Couples usually come to therapy with each person expecting the therapist to be on his or her side and to quickly point out the “obvious fault” of the other one. The Blame Game is front and center, and each person wants the other one to take the hit. The bad news is that it doesn’t work that way. Couples therapy deals with the interactions between two people – the “relationship dynamics.” Both people are called upon to face their own feelings and their own behaviors and be prepared to change.
That said, if you come to therapy to talk about infidelity or abuse, the therapy will in fact first be focused on the betrayal. The perpetrator must take responsibility, understand and regret the hurt caused, take steps to re-build trust and ensure that the behavior will not continue. After that the relationship dynamics need to be explored more fully.
My goal in couples therapy is to teach communication and empathy so that each person can truly understand the other and learn how to disagree without fighting, or at least to “fight fair.” Love and intimacy cannot be maintained without trust, and trust is a result of safety. Everyone enters relationships with their own past hurts, and reacts to the other person from those hurts; that is inevitable. What is not inevitable is the way each person reacts to the other. Ultimately, the purpose of couples therapy is to reshape the way two people express themselves to each other and respond to each other. With some time and practice they grow to have empathy, repair hurts and live a loving life together.