Have you ever thought - or said - do we need couples counselling? We look at how counselling can help in repairing relationships, and how to suggest marriage counselling to your other half.
Are You and Your Partner Going Through a Stressful Time?
Past the starry-eyed stages of falling in love, relationships will - no matter what - take hard work.
A common question during harder moments is: do we need couples counselling?
If we do need it, then how do I even suggest couples therapy to my partner? How do we prepare for couples counselling? And maybe the most important question: can counselling help a broken relationship?
If you are under a lot of stress, it can be hard to carve out the time to talk together. And perhaps even when you do, things don't go as well as planned, and instead of fights being solved, the hurt just seems to increase.
Reaching out for help either alongside your partner - or by yourself, can be the first step in getting your relationship back on track
How to Suggest Couples or Marriage Counselling
A busy schedule often means relaying life admin info to a partner when you remember. Which doesn't necessarily work for sensitive topics like this.
In fact, timing and context can be key. If you've never broached the subject before, it can really help to be mindful of a few elements:
Is There a Perfect Time and Place?
It's great to consider what has worked for your partner in the past when you've brought up difficult topics. Is it while walking somewhere, giving them a heads up, or just being direct?
Letting your partner know in advance that you would like a moment together can give them time to mentally prepare - and not feel as if they've been 'ambushed' when they don't have any energy left. Even asking "when would be good for you?" can let them choose a time when they're ready.
When it actually comes time to chat, a private and quiet space will allow you to talk openly together.
A soft approach, or 'start-up' to the conversation has been found in research to be more likely to lead to a calmer conversation. This looks a bit more like "Hey, I've been feeling a bit out-of-sync with you lately, and was wondering if we could chat" - rather than "Gee you've really been irritating lately". (Surprisingly!)
One of the top things would be to ask your partner how they feel things are going in your relationship. Ask if they have an image of the relationship they'd like to work towards with you.
After you think your partner feels heard in their response, it's a great time to open up to them. You can tell them what you would like to work towards together, and how you feel doing this with a professional psychologist would provide a safe and trustworthy atmosphere.
Can Counselling Help a Broken Relationship?
A relationship can feel broken when it seems one, or both, partners have started to check out of the partnership.
When a relationship feels like it's stretched to its limits, it can take a toll on both partners.
In fact people in a relationship that's not functioning so well are at greater risk of chronic disease, pain and even heart attacks.
There is no one-size-fits-all solution for relationships, but therapy has wonderful tools to help communication, trust, and manage conflict. Counselling can help a couple feel that they've been given a hand to help tread the water, instead of feeling like you're drowning in stress.
Trust is one of the most fundamental elements of a relationship with another person. Lack of trust can be one of the top contributors to marriage breakdown.
Simple questions like 'can I trust you to be there for me?', 'can I trust you to put me above work and other friends?', or 'can I trust you to choose me over infidelities and other potential partners?' can be the foundation of what holds you together.
When trust has been eroded by betrayal, it can feel like there's no way back. But is there?
Although there are so many individual factors at play, it's helpful to know that there are elements to trust that you can work on. A lack of trust is not the end of the story.
Research has shown that close to 70% of problems in a relationship are 'perpetual problems': recurrent fights about the same issues. Yes even in good relationships!
A common source of worry is both the recurrent nature of the issues, but also the actual amount of arguing. It adds strain to the everyday - particularly when those same topics come up again and again.
It can help to know that just about all couples actually fight about the same issues again and again. If the issue is something seemingly trivial like a housekeeping matter, then it may comfort you to know it's perfectly normal for these issues not to resolve.
But common doesn't necessarily equal healthy, and can lead to gridlock and a breakdown of communication between you and your partner.
Can Counselling Help With Trust and Fighting?
A trained psychologist can work with each individual to identify patterns of relating to one another. When you've been together for years, it's hard to see these patterns clearly as they feel so normal. But normal may not equal healthy - and the current state of things is not an accurate picture of what could be.
Trust can seem like an elusive concept - and maybe you think 'well we either have it, or we don't'. Thankfully, this isn't quite the case! Trust can be broken, but it can also be built and nourished.
Fighting and conflict can seem so stressful that Instead of aiming for a total absence of disagreements, there are ways to remove some of the pain from interactions through healthy communication tools.
When you have a trusted professional therapist to walk you through these issues, you are armed with a solid way forward rather than struggling in the dark.
Will it Help if I Attend Couples Counselling By Myself?
Absolutely! If your partner is not open to counselling, attending individually can very much be helpful in taking care of yourself.
Attending therapy is an individual's choice. If one partner feels pressured to attend, then suggesting or letting them know you'd still like to work on your own with a therapist for a while can be a more approachable start.
Individually, you can delve deep and work on issues such as coping mechanisms in times of stress, tools for conflict, and help you articulate goals for your life and relationships.
Don't Forget About You! Reach Out & Find Nourishment
When you're in the thick of a stressful time, it can be hard to navigate your own emotions, the conflict in the relationship, and broader feelings about your partnership.
It's important to take time out to care for yourself, and one of the first steps is to reach out to those around you. Or, if taking more walks, baths, yoga or gym sessions nurtures your well-being, then try to carve out time for this too! It's easy to let stress and problems take over but taking time to inject recovery and enjoyment in your life can also help orient yourself so that you can feel stronger in navigating your relationship and all life's problems.