Couples counseling is a highly regarded, successful way to save marriages and improve relationships. But there are certainly challenges along the way. Couples counseling challenges your relationship, your habits, and yourselves. But throughout all relationships, one of the greatest challenges that you’ll face – with or without couples counseling – is creating a new relationship culture.
Understanding Your Relationship Culture
The longer you are in a relationship, the more you begin to create a dynamic together. Over time, that dynamic can become its own unique culture – that you and your partner have habits, beliefs, behaviors, and more that are consistent within your relationship.
These cultures become engrained in your mind when you’re in your relationship. They are not unlike cultures based on ethnic background, country of origin, religion, etc. They are deeply a part of your relationship, affecting everything from:
- Your Dynamic – Who traditionally makes decisions, who cleans, who is expected to make money, who opens the door when someone comes over, who talks first when you see friends. All of these are affected by your culture.
- Your Thought Processes – How you respond to each other both in your thoughts and in your emotions is deeply related to culture. When your partner makes a joke, for example, your instant emotional reaction to the joke is affected by how you feel about your partner’s humor. Your thoughts about why they left a dish on the table is affected by the culture you have created.
- Your Behaviors – How you fight, how you react when you fight (leaving the room? Standing up? Getting louder?), whether or not you show affection, how you show affection, how you respond to your partner’s needs. Culture affects all of these.
It is because the culture of your relationship is so engrained in the relationship itself that changing it requires more than simply learning more about your partner. It requires a lot of yourself, a considerable amount of awareness, and more.
Why Culture is Hard to Change
When you think of your relationship in terms of the broad changes you need to make, rather than thinking about it in terms of the specific issues that have been created by your culture, you run the risk of falling back into previous patterns.
You can make changes – such as saying “I’m going to listen more” but what may happen is that your relationship culture affects HOW you listen, which in turn means you’re still struggling to communicate with your partner and possibly creating stresses in your relationship.
Throughout couples counseling, we’ll need to focus on how to make sure that the culture in your relationship is not affecting its outcome, and how to identify all the ways that culture can affect how you feel, react, think, and more. Changing your culture is one of the hardest parts of fixing a struggling relationship, but it’s something that can be done with effort