In recent years I have noticed an increase in popularity of relationship counselling. I think that in the past, relationship counselling (also known as couples counselling or marriage counselling) may have been sort only in light of a crisis such as infidelity, or a relationship on the verge of breakdown.
However I have found that more and more couples are seeking support before their relationship reaches crisis point.
The catalysts of seeking relationship counselling
In my practice I see many couples in there 20’s and 30’s that want to address problems in communication and conflict resolution that often occur after beginning a family.
As many parents would appreciate, with more stress and pressure in the relationship, couples often find that they don’t communicate as well as they may have in the past. Or, if they have always had difficulties with communication they find it has become even more of an issue with the added responsibility of parenthood.
Many couples also find that past unresolved issues keep coming up and they find it hard to move forward in the relationship. These issues often come up during conflict and if they are not properly dealt with, will continue to impact the relationship.
Sometimes these issues may be from one partners previous relationships or they can simply be from past situations the couple have faced together. It is important to address and release these past experiences in order to have a more healthy fulfilling relationship.
Infidelity is an area that comes up a lot in couples counselling. In my experience, while this is a difficult situation for any couple to face, with hard work it can be overcome.
When trust is broken in a relationship at any level, it takes time and small steps to regain it.
Often relationships break down after infidelity has occurred as the couple doesn’t know how to work through the situation and find it difficult to rebuild the trust that has been lost.
One partner (generally the unfaithful one) might also feel impatient that this issue keeps coming up and just wants to put it behind them without actually processing the infidelity and releasing the hurt.
With the support of counselling, couples can address this issue in a controlled and neutral environment that stops the emotional escalation that often occurs when couples try to resolve this at home. By having someone mediate this process it allows the couple to be heard and develop the skills to begin rebuilding trust in the relationship.
The importance of goal setting
One of the areas that I particularly enjoy looking at with couples is goal setting. By encouraging each partner to set short term and long term goals both individually and for the relationship/family it helps the couple to come together with a shared view of their future.
This shared view will provide a path and clear vision for what the couple would like to achieve in their life and they can then start planning the steps that they will need to take in order to reach this vision.
Couples report that they often feel they are on the same page after this exercise and that they are working as a team rather than two individuals.
With support from the counselling process, couples can start making changes to work towards their vision which may include anything, from developing more trust and intimacy in the relationship, to improving their financial situation or even making physical changes.
The process – what’s involved in couples counselling?
In the couples counselling process I look at the needs of both partners and the issues they are facing. Sometimes the issues that are impacting the relationship may be individual issues from one partner. In this instance it is more helpful to address these first before continuing the couples counselling, and other times this can be done simultaneously.
While there are common reasons couples seek out relationship counselling, each couple is unique. Our own past experiences will impact the way we view situations, communicate, resolve conflict and give and receive love.
In my practice I aim to provide a safe, supportive environment for each partner in which they feel heard. I thoroughly enjoy working with couples and supporting them to remain themselves within the relationship, but learning the skills of how to work together with their partner in order to have a healthy, fulfilling relationship.