How relationship counselling can assist couples
A closer look at how a relationship can be transformed with couples counselling.
Most relationships experience a time of uncertainty and confusion. Couples may look at each other and think, "But you’re not who I thought you were!". Or they may look at their loved one and think, "Why did I pick you?". All these doubts and anxieties in a relationship can lead to couples feeling alone and fearful about their future together. It’s at this point that they are vulnerable and may start an affair or take up a new hobby or pastime that creates distance between the two partners. But, they could also seek support from a couple's therapist.
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Coming into couple counselling at this stage of their lives could enable a couple to discover a different way of being together and living harmoniously. As relationships are living entities, they have a life death cycle, which happens about every seven years. Like all living things they will be subject to 'disease' and ill health.
It’s at this point a couple may need the help of a third party to examine the dynamic created by the two people in the relationship and where a disruption has occurred. As human beings, we all have a longing to be close with another person and yet it can seem so difficult to achieve. It doesn’t stop the desire however and we may go from relationship to relationship in our search.
What to expect from relationship counselling?
Firstly, unlike 1-1 counselling, it is the relationship that is the client not the individuals. The couple are moving into a new phase, the old way of being together is gone. This is usually very painful to accept and many couples coming to therapy say they 'just want things to go back to the way they were.' But this isn’t possible or desirable as that way of existing no longer work for the couple.
As with all endings, there needs to be a period of mourning and grieving for the loss of the old relationship. Counselling can facilitate this process by offering a safe environment to explore the feelings, issues and emotions which have brought the couple to this stage. Most importantly perhaps, counselling can enable a couple to understand the dynamic of the relationship they have created between them. An enlightening but painful experience, as placing blame on one another for problems in the relationship is much easier than owning the part we have created.
Attending a counselling session with the hope that a counsellor will 'sort out' our partner, or do all the work on the relationship will lead to disappointment. Therapy means being willing to identify negative behaviour patterns and manage this in order to change. Those seeking couples counselling commonly do so when they reach a crisis point: when one or other of them has taken their energy and focus out of the relationship or maybe after an affair or a new baby has arrived. Alternatively after many years together bringing up a family the couple feel like strangers; their common ground has shifted.
By understanding what makes us fall in and then out of love with our partner we are more able to manage the pitfalls and emotions of a relationship. Gaining an awareness of ourselves in relation to the other person and having insight into our behaviour and how it impacts can help identify the triggers which lead to conflict. Conversely those couples who avoid conflict altogether may lack any passion in their dynamic. The relationship may have more of a sibling quality about it or even parent/child type interactions.
Whatever triggers a couple to seek help, in order to gain the most from couples counselling they need to have a willingness and commitment to do the hard work needed in relationship. After all, success in any aspect of life involves these and relationships are no different.
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