Counselling for Couples: When a Relationship Flounders
When a relationship flounders, it is useful to look back at its development. At first, each person is listening carefully to the other’s preferences and most disparities are put aside.
The tendency is usually to accommodate any differences, skimming over them and concentrating on the shared enjoyment and similarities instead.
When coping with a new situation, like having children, redundancy or moving house, any vulnerabilities in the relationship can become activated. Most people know how to operate together when things are going smoothly. However, they have few tools for dealing with disagreement, miscommunication or feeling stuck.
By the time a couple is thinking of trying counselling, it is likely they are no longer hearing or listening to one another, or indeed want to. Each feels misunderstood and probably hurt and angry.
During a session the counsellor will make clear that (s)he is there to look at the relationship, not to take sides or shame and blame. They need to map out the current state of the relationship, and help both parties understand how they have reached this point. The counsellor’s role is also to support both people in identifying the changes they would need to undertake to make the relationship work. Or if that is not possible, to consider separation. Then there is an opportunity to work on a way forward, together or apart.
The counsellor is there to facilitate communication. Usually couples who are trying to resolve problems go around and around in well-trodden circles, attacking and/or defending or sometimes avoiding all but the most cursory communication. In the therapy room, each has an opportunity to be heard and to hear; useful methods which can be used outside of the counselling sessions.
However, having relationship counselling can be helpful before things start to go awry. It can help couples become aware of potential communication issues and resolve them before they develop into fully blown chronic difficulties.
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