Let's Deal With This Together!
Couples who are caught up in a negative and vicious cycle, struggle to see any alternative solutions outside the current way they are acting towards one another. Because this cycle also touches "tender spots" or "vulnerabilities" in each person, the consequent reaction is to often blame the other person for the pain caused (read Are You Stuck in a Vicious Cycle With Your Partner?, for more details on negative cycles in relationships).
As a couples therapist, I see my role as one of supporting couples to "unlock" the rigid patterns and reconnect. However, there is a component of the success of couples therapy that is beyond my control and that has to do with how couples take up on themselves the responsibility of healing their own relationship. This might seem an obvious statement, but it is difficult to put into practice. There are many ways in which couples can take responsibility for their relationship, and obviously the fact they are coming to see me is a clear sign of that, for the most part. What I have come to notice, in my practice, is that those couples who see their issues as "our issues" instead of "your issues" tend to improve quicker. These couples recognize that each of them contribute to the relationship problems somehow; thus, believing that the solution needs a joint effort by both of them - a teamwork effort, as I call it. Sometimes, there might be a member of the couple who is feeling more vulnerable (i.e., depressed, socially isolated, burnout, etc), which means that they might be contributing to the stress in the relationship a bit more than usual. But, even then, when couples adopt a "let's deal with this together" instead of a "you are the problem"- approach; it really helps couples move forward. Although there might be a component of disappointment, and sometimes resentment, towards the the partner, these couples do not blame the other for the issues in their relationship. Instead, they are willing to look at themselves as well and to accept their partners shortcomings; without losing their own ability to speak up about their thoughts and hurt feelings. The reason this is such a great approach is because couples find a medium through which they are able to talk to each other about what the other person did that hurt them, and in turn they also accept responsibility for the hurt they caused their partner. From that place, they are able to find joint solutions.
Couples who are caught up in a blame game, and then unable to look at their true contribution to the problem, tend to be couples who have been unhappy for a long time and who, in the process, have hurt each other; but where not able to repair those hurts. Often times, there has been infidelity or other betrayals, especially emotional betrayals, from where partners have not been able to move on and heal. In addition, some other people have family backgrounds tainted with abuse or violence, which makes them susceptible to highly emotional arguments.
To sum up, every couple that I meet in my practice present many complexities, and there is never a straightforward situation. However, couples who, albeit the emotional pain, adopt a "let's deal with this together" instead of a "you are the problem"- approach, tend to make better use of therapy and improve faster.
Take me to the article: Are You Stuck in a Vicious Cycle With Your Partner?