An intimate partnership can be a safe haven in the face of adversity, stress, or sadness. A relationship can challenge and push us, causing us to grow in unexpectedly positive directions yet sometimes that same relationship can challenge us in ways that we find difficult, frightening, or stressful. Finding the delicate balance between satisfying each partner’s needs for healthy dependency, support, and comfort while protecting each partner’s independence is no small task. Couples are faced with ongoing and evolving rewards and challenges which may include: building and maintaining intimacy, separating your identity from the family you grew up with to build a new identity as a partner or spouse, confronting life’s crises, establishing and maintaining a satisfying sexual relationship, making decisions about pregnancy and parenthood, leaning on each other while maintaining autonomy, and making joint decisions without resentment or compromising oneself.
Couples work may involve: expressing differences without anger and conflict, embracing the roles of parenthood, building togetherness, strengthening trust, joint decision-making, building or reinforcing sexual and romantic intimacy, clarifying roles, and dealing with life’s crises and changes.
Many family constellations exist with unique needs and cultures (e.g. multi-generational, grandparent-headed, foster, two-parent, single parent, blended step-families, families headed by opposite-sex couples, and families headed by same-sex couples). At any stage of life, these family relationships have been identified as a key factor in mental and emotional well-being. When family members experience various kinds of problems, stress, and conflict, it impacts all members. Because one person’s behavior often affects the behavior of other family members, involving families in solutions is often beneficial. Challenges that families face may include: excessive conflict, lack of structure, poor communication, teen rebellion, and adjustments related to grief and loss, divorce, illness, a new child, or changes in finances to name a few.
Family work often involves examining family patterns, family communication style, and family culture in order to improve the well-being of all members involved. Family therapy may include setting reasonable expectations, identifying clear family rules, developing shared activities, building teamwork and cooperation, nurturing supportive relationships, increasing effective communication, and fostering a sense of trust, security, and respect between family members.