People choose to come for couples counselling for a number of reasons. Sometimes they simply agree that their relationship could do with a ‘tune up’. Sometimes they attend because they are struggling and not getting on. Often differing attitudes to sex, money or raising children can create tension. If communication has been bad for a while, this can lead to one partner having an affair or wanting to give up and leave, believing that the relationship is beyond repair.
Couples counselling focusses on developing clear communication and being able to own one’s own feelings in the relationship. It’s easy to point fingers and blame your partner for the way you feel – ‘if you were like this, I’d be happier’ or ‘I wish you did things differently’ – but this kind of blaming gets us nowhere. When we start owning our feelings in a non-blaming way, the dialogue opens up and we start to see each-other’s point of view. It takes practice, but the results are transformational. Many couples find that having someone bear witness to their relationship in a non-judgemental, impartial way, can have a profound effect on their ability to air difficulties without fear of starting an argument.
Even if things have got to a point where the relationship problems have become intractable, couples’ counselling can be a loving way of ending a relationship. This allows both partners to learn important lessons from this relationship to take into the future, and to part ways with clarity and tenderness.
From a psychological point of view, something I’ve noticed is that we have a tendency to seek out in a partner the aspects and attributes we can’t fully accept in ourselves. For example, if we were told as children that being joyful and singing out loud were unacceptable, then most likely we would adapt our behaviour to suit our parents wishes. However, later on when we met our partner, the thing we were attracted to was their joyfulness and their ability to sing unashamedly out loud – this is because they are expressing a part of ourselves that was shut down and closed off. But once the relationship gets underway, these traits will start to annoy us because we still can’t fully acknowledge that being joyful is acceptable.
Because of this, relationships are an invaluable psychological mirror. The journey of a relationship, I believe, is to uncover the parts of ourselves and our partners that have remained hidden and unconscious. If we can learn to communicate and accept our vulnerabilities with love and humility, then we can grow together in an expansive and supportive way.
If you want to try couples’ counselling please do get in touch for a recommendation.
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