If there was one thing I wish I could say to couples it would be ‘don’t leave it too late!!’ I totally understand how daunting it is to seek couples counselling…it’s really tricky for both you and your partner to agree to couples counselling, let alone find a counsellor that you both like and agree to work with!
I know this because in 2007 my marriage hit crisis point and even then my partner and I were hesitant to engage with a couples counsellor. Luckily when we first got together in 1998 we had agreed to try a year’s worth of couples counselling before we separated and so we reached out and made the phone call! We are both so thankful we did as we learned so much in that year of fortnightly / monthly counselling sessions and actually decided to move from Hobart to Alice Springs after that year, triggering a huge positive change for our family.
In many ways our society puts long term relationships up on a pedestal without actually acknowledging the amount of hard work and commitment to change that often needs to happen for that relationship to stay healthy and for each partner to be thriving within that long term relationship. And we all know couples that have stayed married and stayed ‘functional’ without it feeling like each partner is thriving, growing and healthy within that relationship.
In order to get to a healthier and more productive place, we need to give up our fear of conflict, turmoil and resistanceJohn Gottman
I believe in order for a long term relationship to last all we can really commit to is change and grow…and to make it extra challenging the next stage of change or growth is unknown until it appears!! Each stage of growth requires extra communication of feelings and needs to transform the conflict/tension into a deeper more fulfilling relationship for both partners. Something that most of us are completely unprepared for with all of our childhood backgrounds and relationship histories where often it wasn’t role modelled to us how to communicate our feelings and needs and transform conflict into positive change.
What I love about couples counselling is by discovering and sharing with the Counsellor your feelings and needs your partner is more likely to listen and really hear what you are saying…there is also a chance to learn new ways of communicating those feelings and needs…and actually discovering deep subconscious attachment needs that are not being met, that once communciated can make a huge difference in your relationship.
The research by John and Julie Gottman on relationship is very useful in couples counselling. John Gottman has been studying couples from all different cultures/language groups (including same sex marriages) for over 4 decades now and after viewing a 15 minute interaction with a couple he can determine with 91% accuracy whether that couple is likely to divorce or not! (Amazing!! – and as he states in The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work – he doesn’t get a lot of dinner party invites any more!
What is useful from this research though is the very simple (but not so easy to put into practice) strategies that healthy couples use to navigate conflict and maintain their connection. One brief example is that healthy couples use 5 positives to every negative statement even in the midst of an argument! And yet how easy is it when we live with someone to only focus on the negative!!! Another brief example is that every time your partner makes a bid for connection and you turn away or turn against that bid for connection it slightly erodes the relationship. Just knowing this makes it easier to be more conscious of your interactions with your partner and to begin to make change.
There are so many more strategies to share with you. Try reading the book The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work by John Gottman & Nan Silver or look up the Gottmans Interview in Brene Brown’s podcast or check out this article here.
These strategies can feel simple but hard to implement in your relationship if you are both feeling withdrawn, defensive or angry and contemptuous with eachother and this is where Couples Counselling can be so useful! If you are curious about couples counselling or even doing individual counsellign to improtve your relationship please call me 0458231968 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The determining factor in whether women feel satisfied with the sex, romance & passion in their marriage is, by 70%, the quality of the couple’s friendship. For men, the determining factor is, by 70%, the quality of the couple’s friendship.”John Gottman & Nan Silver in The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work