Problems in a significant relationship can be detrimental to our well-being. You may be feeling sad, angry, anxious and distressed. Couples include married and unmarried partners, siblings, friends, colleagues, parent and child.
When is couples counselling most effective?
Some couples turn to counselling when the situation has become unbearable, whilst others decide that it is important to work through their differences at an earlier stage. Over the years I have found that counselling is most beneficial when both people are ready to attend to their relationship, whether sooner or later.
Sometimes one person is eager to start counselling whilst the other is reluctant. People usually become more comfortable with counselling once they realise that they will both be listened to with warmth and respect.
Causes of tension within relationships
Each of us brings our unique history, personality, hopes, desires, culture and ways of coping to our relationships. Difficulties can arise when people have differing opinions, needs and wishes and when painful areas such as a bereavement are avoided. Daily pressures and life events may also have an impact.
Problems tend to occur when one or both people are unfaithful, and when trust is lacking in a relationship. For some couples there are conflicts around financial matters. Drugs and alcohol can also cause major problems or they might exacerbate other difficulties.
The power of listening
An advantage of couples counselling is that the exchanges are facilitated in a manner that gives both people a safe space to talk, to be heard, to be understood and to be acknowledged.
My role includes listening carefully, respectfully and sensitively to each person. I want to comprehend your point of view and to have a deep sense of what you are feeling.
When I share my understandings of one person's perspective, the other has an opportunity to hear them too. You might feel some empathy or recognise a different view point.
Being heard and acknowledged is often a relief. You can listen to your own feelings, gaining a deeper sense of your anger, frustration, anxiety, guilt, grief, and love. This may bring fresh insights into how you are affected and how you react.
For many clients listening to the other person without commenting is incredibly difficult. You might have a very different perspective, feel misrepresented, and judged unfairly. I hope to communicate my awareness of how hard this is, whilst still holding the space for one person to speak and the other to listen.
As each member of the couple becomes more able to listen to the other, it becomes easier to see both points of view. Discussing differences of opinion and working together with life issues is easier.
Couples counselling can help you to identify and address the causes of your difficulties and to understand each other's feelings and perspectives. You can also improve upon how you communicate your views and emotions with each other. As new ways forward emerge you might want to make some changes which can also be explored and discussed.
As couples move towards ending their counselling sessions, many prepare to continue their relationship in a more peaceful, companionable and loving way. A few decide to see less of each other or to end their relationship. Listening skills can help you to manage this more respectfully, amicably and kindly.