As we all know, modern life can exert huge pressures on relationships, marital or otherwise. Added to those external life pressures are the couple’s individual issues, worries anxieties, personal ‘life baggage’, such as unresolved childhood issues, previous relationship hurts and previous losses. Relationships are often easiest to maintain when both partners are buoyant and ‘well’ in the sense of managing and coping with whatever stressors are around for them.
The challenges happen when one or the other or, worse still, both parties are not OK for whatever reason and then the relationship can become imbalanced and fractured, with previous roles and expectations not being met. Quite often, the basis on which the relationship is established is altered, and if one partner has historically been the 'caregiver' with the other being more dependent, any shift can cause instability. For instance, when one party experiences ill health, there are new financial pressures, one or other party experiences a loss, the couple lose a child or there is a difficult adjustment to the arrival of a new child.
Couples counselling offers the opportunity to air any issues that may be having a negative effect on the relationship and to explore any ‘life baggage’ that either party may have. It may be helpful for one or both individuals to seek one to one therapy as a way of addressing some of their personal issues before couples therapy commences (this would be with separate counsellors, neither of whom will be providing the couples therapy.) If it becomes clear that this may be advantageous once couples work commences, personal therapy with another counsellor can often run alongside the couples work.
Unfortunately many couples put off starting counselling/therapy until their relationship is in crisis. Seeking counselling as soon as imbalances/issues are apparent gives you the best opportunity to address and resolve the problems you are facing as a couple. It can help to envisage the relationship as a separate entity that needs care, nourishment and support to grow and flourish, just as the individuals within the relationship need the same care, space and mutual respect to be healthy within the relationship.
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