles psychotherapy clinic, I can attest that 100% of my clients who showed up with 100% commitment to themselves, achieved remarkable life-changing results during our work together.