Couples therapy is most effective when two parties are committed to the future of the relationship. Often couples come to counselling, facing challenges over a specific event that they feel they need assistance in moving forward on. The content of the discussions serves as a way for me to understand how the couple currently processes challenges and gifts in the relationship. Looking at the ways a couple copes within a broader context of family going back generations can also be incredibly enlightening. Noticing the historical processes of family can offer the couple ideas as to how to come together in a committed relationship but maintain their own separate selves in the partnership.
Couples can face many complications in their relationship. Relationships with others outside of the couple can be a way of reducing anxiety and fears inside the relationship taking pressure off. Sometimes these external relationships can be a resource but sometimes they can take away intimacy. Siblings, parents, children, friends and colleagues can all serve to help or hinder a couple. Of course, in the case of affairs this is when going outside of the relationship can be taken to the extreme and cause damage. The reality is, it is important in couples therapy that the couple does not remain in a bubble. The couple is always influenced by a number of extenuating factors and people. It can be incredibly helpful to have awareness of the way everyone seeks support, understanding and reassurance as they manage life together.
Crisis points in a relationship can provide enormous amounts of information as to how the couples coped and who was there to help them and who was there that was less helpful. Of course, different perspectives will be delivered on the same situation.
Decisions sometimes need to be made within relationships inside and outside ofcouples therapy in order to ensure that both members of the couple feel whole as individuals yet still connected as a couple. As a psychologist, it is my role to encourage you to do your own thinking, to ascertain what it is you have to lose and gain with the decision and to encourage each person to allow the other to be the best they can be while still maintaining a connection.
Sometimes in relationships, we can all get a little lost in our responsibilities, the needs of others can sometimes feel more important, but loss of self can be just as detrimental to relationships. Understanding the source of anxieties and patterns of coping that may be ingrained can help you to acknowledge and hold your own anxiety while your partner acknowledges theirs. Awareness of roles we play, and ways we may take over a situation that looks out of control or step back when we are overwhelmed all contain information that can be beneficial to couples.
Couples can and do benefit from awareness and therapy. It doesn’t have to be intense. There doesn’t have to be a dependency on the therapist. It can be more research based and insightful, built upon as you experience life together. Couples therapy can be regular in the beginning and then reduced to top-up session sessions as needed. The decision is always yours.