What's relationship counselling got to do with it?
Can relationship counselling help us?
A question posed by many couples every week. The answer is not a simple one and it relies on many factors for its answer. One of those elements, a key one is how committed both partners are to make the changes necessary. The reality is that relationship counselling is hard work that involves listening and hearing your partner. It involves being honest and it involves being prepared to change both your relationship and yourself, as well as looking for change in your partner.
Relationship is often tried when partners do not know where else to turn and they feel that they have exhausted all other possibilities. They simply do not know how to move forward with their relationship. Often they come to therapy with a negative view of the relationship’s future, although still hoping that there may be a process that can bring them back together. One might think of the relationship as a medical patient, if brought to the doctor early the work the team and the patient will have to do less than if the patient is brought in on life support to intensive care. Yet it is possible to recover from being placed in intensive care. If you take on the work and work intensively at your relationship, it is possible to recover most relationships if that is what the partners want.
Relationship counselling can really make the difference by helping you identify any of the unhelpful or unhealthy patterns of behaviour in your relationship. These are often cyclic patterns and often they feed off of one another. Perhaps one partner acts in a particular way causing the other to be defensive causing the first to feel rejected and so forth. Therapy gives a space to step back and use your therapist to see how you can change.
These differences often highlight the alternative approaches you may have within the relationship and how they may be causing friction. For example one of you may have come from a family where conflict was kept to a minimum and the other where everything was talked out. The two partners in this relationship might come to therapy complaining “they never talk about things don’t they care any more?” and “they want to talk about everything can’t they make a decision for themselves?”.
Conflict, may be the most important part of a good relationship. In any good relationship you are going to have differences between two individuals and how you deal with those will be key to the health of the relationship. Often couples are scared of conflict because they imagine a sitcom with angry screaming and dishes being smashed. While this is clearly possible, it is also possible to take turns talking and to listen and talk about your alternate views and come to a compromise. It helps if you take breaks if it gets too heated and that you only argue for a set amount of time (not days and days). Perhaps good conflict is the thing that you need to address in your relationship counselling.
Can relationship counselling help us? – yes if you work to let it.
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About Graeme Orr
Graeme is a counsellor and author living and working on the south side of Glasgow. In his practice he sees a number of clients with emotional, anxiety and self-esteem that have relevance to us all. His articles are based on that experience and are offered as an opportunity to identify with, or to challenge you to make changes in your life.