Friday, November 13, 2020

How Family Doctors can help couples through the stages of their relationships

In counseling couples over the years, these are the things I have observed. I wonder if you are seeing the same.

1. People with different personalities tend to get together, and initially when goals were aligned, it worked very well. Different people with the same goal=a great team. Different people with non aligned goals=conflict.

2. In conflict, which is inevitable in relationships, instead of realigning goals, and appreciating each other’s differences, we tend to blame each other for being “too different”. This is of course, not necessarily the real underlying core issue. Our goals may now be misaligned, knowingly or unknowingly.

3. In conflict, folks tend to “fight” or “flight” depending on their personality style. The more extroverted and passionate types tend to be the “fighter”, and the more passive and introverted style personalities, may tend to be more the “flighter”. Of course, both can shift, fluctuate, and taking turns between the “fighting” mode, and the “flighting” mode.

4. If conflict does not get resolved, most will simply “park it there” until next time. This will of course, create “baggage” in that relationship, and it will get heavier and heavier if not resolved. Conflict can be over many things including money habits, sex, or parenting styles.

5. One day, the “baggage” is equal to or bigger than the value of that relationship, and it hits a critical point. This is now “a crisis” for the couple. Some may refer to this as the “seven-year itch”.

6. At this point, some will break and go on to repeat the process. Some will freeze and put up with it further. But some will become aware, use the crisis as a catalyst to grow, and evolve their relationship into something better than what it was before.

So how can we as Family Doctors, help these folks?

1. We can help couples through all stages above, and use the “mini crises” and crises as a catalyst for change.

2. Consider providing opportunistic psychoeducation for couples when it can be well timed throughout their relationship journey. It can even be addressed prior to the couples starting a relationship or moving in together, especially for those with higher risks including mental health issues.

As a society, we prepare people for the simplest of jobs and situations, but why not for marriage, a new relationship, or parenting?

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