Previously known as marriage guidance, couple’s counselling addresses the problems arising from adult sexual or intimate relationships, where the relationship rather than the two individuals is the client explains DR VASILIOS SILIVISTRIS
Our very closest relationship: a marriage, cohabitation or civil partnership, is based on intimacy and trust.
When it stops working, we are deeply affected and our health and happiness suffer. Our sense of identity and self-worth often rests on the strength of our relationships and we can despair when our prime relationship fails.
Far too many couples leave counselling until it is too late. By the time of their first appointment, years of bitterness and resentment have built up and the fear of being hurt blocks any chance of change.
- At times, complete communication breakdown
- Sex has ended or causes problems
- Arguments continue without resolution
- Violence erupts
- Depression or other health problems recur
- The bond of trust is eroded or broken
Ideally, you should go to counselling together: it is hard to build a team if only half the players are there. Often, if one person makes the decision to give counselling a try, the partner will decide to go too.
However, if your partner flatly refuses to join you, there are many things counselling can help you sort out on your own.
Nevertheless, some people prefer to have counselling on their own to work out their feelings before having counselling as a couple.
How does counselling work?
Primarily, counselling works by giving you the chance to be heard.
Your therapist will give you all the time you need to talk, sob, shout or just think. It is an opportunity to look at the problem(s) in a different way with someone who will respect and encourage your opinions and decisions.
For many couples, the solution is right under their noses, it just takes someone who is objective to see what it is. If you have not considered relationship counselling before, please do not leave it until it is too late.
When is the right time for couple’s counselling?
When there has been a betrayal of trust; an affair, debt or a secret.
Talking causes confusion or unbearable anger.
Separation or Divorce seems like the only option.
Desire has gone or sex is no fun.
Arguments and bickering go on and on…
- If possible, attend together unless there is domestic violence or fear.
- Counselling can be undertaken individually if that feels more comfortable.
- Being able to manage conflict, arguments and rows is the foundation stone for a good relationship.
- It is unrealistic to hope that arguments can be avoided.
- Two people come with their own values and beliefs and both must feel heard in order to thrive.
- This may mean developing new skills.
- Differences need to be acknowledged.
- Arguments are a healthy and essential part of any relationship and can energise it if carried out skilfully.
- Indirect anger and domestic violence are destructive.
- Relationships need solid foundations; two unhappy people with unresolved issues rarely make a long-term happy relationship.
- Enter a relationship as healthily as possible for the best chance of long-term happiness.
- The pleasure is in wanting to be with someone rather than the tension of feeling needy.
- Self-respect and liking oneself are the important ingredients for a good relationship.
- If they are in short supply, you may consider counselling.
How can couple’s counselling help?
- Destructive patterns of relating can be recognised and addressed.
- Conflict and communication can be improved.
- New relationship skills can be learned.
- The impact of change and loss can be examined.
- Relationships can be more successful.
- Abusive relationships and domestic violence can be acknowledged.
- Sex can be a source of great enjoyment within a loving relationship and any problems it poses can leave one partner feeling rejected or angry.
- Loss of desire is often an early sign of problems.
- Psychosexual issues can highlight a problem within the relationship or arise from the past.
Childhood sexual abuse, for example, can influence an otherwise happy relationship and can be helped by a therapist. Other sexual problems may have a physical or medical cause, but can often be addressed.
Finally, therapy can help explore whether trust can be repaired or whether the relationship will need to be rebuilt. If not, it can allow the couple to split with more understanding and less hostility.
Dr Vasilios Silivistris (Vasos) is a psychotherapist, counselling practitioner psychotherapycounselling.uk/