Relationship counselling: Turning over a new leaf
It’s the beginning of September, the holiday is over, and there’s an upsurge in the number of people seeking relationship counselling. Time spent together over the summer has highlighted the rifts that lie hidden (or not so hidden) below the surface. The impact of living in a troubled relationship is felt not only by the couple, but by the whole family if there are children. Depression, anxiety, panic attacks, physical ill health (such as migraines, irritable bowel, recurring infections and even heart disease) can be the price we pay for sweeping unresolved strife under the carpet. In relationship counselling, couples have a unique chance to turn this around and discover a new way of living together that benefits all involved.
In an interview this week, the Hollywood star Jeff Bridges said that over his 25 years of marriage, the many arguments he and his wife have had only ever actually have one subject. This can be put into five words, ‘do you really love me?’.
The minefield of issues couples fight over – from who puts the bins out or does the homework with the children, to how to pay the mortgage or deal with a rebellious teenager, all issues present themselves as a battlefield on which the couple wrangles; at their heart, the arguments are a desperate plea for love, respect and empathy. Even the fights over affairs and betrayal come down to the same agonised plea. Couples that don’t argue withdraw from each other, with the fights being carried out silently, but the plea is there all the same. Deep down, each person feels uncared for, expressed in words such as ‘he never listens to me’ or ‘she doesn’t respect me’.
In relationship counselling, you are given a chance to say what is upsetting you. You are encouraged to share how you are feeling rather than simply to blame the other. You are coached in how to manage your anger and disappointment so that you can actually start to hear what your partner has to say. When both partners do this together, you discover a new way of relating to each other and resolving conflict that is refreshingly simple and emotionally freeing. Even the most painful, hateful relationships can be turned around if both partners participate in the process. Everyone benefits and families heave a huge sigh of relief as love and kindness replace bitterness and pain.
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