Lots of people enter therapy to process break-ups and/or divorces. Whether it is contemplating ending the relationship or learning ways to “pick up the pieces” after a break-up, talking to an unbiased professional can help.
It is vastly more helpful for these break-up counseling sessions to cover topics related to the person seeking clarity and help than it is to discuss the ex-partner. If your pre- or post- divorce therapy spends more than one or two sessions discussing the OTHER person (how horrible, selfish, difficult, etc. (s)he was), chances are very little growth and awareness is occurring.
Instead, break-up/divorce therapy is very effective when it explores the answers to these questions:
- What were my unmet needs (attention, security, safety, understanding, autonomy consideration, adequacy, value etc.) in this relationship? Were these needs solidly met (or were they raw vulnerabilities) before I entered into this relationship? A relationship that seeks to resolve old emotional injuries (from family-of-origin or past relationships) is not doomed, but should be navigated with careful awareness. If this is post break-up therapy, awareness is necessary to avoid repeating a pattern of choosing a certain type of partner and operating in ways that heighten undesired reactions.
- What are my defense strategies for managing the pain of my unmet needs? Do any of these defense strategies exacerbate dysfunctional dynamics? Do I protectively pull-away and become hyper-independent, thereby snuffing out the other’s need for emotional intimacy and increasing his/her undesirable defensive reactions? Am I hyper-critical and controlling as a way to ensure my needs are met, but inadvertently trigger my partner’s sensitivities? Am I overly permissive and accommodating in order to garner approval (bait to certain self-focused personality types)? Am I passive or passive aggressive instead of directly assertive, therefore precluding constructive resolution? Do I choose a certain type of partner again and again (detached? unavailable? controlling? invalidating?) as a way to maintain my comfort zone of what I am used-to, protect myself from the frightening prospect of an actually healthy relationship, or redeem my fragile self-worth by getting a “bad” person to become “good” for me???
- What actual behaviors could I practice to get me over my own emotional hurdles (fears of vulnerability/rejection/inadequacy/disappointment and raw unmet needs)? Do I need to practice direct, assertive communication in front of a mirror? Do I need to do intentional thinking or self-soothing exercises to clarify my interpretations of my parter’s behaviors before reacting automatically? Do I need to join a codependents anonymous group? Do I need to visualize boundaries and practice mentally disengaging as opposed to heightening conflict? Do I need to make a hierarchy of scary behaviors related to intimacy or radical acceptance, and go through the behaviors little by little, from easiest to most terrifying?
Just something to think about, once again; From the therapist who thinks these questions need to be answered even if the relationship is a gonner or otherwise the exact pattern will be repeated in future relationships.
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