Marriage & Relationship Counselling
Do you feel like your relationship's suffering, that's it's just not what it used to be? In Couples or as a Single, seeing a Psychologist can help.
Confidential, Professional Therapy for Couples.
The most common reason couples seek relationship therapy is something called a 'cycle of mutual hurt'.
It's common that tensions between partners arise, but therapy is needed when repeated attempts to deal with the problems fail. The result is increased tension and hurt. Partners caught like this often retreat for a while, then have another go trying to solve their issues. Again they often end up making things worse.
The good news is that this pattern can be broken, and seeing a psychologist can help.
How Does a Psychologist Treat Relationship Issues?
Counselling sessions can be as a Couple or a Single, and involve:
Working with one or both partners to identify this cycle of hurt and initially working to cease behaviours which further damage intimacy
Examining how 'good intentions' are often misinterpreted and clarifying communication between couples
Identifying alternative ways of relating to each other to help restore trust and love
Sometimes one or both partners may also need individual sessions to examine and work on personal issues which are detrimentally affecting the relationship
What Makes A Troubled Relationship?
The answer is unresolved conflict.
Ever been at a social function with family or friends and the tension between a particular couple leaves everyone feeling awkward and wanting to make a hasty escape?
Unresolved conflict is relationship poison. It's always present, and leaks out everywhere from the breakfast table to the parent-teacher meeting. The 'leaking' happens in the form of short sharp barbs; comments designed to inflict (supposedly unintentional) hurt. 'It was just an innocent comment,' you'll often hear.
But you'll have felt the sting in the hurt, the embarassment and the growing distance between you. Before long, it becomes the standard form of communicating. Silence, followed by barb, followed by more silence, etc. Round and round we go.
So, what do you do?
Couples who have successful relationships are not conflict free. They know however how to resolve conflict, even on the really big things. And it's important to note that 'resolving conflict' does not mean 'giving in'.
Resolving conflict means refusing to meet tit-for-tat
Resolving conflict means refusing to wait until your partner does something first.
Resolving conflict means being respectful in your response, even when you don't feel like it.
These are tough skills to master. We can often do them when we are calm and not upset or in a professional setting. The real skill, however, is using these skills when we are hurt, frightened, or angry.
Common Things That Happen as Couples Drift Apart
Two common feelings for both parties involved in a warring relationship are blame and hopelessness.
Unresolved conflict poisons a relationship. Blame involves anger and finger-pointing at your partner. In contrast, the hopelessness is often more self-directed. 'Why is this relationship not working? Why can't I fix it? What is it about me that makes this keep happening?'
Though the emotions are often internal, the characteristics of a couple drifting apart are much more visible. You don't have to be Einstein to realise that if it's no fun at home, then someone is going to go look for fun somewhere else. If it's war at home, then partners are going to want some peace. Coldness looks for warmth, criticism looks for praise. It's not rocket science.
As blame sets up a cycle of hostility, hopelessness stops partners from making the effort to fix things. The result is further destruction of the relationship with fewer and fewer attempts to rebuild.
Couples therapy is an attempt to stop the destructive cycle. But there are certain things couples counselling can't do. It won't change the past and it won't provide immediate solutions. It will, however, equip you with the skills to better resolve conflicts. Once you learn the basics, no matter what the issue, you can use these skills to rebuild. Blame is replaced with personal responsibility, hopelessness with the belief that 'we can do this together'.
Relationship Counselling Case Study*
Stephanie and Brian came to therapy following a boys’ night out where Brian had flirted and kissed another woman. While Brian down-played his behaviour and put it down to alcohol, Stephanie had moved into the spare bedroom claiming that he had cheated on her. Their attempts to fix things escalated into shouting and tears.
After three months of this, Brian was threatening to move out. In reality, things had not been good for a while though neither Brian nor Stephanie had paid much attention to the growing distance between them. They had thought it just a by-product of their busy lives with both of them working and with two small children.
In couples therapy, both had identified a shift in the relationship following the birth of their second child who had been premature. Both the pregnancy and the first few months had been highly stressful. In therapy they learnt to talk with each other about their needs and feelings rather than remain silent or accuse each other in heated exchanges. In therapy they also talked about the kind of relationship they would like, and they learned about what was best for the relationship rather than focusing just on their individuals needs.
Brian learned that his actions had destroyed Stephanie’s trust in him and hurt her deeply. Stephanie had learned that while parenting was of the utmost importance, the relationship also needed her attention.
* Case studies are based on common characteristics of many client examples. They do not refer to any one particular person. Any resemblance to actual persons is completely coincidental.
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Dr. Clive is located in Boodua, west of Toowoomba.
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