Although we think of relationships as sitting down and talking through (and ultimately we need to do this), I would like to address the problem of when those conversations keep going nowhere or result in repeated counter-productive results. Sadly, this is not too far from one of our modern definitions of insanity! "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." So how do we get out of this problem?
While the notion of individual therapy often connotes blame or needing to go to therapy because we have deciphered the real "problem" of the relationship in one individual, we know or hopefully come to know that relationships are mutually constructed. So, regardless of who attends individual therapy, the client/patient who attends psychotherapy gains the privilege of having more perspective and ways to be present in the relationship.
We come to therapy to change. This is most commonly seen as getting relief from symptoms or problems. However, changing a symptom may not change the pattern. When our mind operates a certain way, we might get rid of the imminent problem, but as our characteristic manner (patterns) of coping persists, a new problem will arrive again. Therefore, individual therapy, in my mind, must do more than remove symptoms, it must also help us see how our mind works so we can avert producing the same results again.
Let me illustrate this by sharing not a case, but an amalgamation of cases that illustrates similar problems: A woman who appeared to fall in love with a gentleman years after a failed marriage, wanted to be with this man, but could not tolerate being with him in the form of living together or getting married. She did not want to be alone, but struggled with what she was to learn about herself, that she unconsciously assumed that she would not get what she wanted to have in the relationship. Thus, commitment would mean losing herself. He was a nice man, but she could not get past the feeling that she must almost exclusively accommodate her partner to be in the relationship.
What had happened? At some point in life, she had come to give up on what she wanted and had unwittingly compromised herself. Relationships meant partnership, but a quiet deprivation. After becoming more aware of this, when she and her partner negotiated living together, she was surprised to learn that her partner wanted to and actually invited her to have what she wanted. Strangely, before therapy, because her mind would instantly diminish such possibility, she would not have been open to this kind of conversation, until she came to realize that her mind was doing this. It was her silent assumptions that others do not care, that she was destined to deprivation, and therefore, she must control and distance herself from others to feel some kind of safety and gratification. This also greatly constricted her interactions with her male partner.
Helping her resolve one conflict or another would only lead to another conflict unless this intelligent but reticent woman would be able see that her mind constructed this reality. Until she could do this, and see how her mind works, she would be unable to participate in the more rewarding experiences of a relationship. More challenges ahead? Of course. But now she is armed with the awareness of a whole part of her mind that constructs reality this way and that this is not the only reality. Further, she can test out her perspective or other possibilities, in her current experiences what is real in her relationships.
Therefore, psychotherapy can be useful if it both provides relief, but also teaches us how our mind works so we can see ourselves and our relationships more completely.