Relationship Counselling / Couples Counselling - Why it is a good idea
Relationships typically go through 5 stages:
1. Attraction – Little effort is required to feeling loving and loved
2. Maintenance – Getting to know each other through day to day living
3. Polarisation - Conflicts and arguments arise that create distance
4. Healing - Conflicts are worked through
5. Intimacy - Trust and good communication bring security and closeness
These stages show how relationships change over time and helps us see that periods of conflict are normal. Let’s look at each these stages to see how seeking relationship counselling can help.
In the Attraction Stage we see the best of each other. We are attracted to our partner’s qualities that compliment us or that we would like more of in ourselves. Attraction as well as being physical, is based on common values, similar status, shared ambitions and interests also has an unconscious element. Our unconscious attracts us to someone who is “familiar” who fits our unconscious relationship bonding pattern.
Relationship counselling helps at this stage if there are fears of things not working out
Maintenance - Day to Day Living
We get to know each other through the routines of life.
It's inevitable that some of the feelings of desire and passion fade. We may face disappointment when our partner doesn't live up to the image we had of them.
In this stage we might not feel safe to be fully ourselves and say what we feel, so we find ways of avoiding major conflict and feeling vulnerable. We avoid the big issues out of the fear of losing the love we want. We are comfortably close, yet avoid becoming closer, even though would like to be close. Our relationship may look fine on the outside, yet on the inside the caution leads to a lack of energy and sexual desire for each other.
Relationship counselling can help couples in this stage communicate better and feel safe about being authentic about what is important to them. More authenticity and trust brings more life energy to the relationship.
Polarisation - Conflicts and Arguments Create Distance
Polarisation is the stage of conflict, where arguing and strong feelings pull us further apart. It called the Polarisation stage because differences become a repelling force making us feel so opposite from our partner. Arguments become unmanageable; issues can't be talked over and resentment builds. We may be caught up in hurt feelings and begin to distrust our partner. There might be a sense of failure and a longing for things to go back as they were at the beginning of the relationship.
Polarisation can be triggered by events such as:
- Making a commitment
- Moving in together
- Soon after getting married
- Around having children
- A break of trust
Typically it starts a few years into a marriage where it feels safe to move beyond the maintenance stage. Sometimes a partner attempt to deals with a feeling of disconnection through using pornography, drinking, having an affair or doing something that breaks trust.
Our parents or caregivers unconsciously give us a template on how to be in relationship. It's where we learned how to be loved and how to defend ourselves from being hurt.
Our unconscious bonding patterns are still active now and they seek to re-enact our early life experiences with our partner in the hope of things turning out differently .It’s bizarre, yet it's just how our unconscious works!
Have you noticed how our partners can push our buttons like no other person can?
Some couples are fortunate in that they can work through or live with their bonding patterns without external support, yet for many of us our bonding patterns bring up strong emotions and feelings that are too much to be dealt with alone.
Relationship counselling offers a safe space to understand how you trigger your partner and they trigger you. You learn how to manage your bonding patterns so that you can step back, see what is going on, and learn to respond rather than react. You bring back the love and appreciation of each other back into your relationship.
Healing is a process that happens over time as we learn to include both our strength and vulnerability. We learn the limits of what our partner can give us how to love and nourish ourselves at the times our partner can’t. We take responsibility for the relationship patterns that are no longer serving us. We learn to risk trusting again.
Relationship counselling gives you the opportunity/ skills/ framework to stop blaming each other and work together on the shared bonding pattern. You can end ‘the relationship (pattern) as it is” and learn together step by step how to love and connect to the over from a place of emotional freedom, authentic intimacy, power and choice.
We all want to love and be loved. In order for 'a meeting of hearts' to take place, barriers must be dropped. Intimacy is a challenge for most of us as it requires us to step into the unknown, risk rejection and open our hearts. So often in moments of intimacy we connect to our past longing felt as 'old pain' ,which adds to the challenge of staying open.
Relationship counselling helps you learn how to emotionally connect to each other and so you feel secure that your partner is there for you.
Relationships are a great challenge for most people. Some never dare to discuss with their partner how they really feel inside ( stay stuck in the Maintenance Stage) ; Others put up with and conflict and hostility ( stay stuck in Polarisation Stage) or believe the solution is to leave their relationship. Often It's just when everything feels stuck and hopeless and in crisis that there is the motivation to face up to what is not working.
It’s worth considering relationship counselling if you are stuck in conflicts and arguments that leave you emotionally disconnected from your partner. My experience is that most couples find relationship counselling a relief. They find it’s a worthwhile process that nourishes their relationship.
Related articles from our experts
- Reactive and responsive relationships
Graeme Armstrong MBACP21st March, 2017
- How psychodynamic therapy helps to break the cycle of unhealthy relationships
Margery Parsons, d.c.t.p., UKCP reg.20th March, 2017
- Relationship issues and couples in gestalt therapy
Richard Dennison19th March, 2017
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