When it comes to couples counselling, it takes two of you to come together and make an active commitment to be open and honest so that you can heal and move forward in the relationship.
If you are in a stage in your relationship where every discussion you have with your partner turns into an argument or disagreement, seeking outside professional help in the form of couples counselling might be an another issue where you disagree.
One partner may be feeling more hopeless about the relationship, for them seeking professional help is the last attempt before considering ending the relationship all together.
Perhaps the other partner may not realise the damage that has been done so far and feels they do not need the assistance of a relationship counsellor.
There could be a number of factors that are influencing this reticence or reluctance in seeking professional help but there can be real benefits to understanding more about your relationship.
Couples counselling is becoming more prevalent and widely discussed, with a number of high profile celebrities sharing how relationship therapy has helped to improve their relationship.
According to the UK Office of National Statistics 42% of marriages end in divorce with couples facing struggles over finances, inability to resolve conflict, extended family issues, lack of intimacy, unmet expectations and infidelity to name a few.
Couples counselling has the ability to improve communication, emotional connection and physical connection.
Engaging in relationship therapy can feel like a real risk, but with the help of an experienced therapist you can learn practical steps to resolve conflict and move away from repetitive and negative argumentative patterns.
If you can identify with a reaction of reluctance within yourself or your partner read on to explore what some of these reasons might be.
If you are in denial, perhaps you do not realise the magnitude of your partners’ feelings or fully understand their reasons for wanting to attend couples counselling. You may have the perception that things are not as bad as what your partner is making them out to be, perhaps to you the problem(s) in the relationship are trivial or not a big deal.
You might believe that if you deny the issue then maybe it doesn’t exist. If you do not admit how big the problem is, you are hoping that the issues, with time, will resolve, as if by magic. You can both stop the arguing, you can get back on track to having a healthy functioning relationship once again.
Unfortunately, the likelihood of this happening is very small, rejecting your partners’ needs might result in further distancing and resentment. They are asking for help for a reason, if the relationship matters to you, it’s important to listen when your partner expresses what those needs are if you want to save the relationship.
Perhaps you are fearful of the result, perhaps you know how bad the issues are between you and your partner and you think looking at things in closer detail may be the end of your relationship. The harsh reality is that in couples counselling there are no guarantees, and it’s understandable that living with uncertainty can make us feel scared, anxious or overwhelmed.
If both people are committed to making changes in the relationship to stay together, it is possible to turn things around. The alternative is for things to stay the way they are, or progressively get worse where you are both unhappy. Avoiding spending time together or avoiding being in the family home just to escape uncomfortable feelings can make an unpleasant and toxic environment. You could find yourselves living very different, separate lives, if this isn’t already happening, which can make it even more difficult to reestablish a connection.
Being open about your relationship with another person other than your partner might make you feel very vulnerable and uncomfortable. It may go against what feels natural to you to share what is personal, private and intimate with a therapist, who is essentially a stranger.
Avoidance may be a reflection of how things were dealt with by caregivers in childhood or cultural/societal stigma and expectations. Maybe you feel the process of therapy feels like an invasion of privacy, as you were taught personal family issues stay only within the family.
Our behaviours and patterns are very much linked to learned behaviour and our relationships of the past, a link that can be further explored while seeing a counsellor.
Counselling is a confidential space to learn, grow and develop, a trained professional would be experienced on the intimacies of the relationship and will offer encouragement and reassurance to help you feel more comfortable.
Often, clients report that the process is much easier than what they first imagined. Sometimes, this can mean taking a leap of faith.
We are all human and we make mistakes, we say or do things in a relationship at times that we might feel uncomfortable talking about or feel like we are being scrutinised and judged.
You might be concerned how the therapist might perceive you, and along with your partner, take sides to point out your mistakes or shortcomings.
The couples’ therapist is not there to place judgement, allocate blame to anybody, or take sides. Ultimately, the relationship is the client and the therapists’ framework will be a solution focused approach to identify and expand on what you have done well in the past. This helps to build on previous experience and teaches new skills to improve communication and understand more about the dynamics of your relationship.
Ideally, it would be beneficial for both people in the relationship to attend couples counselling, but this does not mean all hope is lost. You can still benefit as an individual to improve how you communicate and interact within the relationship. This can still have a general positive impact on the relationship, as the other partner can begin to learn to follow by your example.
If you would like to know more about how couples therapy can help your relationship and book your relationship consultation, you can send me an email in confidence here.
I’m Lizandra Leigertwood a relationship counsellor and psychotherapist in private practice in St Albans, Hertfordshire. I help individuals and couples to find healthier ways to live happier and fulfilled lives.