“If you plan on being anything less than you are capable of being, you will probably be unhappy all the days of your life” – Abraham Maslow.
Changing the old pattern in your relationship takes knowledge, action, and courage. Even when we hurt and we want things to change, the emotional pain can prevent us from doing something different.
Sometimes it is just a lot easier to defend ourselves than to feel vulnerable again. Or we avoid the conflict. Either way, there is a power struggle and often one person is trying harder than the other to “fix” things.
We might fear that if we let go of the power struggle the other person will “win”, or we will feel disempowered. Yet somehow that power struggle is exhausting and takes all our energy anyway!
We end up feeling as if nothing will help! You may be very committed to the marriage, yet feel very lonely, despairing that it will never be the same.
Is Your Relationship Stuck?
By the time most couples have decided to have counselling, the relationship is really stuck. At this point you have choices:
- You can continue on the same path you are on;
- You can abandon the situation;
- You can transform the situation.
Whether you are just starting to experience issues in your relationship, or have been feeling “not right” about things for years, there is hope for change.
This change may mean that you rediscover the closeness in your marriage, find a place of peace within the relationship, and a way to negotiate a path through the everyday challenges. It may also mean that both of you make the effort to sustain these changes.
But how do you start? How do you let go of the hurt? The answers may be different for every couple, as there are a number of reasons why couples become “stuck”.
However although the details may vary, unhappy marriages tend to become unhappy in similar ways.
Couples counselling helps identify how and when couples have gone from attraction and connection to disconnection (and even repulsion) – and what the couple can do to rediscover the closeness, forgiveness, loving kindness, intimacy and passion.
What to Expect in Couples Counselling
If you believe your relationship needs to change, it may be worthwhile consulting a therapist who is skilled in couples counselling. The therapist works to assist couples to identify the “sticking points” in their relationship, and how they can smooth the path to a healthier relationship. Couples will also be assisted to create an “observing platform” in their relationship to allow enough emotional distance to plan a healthier response.
From there, couples are supported to negotiate new agreements, make a plan for managing set-backs, and negotiate new strategies for managing the tough moments.
Working together in a “no blame” therapy session can bring you both together working towards solutions, instead of becoming stuck in anger and resentment. The fears that lead to fight, flight or freeze responses can be identified and reactions managed. Finally, a plan for acting with clarity and consideration can be made, with each partner’s needs in mind.
The process of tailoring the relationship plan to your specific needs will accommodate each member of the couple’s needs, so that no one feels compromised. Each partner will be listened to equally and grievances heard. It is also important to come along with the intent of making it work!
The mode of therapy utilised will be discussed with you in your first session. Although some therapies have been found more effective in couples counselling, your particular circumstances will be considered in tailoring therapy to suit your needs.
The basis of assessment and intervention will provide a structured and effective way of exploring and managing the distress or even despair over your relationship, leading to a plan for finding a path back to love. Your therapist will give you questions to consider and ideas for starting the journey back to love very early in the therapy process.
Author: Mia Olsson, BA Psych (Hons), Dip Nurs, AMAPS.
Registered Psychologist Mia Olsson has had a broad interdisciplinary role in the health industry for over thirty years, including hospital-based nurse training, and an Honours Degree majoring in Psychology. She enjoys assisting clients with couples counselling, depressive disorders, anxiety, acute and chronic complex trauma, and health related issues.
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- Baucom, L. H. (2014). How to save your marriage in 3 simple steps: Even if Only YOU Want To. Retrieved from http://www.amazon.com/dp/1492902438/ref=rdr_ext_tmb.
- Sternberg, R.J. (1998). Cupid’s Arrow.The Course of Love Through Time. Cambridge University Press.
- Wood, N. D., Crane, D. R., Schaalje, G. B., & Law, D. D. (2005). What works for whom: A meta-analytic review of marital and couples therapy in reference to marital distress. The American Journal of Family Therapy, 33(4), 273-287.
If you believe you may have other physical or mental health problems you should consult your doctor to rule out other health issues prior to making an appointment with a psychologist. Your doctor will do a thorough history, examination and any appropriate testing before providing a referral to a mental health practitioner.
The information on this topic page is NOT a substitute for proper diagnosis, treatment or the provision of advice by an appropriate health professional.