These days individuals often engage in a kind of self-evaluation in which their interactions, relationships, jobs and identities are placed under a microscope.
Larger questions such as “who am I?” and “who do I want to be?” have arguably become the biggest life project of all. They require endless reflection and action to bring about personal change.
Notwithstanding these criticisms, there is a widespread belief that the inward gaze and “work done” on ourselves will improve our lives, happiness and intimate relationships.
The marketing of this concept can be seen in the so-called “self-help” literature, a billion-dollar industry in which people’s romantic relationships, for example, are promised a blooming renaissance. It is no mistake that intimacy falls under the self-help banner, since the concept and patterns of romantic attachments are so embedded into therapeutic ideas of the self.
These signs will help you know if you should see a psychologist, not just as a couple, but for yourself, too. Post continues after video…
So what about couples therapy?
Much of what is undertaken in couples therapy draws from the therapeutic notion of self. It is designed to help struggling couples find common ground in the face of life’s challenges. Therapy promises to unlock communicative blocks and, with it, all of the emotional attachments, meanings and tensions.
British sociologist Frank Furedi theorises that the turn to the therapeutic for a range of day-to-day issues is to the detriment of society. This means that instead of liberating individuals, therapy has become so much a part of the culture that it creates an “emotional deficit” in its wake.
Relationship breakdown remains a consistent feature of the modern era. Yet despite high divorce rates, Australian couples continue to formally recognise their partnerships through marriage and other commitment ceremonies.
At the moment there are no meaningful ways to improve relationship quality aside from traditional counselling. Turning away from a deficit-led approach – one that focuses only on experiences with problematic relationships – means asking new research questions.
So instead of asking “what goes wrong?” for couples who separate, asking “what goes right for couples who continue in relationships?” has potential to offer new insights that can be applied to couples wishing to improve their relationship quality.