People come for therapy and help with their relationships often by themselves. They either decide alone to come or have been given an ultimatum by their partner to "get some counselling or I am leaving".
As an observation individuals who do see me by themselves are rarely the sole source of the problem. The relationship runs into problems or founders when either of the couple sees the difficulties being the responsibility of the other.
Of course there may be exceptions to this such as gender based violence, substance misuse and infidelity which often means one partner's behaviour has impacted so negatively on the other that the relationship ends or limps on when promises are made and assurances given that "it won't happen again". What happens next is key, how the "injured person" reacts and responds to promises and assurances when in fact nothing has changed.
Often the seeds of discontent have been sown much earlier in the relationship. Humans are able to discount and ignore their partners less positive personality characteristics, consciously or unconsciously hoping to change them. Unfortunately we are only able to change ourselves and this requires a willingness and conscious decision to do so. Being pressured, criticised, or humiliated into changing leads to friction, unhappiness, anger and despair.
Often dysfunctional relationship patterns are repeated from one partner to the next. Unconscious psychological patterns to behaviour are fixed early in life and are played out in relationships to reinforce what we feel about ourselves and others. Certainly one to one counselling is helpful to explore this pattern, to raise the individuals self-awareness and ability to reflect and identify ways they might change.
Couples counselling can begin once these issues are identified and resolved. The main areas covered in couples work are:
1. To look at how couples communicate with one another so they use comments less critically, and non-humiliating and learn to "fight fairly".
2. Change is more likely to come from building on the positive aspects of their relationship, looking ahead and not "rehashing past grievances and hurts.
3. Focus on the strengths in the relationship and foster hope that they can make the changes and meet one another's needs. What was it that drew them together in the first place?
4. Do each of the partnership want to stay together, what's keeping them there, and how might they stay together or separate amicably?
Couples therapy is demanding and challenging but deeply rewarding for all involved. I see the couples relationship as the client, not the 2 individuals, as the work and change happens in the relationship.
I hope you have found this blog article useful. I would very much appreciate your constructive comments and feedback. If you would like to know more or are considering couples counselling then give me a ring on 07824700980.