Why do couples seek counselling?
When couples encounter problems or issues, they may wonder when it is appropriate to seek relationship counseling. Here are some good reasons to see a counsellor:
① Communication has become negative. Once communication has deteriorated, it’s often hard to get it going back in the right direction. Negative communication can include anything that leaves one partner feeling depressed, insecure, disregarded, hurt, or wanting to withdraw from the conversation. This can also include the tone of the conversation; it’s not always what you say, but how you say it. Negative communication can further include emotional or physical abuse as well as unhealthy nonverbal cues.
② When one or both partners consider having an affair, or one partner has had an affair. Recovering from an affair is not impossible, but it takes a lot of work, commitment, and a willingness to move forward. There is no magic formula for recovering from an affair. But if both individuals are committed to the therapy process and are being honest, the marriage may be salvaged. At the very least, it may be determined that it is healthier for both individuals to move on.
When the couple seems to be “just occupying the same space”. When couples become more like roommates than a married couple, this may indicate a need for counseling. This does not mean if the couple isn’t doing everything together they are in trouble. If there is a lack of communication, conversation, intimacy, or any other element the couple feels is important and they believe they “just co-exist,” this may be an indication that a skilled clinician can help sort out what is missing and how to get it back.
③ When the partners do not know how to resolve their differences. Discussions generally end on the same note that they begin on. If you start an argument too harshly by verbally attacking your partner, you will end up with at least as much tension as you began with. Therefore, the creation of constructive conflict management skills and knowledge of how to repair the relationship after fights or regrettable incidents can be positive additions to any relationship.
④ When one partner begins to act out on negative feelings. What we feel on the inside shows on the outside. Even if we are able to mask these feelings for a while, they are bound to surface eventually. Negative feelings such as resentment or disappointment can turn into hurtful, and sometimes even harmful, behaviors. A skilled clinician can help the couple sort out negative feelings and find ways to express them that increases the positive perspective experienced within the relationship.
⑤ When the only resolution appears to be separation. When a couple disagrees or argues, a break often is very helpful. However, when a timeout turns into an overnight stay away from home or eventually leads to a temporary separation, this may indicate a need for counseling. Spending time away from home does not usually resolve the situation. Instead, it reinforces the thought that time away is helpful, often leading to more absences. When the absent partner returns, the problem is still there but often avoided because time has passed.
⑥ When a couple is staying together for the sake of the children. If a couple feels it is wise to stay together for the sake of the children, it may help to involve an objective third party. Often couples believe that they are doing the right thing, but staying together actually may be detrimental to the children. On the contrary, if the couple is able to resolve issues and move toward a positive, healthy relationship, this may be the best decision for all involved.
All relationships are not salvageable. In the process of relationship counseling, some couples may discover it is healthier for them to be apart. In those cases, counselling can help partners prepare to separate or resolve ambivalence if uncertainty exists with respect to permanently leaving the relationship. For those relationships that can be salvaged, and for those couples willing to commit to the process, couples counseling may be able to remind them why they fell in love and keep them that way.
What is the Gottman Method of Couples Therapy?
Dr. John Gottman and his colleagues at the University of Washington conducted extensive research on how real couples interact so that they could better understand what causes problems in a relationship and what leads to marital happiness.
Based on this research, Dr. Gottman identified key components that help relationships flourish. When couples become better friends, learn to manage conflict, and create ways to support each other’s hopes for the future, they protect their relationship from the inevitable stressors and transitions of life.
He developed the Gottman Method of Couples Therapy based on his research findings. The therapy aims to increase respect and affection, generate greater understanding, and keep conflict discussions calm. The Gottman Method seeks to help couples build relationship skills that result in happy marriages which remain positive and stable in the long run.
In the Gottman Method of couples therapy, members of the couple talk directly to one another with the therapist observing and intervening as needed to coach each person in the use of effective interaction skills. Selecting from a wide array of skills and exercises, your therapist will design the therapy session to meet the specific needs of your relationship. In this way, you will be shown how to develop the same skills and ways of interacting that proved so successful for the long-term, stable, happy couples in Dr. Gottman’s research. Once a respectful tone and safe atmosphere is created, intimacy, connection, problem-solving, and happiness are far more attainable and likely.
Kim Watt, Clinical Counsellor
Counselling for Individuals & Couples in South Surrey, BC
Phone (778) 686-9494
Approximately 50% of first marriages end in divorce,
and that number has remained unchanged for the past 30 years.
People in relationships seek counseling for many reasons, from power struggles and communication problems, to sexual dissatisfaction and infidelity. Though counseling is recommended as soon as discontent arises in a relationship, studies show that on average, partners will not seek therapy until they have been unhappy for six years. The more time that has passed, the more difficult it may be to repair the relationship and in some cases, a couple who has already decided to separate may pursue therapy in order to end the relationship amicably and respectfully.
But when divorce does happen, it results in difficulties for adults as well as children. For adults, divorce can be one of life’s most stressful events. The decision to divorce is often met with ambivalence and uncertainty about the future. If children are involved, they may experience negative effects such as denial, feelings of abandonment, anger, blame, guilt, preoccupation with reconciliation, and acting out.
While divorce may be necessary and the healthiest choice for some, others may wish to try to salvage the union by deepening their commitment, enhancing communication, and strengthening positive behaviors that will help the partners cope with issues that impact their relationship.
Beautiful Soul Counselling Services, #106 - 3237 King George Blvd, Surrey, BC