Counselling for Couples
You may be considering couples counselling to save and rebuild a healthy and support relationship. It may be to resolve conflict, work through unspoken issues or to end the relationship in the best possible way. The reason for attending will be known to you. However the actual process of counselling and what to expect is often an unknown.
Preparing for the first session
To get the most from counselling it is useful to know not only why you are engaging but also what you want as an outcome. The counselling process is helped when you are able to recognise when it is achieved or when it has been missed. A vague outcome of ‘I want things to be better’ or ‘for things to be as it was before’ are difficult to work with. They need to defined in a way so they can be identified by yourself and your partner.
My work is to help you both achieve the best outcome for the relationship in such a way that each person feels OK and not diminished. Exploring the past influences of a relationship isn’t about stirring up every little discontentment to be berated with. Rather it is about learning from the past, understanding how it impacts in the here and now. This enables you to build a better relational experience in the future.
Questions to ask of yourself that are empowering:
- What life do I want build with my partner and for myself
- What kind of person do I need to be to build that life
- How might I prevent or sabotage myself from achieving my goals
Avoid disempowering you or your partner
- Focusing randomly on all the faults of you or your partner
- Not engaging or owning any part of the process
- Continual blame of yourself or your partner and engaging in point scoring
When couples counselling is not advised
When there is active abuse in the relationship then couples counselling may lead to an escalation of harm. This may be a combination of physical, emotional and or sexual abuse. Couples counselling is based on respect, owning your part of the relationship and open communication. This openness in couples counselling may result in the abuser feeling shame and criticism that then increases the abuse.
Abusers need to carry out one to one counselling with a suitably qualified counsellor or psychotherapist. They need to have broken and stopped the repeated pattern of abuse before working as a couple.
Those who experience abuse may benefit from individual counselling to recognise and understand the repeating patterns of destructive behaviour. It may also help with understanding why they stay with an abusive partner and plan to leave an abusive relationship as safe as possible.
Give and take
Often you may feel that is your partner that should make all the changes. In any successful building of a relationship a negotiated compromise is required. Similarly neither should you do all the giving in an attempt to please your partner
It will also require both of you to give time and effort into the work. A commitment to see it through is vital to the outcome.
Moving forward takes courage and it requires you to take risks as you will be trying things in new ways. You will need to take it one step at a time, be patient and maintain optimism for a better future.
Often one or both partners think they don’t need to change anything about themselves, thinking It is their partner that needs to make all the changes. Typically both partners in a relationship need to consider how they think, feel or behave in relation to the other.
You can’t make your partner change, they have to see the benefit to do so themselves and be willing to make those changes. Equally you need to recognise the part you play in the issue and be willing to accept and make changes yourself.
Trying new things and making changes takes practise as often you will slip back under pressure. That is when it is important to keep moving ahead.
In some relationships one or both partners will avoid conflict in the form of confrontation, expressing anger or discontentment. This prevents you from asserting what you need. Often these feelings are swallowed and the individual either doesn’t let it affect them (at least on the surface) or withdraws.
Often there is a fear of being rejected, abandoned or over powered if there conflict. This may stop may people from voicing their concerns and discontentment. When this happens you lose sight of who you are and your equal participation in the relationship.
Keeping the peace takes its toll as whilst the appearance in the relationship may be that all is well. In reality there will be many disagreements that are unresolved. On their own they may be minor but build up over time and become a major and generalised source of discontentment.
Learning to disagree and argue ‘for yourself’ can be liberating and benefits the relationship. ‘For yourself’, means owning and taking responsibility for self. Rather than starting with’ you make me..’, begin with ‘I feel ____, when you ____’.
Stay with the focus on yourself, tap into those feelings, if you state the impact on yourself, that impact cannot be refuted or just dismissed. By not diminishing self or attacking the other then positive conflict can be empowering and enhancing.
Engaging Couples Counselling
It takes courage to engage in couples and relationship counselling. You are taking a risk as you likely anticipate it it will be painful and you don’t know what the outcome will be. It may be you or your partner are thinking what good can someone else do – telling me what I did wrong or telling me what I should/shouldn’t do.
I don’t blame, I won’t shame or humiliate anyone nor will I tell you what you should or shouldn’t do. Yes it will be painful at times and at others it will be healing and insightful. I will support you through the whole process.
At New Direction Solutions, Southampton Counselling and Therapy Practice I offer Couples Counselling and Relationship Counselling so that you stop being stuck and move forwards to a better place whatever that is.