The foundation of any lasting relationship is openness and honesty, which supports and sustains trust and mutual respect. Most couples who are considering getting professional relationship counseling have lost these in some form. The loss of trust and respect impacts most areas of relationship: goodwill, communication, desire to interact, compromise, feeling love for the person, and so on. The stress of relationship problems can also significantly impact activities of daily living, work performance, or an individual’s physical and mental health.
If you are having difficulties in your relationship, you are not alone. As human beings, we have a tendency to seek relationships with others. Many of us want a stable supportive relationship regardless of how well-equipped we feel to sustain it. How much actual preparation we have for long-term partnerships that support both our well-being and that of our partner varies from person to person. Coupling, in some form, is what most of us seek in our adult lives.
Most couples who seek professional relationship therapy have known there were difficulties in the relationship for a while. Many wait until the breakdown in the partnership is severe and hopelessness about the future of the relationship has set in. The sooner assistance is received, the less breakdown exists, and the higher the odds of repair.
The list of problems presented to me in an initial appointment with a couple can vary drastically. It is more common than not for each person in the relationship to have a different perception of the relationship and the problems they’re experiencing. Regardless, in order for couples work to be successful, both individuals will likely need to make adjustments and take ownership for their role in the maladaptive relational dynamics.
There are a variety of approaches therapists use in providing couples counseling. In order for our work together to be successful, it is important that both parties are open to therapeutic assistance.
In a nutshell, the approach I take centers around the concept of being a team. In order for a team to be successful, clarity on mutually agreed upon goals, the steps to achieve the goals, and what role each team member will play in supporting the desired outcome is crucial. This requires productive communication, valuing each team members views and contributions, identifying and responding to what each team member needs to be a good teammate, and accepting each other’s limitations. In order for a team to advance, the team members need to navigate conflict, learn new skills, and make adjustments for different situations and obstacles that may arise.
When there is ambivalence about staying together from one or both people, couples counseling can still be beneficial. One does not need to know the answer to that question to start couples counseling. If both individuals are not clear on wanting to stay together, we simply start by identifying the details of the ambivalence, defining what working on the relationship would look like, and determine if hope for change can be established.
Frequently when working with couples or family members, establishing avenues to constructive communication and peaceful coexistence is part of our work together. This involves getting clear agreements on the methods of communication you want to use in your relationship, how the barriers to adhering to them will be addressed, and what skill-development is needed to sustain it.