Although the presenting reasons for couples' therapy can be quite diverse, the root cause of suffering and solutions are surprisingly similar. There are often old patterns of behavior, which leave each partner feeling unsatisfied, misunderstood, powerless, or hurt. It's essential to explore what the problematic dynamics are, and then strategize together how to 1) develop compassion and curiosity for the partner's experience and 2) flexibly explore new ways to interact that don't reinforce old, painful patterns.
Usually, the couples I see are smart, kind, motivated people, who are highly functional and skilled at solving problems. They're often confused by how their good intentions and strong problem solving skills don't help them resolve the impasses in their relationship. We work together to help them identify the blockages (often old wounds, unhelpful communication patterns, or misaligned priorities).
Once they have identified the challenges, the next task is to practice the new behaviors-first inside the therapy room, and then at home together. It's not easy to change long-standing patterns, so we keep practicing, discovering barriers, working through the barriers, and refining the tools.
Ultimately, the goal is not to eradicate disagreements or conflicts, but to enhance the couple's sense that they are connected, that they can talk about anything, and that even when they disagree, they have faith that they can work anything out.