To build a healthy marriage, you’ll need to learn to respond from a place of curiosity rather than reactivity, and prioritize reconnecting with your partner during conflict.
We had the privilege to interview relationship therapist and dating coach Laura Caruso. She helps individuals and couples break free from modern dating norms to pursue deeper connections and, ultimately, more fulfilling relationships. In this interview she will explain why we keep repeating certain patterns and her top 3 tips for a healthy marriage. Read the interview to find out more!
Tell us about yourself and what you do
I am a relationship therapist and dating coach based in New York City. I help individuals and couples pursue meaningful connections, balance, and emotional availability. I’m also in the process of launching a new dating and relationship column, called “Emotionally Available,” which developed as an extension of a weekly “Coffee Q’s” Q&A series I started on Instagram stories (@lauracaruso.therapy). The column will be available on my website (www.lauracarusotherapy.com) and is set to launch on September 7th.
Why do people tend to keep repeating the same patterns when it comes to relationships?
Family members and caregivers serve as our primary relational models during childhood and adolescence. As a result, the patterns that we carry into adulthood typically resemble those that existed within the context of our family system. We continue to repeat these patterns until they no longer benefit us. “Benefit,” though, is a loose term—many people don’t realize that we often gain something from an unhealthy pattern. For example, I’ve worked with a couple who regularly raised their voices and said hurtful things to one another during conflict. Though their arguments were explosive and damaging to the relationship, the disastrous nature of the explosion actually created opportunities for the couple to reconnect after their big emotions finally settled, which perpetuated the vicious cycle of their specific pattern. The couple simply needed to prioritize the healthy connecting moments in their relationship, which then allowed them to replace their explosive arguments with effective communication.
Can you tell us more about the internal family system framework?
Internal Family Systems (IFS) is an integrative framework developed by Dr. Richard C. Schwartz that explains human behavior as a byproduct of protective mechanisms. IFS explains that the mind is made up of different “parts” that develop across the lifespan, and one person cannot fully be understood in isolation from their parts. Instead, all of the parts must be taken into consideration, because the parts inform patterns of thought, emotion, and behavior. The “people pleasers” and the “type A’s” in this world don’t overextend or subscribe to rigidity because they enjoy self-sacrifice… these behaviors were learned during early childhood and were repeatedly reinforced within the context of their family system throughout adolescence and adulthood.
What would be your top 3 tips for a healthy marriage?
I explain to all of my clients that “we’re not looking for perfect partners, just messy partners who are willing to own their mess.” Humans are far from perfect. We all have a specific threshold of tolerance, and we all occasionally reach our breaking points. This is natural. To build a healthy marriage, you’ll need to learn how to take accountability for your actions, respond from a place of curiosity rather than reactivity, and prioritize reconnecting with your partner during conflict. We cannot control our partners or our environments to effectively mitigate stress, but we can control our own response to life’s challenges.
Tell us about your therapy and coaching sessions. Do you offer online therapy as well?
Therapy and coaching are quite different. As a relationship therapist, I work virtually with individuals and couples in the state of New York and support clients in developing self-awareness around their relational patterns. In session, we connect past experiences to present-day patterns of thought, emotion, and behavior while releasing shame and insecurity in an attempt to heal core wounds. Eventually, the goal is to replace unwanted patterns with preferred alternatives. Therapy is a slow, but more deliberate process that leads to total transformation of the ego, whereas coaching is a faster approach to change and is best for navigating specific life stressors, like difficulty with dating, or maintaining an optimistic mindset. As a coach, I work virtually with clients from all over the world who are hoping to improve their love lives and pursue meaningful connections.