By Sara West, M.A., MFT
Open communication, honesty, and trust are the key ingredients necessary for any relationship to flourish. Just as a flower needs soil, sunlight, and water to grow and blossom, without openness, honesty, and trust a relationship is likely to wither and die.
While most partners begin their relationship with a strong desire to share themselves openly and honestly with each other, numerous factors can lead to a disintegration in a couple’s communications.
The numerous demands we face in our busy lives can diminish the amount of time we spend with our partners, which can erode communications. We also may decide to withhold things from our significant others in an attempt to protect them from the information we think will be painful.
Unfortunately, even if our intentions are good, once honest communications begin to a breakdown they can be very difficult to regain. And a breakdown in open, honest communication can lead to mistrust.
Moreover, blatant lying to cover up situations such as an addictive behavior or an extramarital affair can completely erode a partner’s trust and lead to severe relationship conflict and stress.
If issues such as these are not immediately dealt with, the hostile environment they cause can quickly lead to the disintegration of what was once a loving and supportive relationship.
While working through and overcoming dishonesty and mistrust in a relationship takes a great deal of time and effort, it can be done if both partners are willing to do the work required. In these circumstances, seeking professional couples or marriage counseling will be critical to your relationship’s success.
Couples therapy can help you and your partner:
- Express your feelings and frustrations in a positive, constructive manner – A professional couples therapist will create a safe, contained environment in which you and your partner can experiment with different ways of expressing your frustrations and feelings. This will help both of you better understand one another and find new ways of communicating that facilitate openness, honesty, and understanding.
- Better understand each other’s feelings – One common relationship issue is both partners’ lack of understanding about what each other is feeling. We have a tendency to assume we know what our partner thinks or feels and to “fill in the blanks,” as opposed to sincerely listening to our partner’s concerns. Couples counseling will not only allow you to be heard but also help you to listen, which is a vital ingredient in restoring understanding and trust.
- Objectively assess your relationship – A professional couples therapist will help you and your partner objectively assess the state of your relationship when you first come to therapy, the seriousness of the problems you’re facing as well as their causes, and the progress you make towards rebuilding your relationship as therapy progresses.
- Decrease emotional reactivity – Issues of dishonesty and mistrust are likely to cause strong emotional reactions. While these emotional reactions may be valid, the impulsivity with which they’re expressed can often do more harm than good. Couples therapy can help partners reduce the impulsive expression of fears and frustrations while still making sure these feelings are shared in a manner that allows both partners to hear one another and be heard.
- Understand each other’s relationship histories – Our previous relationships often wield a heavy influence on how we interact in the present. Discussing our past relationships with our partners in the safe and confidential environment provided by couples therapy, allows us to better understand our own emotional triggers as well as those of our partner.
- Improve your communication skills – While many situations may lead to mistrust in a relationship, a lack of open communication is almost always front and center. Couples and marriage counseling can provide you and your partner the communications skills and tools necessary to restore trust and intimacy in your relationship and allow it to thrive well into the future.
Once they’ve been lost, honesty and trust can be difficult to regain. But restoring honesty and trust are possible.
Professional couples therapy and marriage counseling can help you and your partner accept your present circumstances and uncover, work through, and resolve the underlying belief systems and behaviors that have lead to the apprehension and mistrust you’re experiencing in your relationship.
If you and your partner are willing to do the work necessary, couples therapy can help you discover new ways to express yourselves openly, honestly, and constructively, restore trust, and move forward together with confidence and optimism.
Sara West is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in her private psychotherapy practice in San Jose, California and have been practicing psychotherapy since graduating from Santa Clara University in 1982. She works with individual adults and couples, and the focus of my work is helping men and women who are trying to navigate life’s transitions, who may be suffering from depression, anxiety, work-related stress, past or present trauma, alcoholism or chemical dependency, and who are having difficulties in their personal or professional relationships. Visit Sara’s website here and the link to the original article here.