27 Dec Where is your Relationship Heading?
If the TV ads were to be believed, the Christmas and New Year period is a time when all families unite and happy couples giggle under the mistletoe, as they lavish gifts on one another.
In reality, those idealistic images can be a source of pain for those whose relationships are not in a happy place. Some people will be looking ahead to 2013 knowing that things have to change but not knowing how to bring that change about.
How do couples know when it’s time to seek help?
Every couple is different, and the symptoms can vary; perhaps you have been constantly squabbling, or you may be aware of a general sense of boredom and dissatisfaction. Sometimes problems can manifest around a particular element of daily life such as money, parenting or work.
Feeling ‘stuck’ in a situation that isn’t changing for the better is perhaps the biggest clue that you could benefit from external assistance. Couples can muddle along for longer than is necessary hoping that things will somehow improve with time. Others realise that their relationship is in difficulty but fail to act due to guilt or fear of what might happen when they do.
So what can couples counselling achieve? It is worth emphasising that couples counselling is a specific area of work requiring a very different approach to individual counselling.
Relate-trained couples counsellors like us focus on the relationship itself rather than the individuals involved. This often comes as a relief to some who may come into a session fearing that they will be judged or that the counsellor will come down on their partner’s side. Once they understand that the counsellor is an impartial participant in the process, the road to clarity, improved communication and progress can open up.
Relate couples counselling uses both psychodynamic and systemic approaches, psychodynamic counselling looks at the influence of hidden psychological forces on behaviour while a systemic approach focuses on adjusting current patterns of behaviour.
A relationship is a process, not a fixed state, and any one of us can experience difficulties along the way; there is no shame in seeking guidance. In fact, it is sometimes the person who says they have the ‘perfect relationship’ who is most shocked when their partner confesses to being unhappy. As French novelist Andre Gide once said: “Trust those who are seeking the truth. Doubt those who find it.”
The Acton-Coles Psychology and Counselling Clinics in Fulham, Exeter, Torbay and Miami take the guesswork out of getting help, offering experienced and qualified assistance to individuals, couples and families on a range of issues. Financial assistance is available.