Image of two people facing opposite directions

 

Couples Counselling Southampton

I work with adult couples aged eighteen and over who are experiencing difficulties in their relationship.

Relationships change and develop over time in response to how individuals themselves grow. Couples face external influences, conflicts and differences of opinion.

Life events between partners can all have an significant impact. on the relationship. This includes illness, children being born or leaving home, change or loss of job, home etc.

Relationships aren’t static. They change according to nature of the individuals and people don’t necessarily develop at the same rate.

As the needs of individuals change then one or both partners may feel dissatisfied with the other person. This can be a period of uncertainty, confusion and anxiety.

 

The Role of Counselling

I provide support when a relationship is in trouble and a couple experiences distress and uncertainty. I don’t take sides, judge, criticise or tell clients what to do.

Relationship and couples counselling works by identifying each individual’s needs. Then considers how those needs might be met in a way that works for both partners.

This requires some give and take, sharing of thoughts and feelings. Couples can develop negotiation skills whilst learning about yourself and your partner.

Relationships in difficulty can benefit from counselling, See my article on getting the most out of couples counselling, for further information.

 

Relationship Development

Individuals go through a number of stages of development within a committed relationship.

Sometimes one person gets stuck or changes at a faster rate than the other. This often leads to an imbalance and dissatisfaction.

When the needs of one partner are no longer provided or available from the other then this can cause difficulties. Partners then question the quality of the relationship and communication starts to breakdown.

Over time this dissatisfaction might lead to isolation within the relationship. This can lead to lack of intimacy, affairs and or a breakdown of the relationship.

There are five stages of development in a committed relationship.

 

Stage One Bonding

This is when couples are strongly attracted to each physically and emotionally. Similarities are shared and differences are minimised. Typically this relationship stage lasts around eighteen months and is symbiotic in nature.

A committed and strong attachment forms the foundation of the ongoing relationship. This is a period of co-dependence and exclusiveness where identity changes from I to We.

If one partner moves ahead of the other to the next stage this can lead to jealousy and dependency.

Counselling can help couples to recognise when one or both partners are stuck here.

Stage Two Differentiation

Each partner in this stage focuses on the differences and imperfections of their partners. This requires negotiation to promote acceptance of different needs and wants.

We must learn to self sooth our own feelings of discontentment. This develops a clear sense of identity and reduces dependency on our partner. Equally whilst wanting our individual space, interests and friends we also invest in the relationship.

This stage can result in discontentment at the loss of bonding and focus on the differences. This is typified by disappointment in each other leading to conflict and blame.

Both partners must learn to compromise and learn to tolerate differences. One method I use to promote understanding and acceptance is how to engage in positive conflict.

 

Stage Three Practising

Couples develop their individuality exploring new experiences as individuals and returning to the relationship. This promotes self-worth and esteem so that new skills and abilities can be developed.

This requires individuals to be open and honest about sharing thoughts and feelings. Support for the others search to realise their potential is necessary and well as your own.

Couples may experience struggles over control and authority. Affairs may take place, one partner may come and go at will whilst still wanting the security of home and relationship.

 

Stage Four Reconnecting

Couples in the reconnecting stage return to one another. They reconnect on a deeper level of empathy and understanding.

Here there is greater closeness and emotional connection.

 

Stage Five Interdependence

This the last phase of development that brings the couple to a point where each accepts and supports their own individuality and that of their partner. Both partners enjoy individuality and the strength of the union.

In this phase the sum of the relationship is greater than the individuals. Trust, intimacy and spontaneity underpins the relationship.

Ending Relationships

In some instances it’s not about how to continue the relationship, it is about how to end the relationship well. Coming to terms with the loss of dreams and expectations.

Counselling can help with dealing with mixed emotions, uncertainty and having to start again.

 

Additional Information

Online information is available from the Couples Institute blog for clients.