You didn’t think it would come to this.
The relationship that once went so well, that you were so proud of, is worrying you.
You’re disappointed and afraid.
Where did it all go wrong?
And now you’ve reached a point where you know you can’t do it alone. Your problems seem insurmountable. You no longer believe your relationship will heal itself, and you’re tired of lying awake at night full of fear.
Yet you’re not sure where to turn.
Can relationship counselling help? If so, how?
You might also be wondering, is relationship counselling worth the investment? Will the counsellor take sides? Will it make things worse?
Make no mistake: with the right counsellor, couples counselling can make a world of difference.
Professional couples’ counsellors have a framework, based on over 30 years of research into relationships, that will help put yours back on track. They’ll be able to help you communicate together in a controlled manner, rather than letting discussions escalate out of control. They’ll be able to provide the safe space you need to air your differences.
Schools don’t teach Relationships 101 and, contrary to popular belief, relationships do need specific skills.
Couples counselling can give you those skills and allow you to build a happy, harmonious relationship that lasts not just for a few short years, but for life.
You don’t need to be in perpetual conflict and discomfort. You don’t need to keep hurting each other whenever you discuss your core issues. Nor do you need to feel lonely and disappointed in your relationship.
How Does Relationship Counselling Help
1. It Helps Lower Your Expectations
Some therapists might tell you that you need to resolve your major conflicts for your relationship to thrive, but it’s just not true.
Although this might go against what you’ve heard elsewhere, it’s a myth that you need to solve all your problems to have a happy relationship. In fact, research shows that most marital conflicts are unsolvable – 69 percent to be precise.
Longitudinal research, where couples are followed up on every 4-years, shows most conflicts last for life. Even happily married couples must cope with any number of ongoing significant differences.
And the good news?
Despite your differences, you can learn to remain satisfied with your relationship. You can find a way to deal with your unmovable problems so that they don’t become overwhelming.
A good couples counsellor will guide you through the process of identifying perpetual problems and helping you overcome your gridlock; allowing you to accept your differences with more ease and stopping perpetual conflict from poisoning your relationship.
2. It Helps You Engage in Shallow Conversation
While it might seem counterintuitive, the best relationships aren’t made up of extensive personal disclosure and deep and meaningful conversations.
How do I know?
Because hundreds of thousands of research tapes filming couples as they go about their daily lives has revealed something different.
Self-disclosure and deep conversations are essential in a relationship some of the time, but it's more basic stuff that builds relationships.
• Could you get me a cup of tea, please?
• Sure, just let me finish watching the news.
• Wow, did you see that penalty kick just now?
• Yeah! That was incredible!
Even the couples who scored highest on surveys of relationship satisfaction spent most of their time talking about breakfast cereals, mortgage rates, and the latest on-goings of the Royal Family.
Relationship counselling can help you learn to recognise and respond to these daily bids for connection. Doing so is critical to the survival of your relationship. It’s when bids for connection regularly go unmet that hostility starts to grow.
Responding to each other’s small bids for connection will help you avoid this dangerous path.
3. It Helps Make Other People’s Dreams Come True
“Wait, Matt,” you might be thinking. “Shouldn’t we make our own dreams as a couple come true?”
The truth is, for a relationship to thrive both parties need to feel that their partner values their accomplishments and honours their personal desires.
This doesn’t mean you must see eye-to-eye on every aspect of your life. Instead, aim for a meshing. You can honour each other’s dreams even if you don’t always share them.
Your goal is to develop a union that incorporates both your dreams. And to create a relationship that’s flexible enough to accommodate changes as you both grow and develop. When a relationship has this shared sense of support, conflict is much less intense and differences in opinions and goals are unlikely to cause much damage.
A rewarding relationship is about more than sidestepping conflict. Couples counselling can allow both of you to explore your dreams in a safe, constructive manner. A good counsellor will help you talk honestly about your convictions and start the process of building a future that honours both your dreams.
Good relationships aren’t just about fulfilling your dreams as a couple, they're also about honouring your individuality. Your personal goals, whether that’s for a new job, different diet, or a change of dress style all deserve support.
4. It Helps You Have More Sex
Work, stress, in-laws, money, sex, housework, Internet-fuelled distractions, a new baby: these are the most typical areas of relationship conflict.
When there is conflict in one of these common areas, it’s usually because you have different ideas about these tasks, their importance, or to accomplish them. If the conflict is perpetual, no amount of problem-solving savvy will fix it.
The tension will only de-escalate when you both feel comfortable living with your on-going differences. But when the issue is solvable, the challenge is to find the right strategy for conquering it.
Couples counselling should lead you through the process of understanding solvable and unsolvable problems. Guiding you through the hot spots all relationships face and giving you specific advice for addressing the solvable disagreements these hot topics often trigger.
Not every problem needs to remain a contentious issue between you. Working through the solvable ones, exploring each other’s perspective, and making some compromise is hard work, but rewarding.
Make sure your couples counsellor knows the difference between solvable and unsolvable problems and has strategies to help you solve the solvable ones.
Whichever of the hot buttons issues you have in your relationship it’s worth putting in the time to explore potential solutions that satisfy both of you. If it’s problems with the in-laws perhaps you can find a compromise where both your needs get met. If one person want sex more than the other, perhaps you can split the difference.
5. It Helps You Argue
This is another surprising outcome. You may think you don’t need help arguing — that you need to stop arguing instead.
But research shows that it isn’t how much you argue that matters, but how you argue. If your discussions include certain phrases or styles, then the argument won’t go well. Over time this will contribute to feelings of unhappiness and dissatisfaction in the relationship.
There are four behaviours to watch out for:
• Criticism - Verbally attacking each other’s personality or character. “You’re so lazy.” “You never wash the dishes.”
• Contempt - Attacking your partner’s sense of self with an intent to insult or abuse. Turning your nose up. Showing disgust.
• Defensiveness - Victimizing yourself to ward off a perceived attack and reverse the blame. “I paid the water bill last month.” “You slammed the door the other day too.”
• Stonewalling - Withdrawing to avoid conflict and convey disapproval, distance, and separation. Using the phone while ignoring your partner. Shutting down and not saying anything.
Research has found these four characteristics are common in arguments and yet few people are aware of how much damage they do.
Your counsellor should introduce you to these concepts in more detail – and give you the antidotes. In this way, you’ll be able to minimise the damage arguments do to your feelings for each other. You’ll be able to air your difference calmly and constructively and stop the hostility escalating over time.
Don’t Suffer Alone
How can relationship counselling help mend your broken partnership?
I’ve just given you 5 proven ways, and there are probably more.
You're tired of feeling lonely and unsupported in your relationship. You want things to return to the way they were before.
You’ve reached the end of your tether and no longer believe things will just mend themselves.
You’re willing to put in the effort but are not sure about the cost and uncertainty involved in seeking professional advice
Yet you know something’s got to change.
As a Level 2 trained Gottman counsellor I’ve helped many couples solve problems, find a compromise, heal from past hurts, and learn to argue better.
Together we’ve been able to build strong relationships based on mutual support for each other's goals and tolerance of each other’s idiosyncrasies. You don’t have to struggle in your relationship alone.
Relationship counselling can help you get out of the rut you’re in. You’ll soon realise that the basics of good relationships can be taught and that your relationship can be healed. Reach out if you’d like to learn more.
One day you’ll wake up free from the fear you’ve been feeling and content in your relationship renewed.
If you have any questions or concerns about couples relationship counselling, please feel free to reach out on 01733 639 040 or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I also offer a free 15-min consultation, which you can book here (no credit cards required).