There are many issues that bring people to counselling, and the very nature of the process means that the therapist needs to provide a completely impartial safe and confidential space in which the clients can explore their problems and learn the skills which will help them navigate the sometimes calm and sometimes stormy seas of their relationship.
In the early stages of a relationship, love can be likened to the polar opposite of a phobia. A fantasy is created around the persona of the loved one, magnifying his or her positive attributes and at the same time, ignoring the negatives. Emotionally, it is an extreme elation which cannot be sustained indefinitely, and often as a relationship matures, the less attractive aspects of the loved one start to be noticed, but are accepted.
Sometimes, by the time that people come to counselling, things have gone so badly wrong that one or other of the partners has come nearer to a phobic view of their relationship in which every tiny imperfection of the other is highlighted and magnified, and anything positive dismissed.
Many people dream of a perfect relationship, and even if they find one, it takes a lot of commitment and hard work to keep the ship sailing smoothly. It usually does not just happen on itīs own.
Even if the boat is the best in its class, itīs the crew that makes it work, and more is demanded of them when things get rough!
One of the essential foundations of a good relationship is communication. Both partners need to communicate their feelings openly and honestly without blame or accusation, to listen to what their partner is actually saying, and to respect their partner’s feelings and opinions even if they differ from their own. Easy enough in theory, but hard work in real life.
Most of us do not respond to the realities of a situation. Instead we respond to a version of that reality which we perceive through our own filters, and to īstories' we tell ourselves about that reality.
Simple strategies can prevent these problems – check the reality of a situation by taking time to think instead of just responding by reflex.
Explain what you feel without blame or accusations like ‘You always……’ This can be difficult at first, but is well worth the effort.
Statements such as ‘I feel angry and upset when you shout’ is much more empowering and less threatening than’ You always make me angry and upset when you shout!’
Where there is a potential for conflict, always listen carefully to what your partner is actually saying. Make sure you know with complete clarity what is being said, and if you don’t, clarify it.
Look for any common ground. Sometimes it may seem as if there is none, but there almost always is. In any event, it is much more useful to concentrate on what you can do to move things forward, rather than on what you cannot.
differences do affect the way we relate, and familiarity often causes situations
to arise where one partner is not really hearing correctly what the other is
saying, or is making assumptions without asking for clarification. Poor
communication often is at the root of relationship problems, and tactics such as
not talking, avoiding the issue and denial always make problems worse.
Most mis-communication is rooted in fear and insecurity. It takes a lot of courage to be completely open and honest, especially about issues that are emotionally important, but it is worth it, and can be the key to restoring a rocky relationship.
The repression of emotion can have very serious effects. A woman who is afraid to feel and express anger may feel depressed instead, and a man who has been taught not to show fear may show anger.
Buried feelings can bubble away under the surface, and erupt when least expected, with disastrous results. Couple counselling is a process in which partners in a relationship can discuss their feelings and needs in an atmosphere that is safe, confidential, and non-judgemental. The therapist is not on anybody’s sideī .
Relationship counselling can really make a difference, enabling you to understand very clearly what is really happening, and to make considered balanced judgements about what you want, and equally important, what is achievable. Sometimes, of course, a relationship will simply not work - and even in this situation skilful counselling can help you to end it with as little trauma and ill feeling as is possible in the circumstances.