Couples counselling: I've said sorry but it's not enough!

Sometimes when relationships break down, saying sorry, however well intended just isn’t enough to help things move on. The relationship seems to be stuck in a bad place with anger, blame, pain, resentment being the emotions that consume one or both partners.

But perhaps the relationship hasn’t always been like this. There may have been minor irritations along the way but generally day-to-day issues and distractions have been dealt with in a shared way.

So what’s changed? Events can take place which seriously threaten the familiar structure of the relationship.

Events such as family crisis, infidelity, redundancy or abuse can trigger such a powerful reaction in one or both partners that seem impossible to resolve.

Even when one has apologised repeatedly or not acknowledged the real pain being experienced by the other, there appears to be no way forward. The partners seem to be stuck in a pattern of accusation and defence, ‘I need to know and I can’t/ won’t tell you’, or challenge and withdraw.

It may not even be a traumatic as just described. It could be that one partner feels abandoned, unfulfilled, hopeless or helpless within the relationship and has had enough.

But the arguments and bad feeling continue without really getting any answers. Arguments about the affair, the unthoughtful behaviour over the years, the abuse, neglect of the family and so on.

And although these appear to be the obvious causes of the current crisis within the relationship, the hurt can go much deeper than that and it is this core pain that needs to be acknowledged before the relationship can start to move forward again.

Relationship counselling helps to understand the communication and behaviour dynamics that exist between the partners. It helps to slow things down and whilst acknowledging what has happened, allows both to have equal space to explore the deeper feelings that are behind the anger and resentment.

The aim is to create a stable and safe environment for the couple to explore their own fears and hopes and get to an understanding that there is a deeper pain. Once there is a shared understanding of what that pain really means it can be acknowledged by the other.

Only at this level of understanding can the ‘I’m sorry’ have any chance of being heard and the relationship start to rebuild.

Stefan Kelly BA(Hons), MBACP

Clinical Director

The Eaves Counselling and Psychological Services

June 2015

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