The essence of healthy relationships is having someone to confide in. Knowing that each of you holds a unique place in the other’s life to express your feelings and affection for each other is a strong predictor of relationship wellbeing. However, in life and relationships, it’s not always love and peony roses! So, in times of transition and change, each of you needs to know that you can depend and be depended upon to cope with challenging situations. Knowing your partner is available when you need him or her strengthens the bond between you.
A key ingredient of healthy relationships is your capacity to adjust to the many changes you will encounter on your journey through life together. You have likely experienced life transitions that required you to relocate, change jobs, or retrain. You may also be coping with changes in each other’s health, physical appearance and mood. However, the most challenging transitions couples face involve adjusting to changes in family constellations (e.g., births, deaths, and exits – children starting school, leaving home).
Whilst one of you might be okay with change, the other might be wishing that things could go back to the way it was before. In times of change, tuning in to how each other is feeling, and comforting one another when each of you calls, is essential for maintaining healthy relationships.
Most people who come to couples counselling do so because something has changed. They may be experiencing:
- Problems with sex
- Distress and confusion about how to resolve ongoing conflict
- Hurt and jealousy associated with betrayal and affairs
- Feeling unsafe in the marriage
- Worry and concern about the impact of couple’s fights on their children
- Dilemmas – “I no longer want to stay, but marriage is supposed to be forever, and if I go I have failed."
- Ambivalence – “I don’t know if I want to stay or go. Sometimes my level of commitment to this marriage is a 9 and other times it’s a 2."
These kinds of relationship issues and new realities stir up strong emotions that feel very threatening. Naturally, when we feel threatened, our survival instinct kicks in, and we go into battle attacking, defending, or completely shutting down. Our ability to think logically and calmly, and to see things from our partner’s point of view gets lost in a symphony of anxiety, frustration, irritation, and helplessness. The way we relate to the most important person in our life becomes fuelled by negative cycles of interaction. These patterns represent our historical understanding of ‘how we do intimate relationships’, and can trap couples in relationship distress.
EARLY SIGNS OF RELATIONSHIP DISTRESS
Conflict is an inevitable part of intimate relationships. Being able to communicate on an emotional level and express your needs helps to resolve conflict. However, many couples don’t seek help for relationship issues until they are at breaking point. Noticing cracks in your relationship and seeking help early to improve how you communicate with each other is an emotionally intelligent move, and demonstrates your commitment and care for your relationship. You might be noticing that:
- You don’t do things together as much as before
- You are arguing about the same things and they never get resolved
- You continually argue about the children
- Generally, you feel unhappy and dissatisfied in the relationship
- Sex isn’t what it used to be, and happens less
- One of you spends increasing amounts of time doing things outside of the relationship
- You feel tired and less able to meet responsibilities at home and at work
- The warmth and friendliness in your relationship is missing, and perhaps one or both of you has expressed you are no longer in love
- One of you has an addiction problem that is affecting your relationship
My approach to helping you both resolve your marital problems is emotion-focused and family systems oriented. This means that we will work together to identify and change negative cycles of interaction that Emotion-Focused Therapists call the couple’s ‘Dance’. I will give you strategies to help you manage your emotions so that when conflict arises, you can actively turn down the reactive music and tune in to the music of compassion, intimacy, and commitment that brought you together in the first place. Ultimately, coming along to couples therapy will help you decide if you want to mend and improve your relationship or resolve to end the relationship successfully, and in a way that considers the wellbeing of the entire family particularly if you have children.
I am passionate about supporting you to create new meaning and opportunities in life.
BOOKING AN APPOINTMENT
If you would like to make a start on enhancing healthy relationships in your life, please proceed to the online booking system to view currently available appointment times.
If you would like to know more about the counselling process prior to making a booking, please contact me +61 (0) 426 648 862 to discuss what’s involved and whether counselling is right for you.