In many cases couples can successfully repair and improve their relationships, and happily move beyond even the most entrenched problems that have threatened their relationship.
If both of you genuinely want to continue in your relationship then the answer is usually ‘yes, your relationship can be fixed.”
Skilled relationship counselling can be an exciting and rewarding experience. An essential starting point is that each person must be willing and able to commit to doing the necessary work on themselves and on their relationship. They have to have their heart in it.
Key Couples Skills
Communication problems are the core issue for the vast majority of couples who come for counselling. The counselling process may help you adapt to new ways of resolving conflict, or making decisions. Learning communication skills such as listening, questioning skills, negotiation skills, assertiveness skills and how to handle emotions are usually a central part of the counselling process. Like any skill, all of these key couples skills can be learned, practiced and honed to take your relationship to wonderful places.
A common complaint is “you don’t listen to me.” Developing the skills of listening and truly understanding each other are potent magic for your relationship. These skills alone can transform your relationship and dramatically improve your happiness quotient. Simple strategies can make a huge difference such as picking the best time to talk together or letting your partner finish speaking before you jump in.
How well you understand and meet each other’s most important needs has the power to make or break a relationship and in my practice I usually start with helping you get clear about each person’s own particular needs and how you can both best meet each other’s needs. This part can be quirky and creative! When a couple begin to take better care of each others’ needs the results are often dramatic and powerful.
There are hundreds of possible needs, which include both universal needs that most couples seek such as trust, honesty and respect, as well as individual needs depending on what is important to each unique person. For example one person may need quality time together, another person may need emotional and physical intimacy, another person may need financial security, and yet another may need equality in decision-making or to feel supported in their career.
Relationships need to be nurtured and maintained
Couples grow apart for many reasons. Life gets in the way and they become distracted by children or careers or one or both members of the couple put their relationship on “set and forget”. This is a lot like expecting your car to keep running without refueling regularly!
Relationships are subjected to a huge range of daily challenges from poor communication, to financial pressures, or addictions, or overwhelming stress or family or parenting conflicts to name a few.
Unresolved issues and unmet needs tend to produce feelings of hurt and resentment and anger which can take the relationships down a slippery slide of increasing conflict and distance. These sorts of problems with that ‘here we go again” experience, can leave you feeling hopeless and frustrated.
The great news is that all of these sorts of issues can usually be successfully addressed and the couple emerges from the counselling process with even greater closeness and happiness.
The writing on the wall
Sometimes one partner or both partners are unable to move beyond certain experiences and feelings. Infidelity is one example where one person may be willing and able to reach forgiveness, to rebuild trust and to move beyond an affair, while another person may not be willing to continue in the relationship after such a betrayal has happened.
Although loving feelings can be revived, renewed and strengthened, it is also the case that sometimes one or both partners may be unable to rekindle feelings they used to feel for their partner.
Even though most people can usually sense when their partner has already ‘left’ the relationship emotionally, they may not want to acknowledge that the end has arrived. Skilled counselling can help you accurately assess if there is hope for the relationship or if it is completed.
A couple may both have grown or changed in ways that are no longer compatible. They may have different goals, or their values have changed in ways that take them in different directions. In these situations counselling can help you to accept and let go of the relationship in positive ways. For example you can be helped to reach a peaceful acceptance and to let go with less fear and more confidence in life after the relationship. Even when a relationship ends it is possible, despite the challenges, to continue functioning as a family which is a precious gift to give to your children.
Seperation counselling is especially valuable if you have children or joint business, property or financial interests. Counselling supports the best outcomes for everyone in these situations.
I will be writing a series of articles on relationships so please check back if you would like to read more.