Shrink Rap: In 2016, Couples Don’t Wait to Get Help

Shrink Rap: In 2016, Couples Don’t Wait to Get Help

Relationships give meaning to life. We live in relationship to our families and families of origin, friends, societal and business groups, and most of all, to our spouse or significant other. When a relationship turns bad, it affects our emotions, productivity, and self esteem. So, if you are having problems, especially with your primary partner, I urge you to seek help sooner rather than later.

unhappy couple

In fact, you might want to add counseling to your short list of New Year’s resolutions.

Often couples come to me after so much damage has been done that minds are made up, defenses are set against opening up and becoming vulnerable again, and the hurt is just too much to bear.

Couples therapy requires both parties choose to believe what the other is saying. It requires some degree of risk-taking and the inner strength and courage to try again. We often think we know what the other person is thinking and meaning. We are so often wrong.

With no tools for resolving conflict, when we try to deal with difficult issues we often end up causing more damage. As a result, we quit trying and become estranged. Key issues do not get discussed. Ironically, where there is conflict, there is also potential for fascinating and deep conversation – if we only we knew how to get there.

The sad fact is we are limited by what we learned in our families of origin – and what we have learned since. Without the ability to resolve conflict, we cannot achieve true intimacy. It’s easy to have a good relationship when everything is happy and wonderful. It’s not so easy when one gets hurt and tries to deal with the pain. Or when life brings so much stress we are left with few resources. But there are tools for learning to communicate effectively and for resolving conflict. Simply having a safe place to talk is a good start.

In my practice as a clinical psychologist and also an organizational development consultant, I have worked with many people in relationship to others, but I have never seen people be as mean to each other as in marriage situations. Something happens when people wed: some people feel entitled to cross boundaries that should not be crossed. Common civility between two individuals is a good first step to learning to resolve conflict, negotiate, and find resolution.

Being in a relationship is always a choice. We need to work on making that relationship one that we freely choose, each day, whether we are legally married or not. If you are having problems in your primary relationship, please get help before so much damage is done you become completely closed off. If we hurt each other each time we try to deal with a difficult issue, it’s wise to stop trying and seek outside advice, as the issues still need to be resolved. If you are going to seek help, be prepared to make an investment in time and money. Check your insurance and get good coverage so that you can stay the course of treatment without breaking the bank. Give it a good try. The couples I work with are complex; the issues are complex and can only be solved with adequate time.

About Dr. Susannah Smith:

Dr. Susannah Smith, PhD

Dr. Susannah Smith, PhD

 Dr. Susannah Smith is a licensed practicing clinical psychologist and organizational development consultant, with offices in Telluride and Ridgway. If you would like to contact her, she can be reached at;; or 970-728- 5234.


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