How often do you and your partner go to bed angry without a word or gesture of goodnight, and without talking until the next day? Most everyone knows that going to bed angry hurts relationships in the long run, as well as your ability to get a good sleep and concentrate the next day.
Disagreements and disputes are a part of every couples’ lives, but how do you know if enough is ever enough? Does fighting with your partner and a little lost sleep here and there mean you should throw in the towel on your future together?
The answers to these questions are not easily determined. There are so many factors that contribute to a relationship between two people, and every relationship is unique. However, there are some general indicators that you should be weary of, because if they arise early in a relationship, chances are that things will deteriorate quickly.
Knowing how to judge these factors is where a Couples Counselor comes in to help. Most people, especially those experiencing conflict or intense emotions, don’t realize that a trained, responsive, neutral party may be the only solution for the problem. So don’t be shy about consulting with a therapist, and consider how beneficial it might be for your future love life.
In couples therapy, the relationship between two people is the focus of attention. While some of each of the individuals’ behaviors and emotions may be considered during the course of therapy, the goal of a couples counselor is to resolve how these factors come to bear on the interpersonal relationship between the partners. Relationship problems arise when there is conflict between the beliefs, personalities or emotions of the two people involved.
Counseling often brings these sources of conflict to the forefront, to flesh out the root of the issues and resolve them at the same time. Before seeking professional help with your relationship issues, it is essential that both parties are open to the process of therapy. Therapy involves exploration of many personal issues, and if either party is not ready or willing to participate, they may feel overwhelmed or unprepared for the experience.
Having said this, there are very few people who report having a negative experience with therapy. Couples therapy tends to either help couples to move on and manage their issues or, in the worst case, it has no effect on the couples’ behaviour. When it comes down to it, if your relationship is important to you, you really have nothing to lose by seeking help from a professional.
Curious to know what happens in a couples counseling session? Generally, therapists help you and your partner identify conflict within the relationship, and then help you to decide what changes are required in order for both parties to feel satisfied. Most couples report that therapy is beneficial because it teaches them to communicate more effectively, which allows them to maintain a healthy relationship with one another.
Alternately, if you approach a counselor with a specific problem or issue that you need resolved, he or she will assume a role of a mediator, and help you to move past the issue without harboring negativity.
More often then not, a therapist will want to meet with a couple on a least three separate occasions. During your first visit to the counselor, they will get to know you and allow you to tell them about your issues or problems. During this visit it is important that the therapist understands the history and nature of your relationship, the problems that you have, and the resolution that you seek.
Generally a second and third visit allow the therapist to address you and your issues, make suggestions for change, and encourage strength in your future together. In the end, many couples spend less than a handful of hours in a therapist’s office, and the sacrifice of time is worthwhile for the benefits it usually brings.
For whatever reason, many individuals are intimidated or ashamed by the idea of therapy. Many couples see it as a last resort for deep seated issues or problems within their relationship. In fact, the best way to practice therapy is throughout a relationship, as issues arise and as you learn to resolve them together. But how do you know when it is the right time to go into counseling, and if therapy will help you with the solution you seek?
Couples with communication problems are the best candidates for therapy. If the same problem or issue arises over and over again, if you feel frustrated and confused or angered by the thought of discussing it any further, or you feel like things are only getting worse since the problem first arose, then you are well advised to seek help from a professional therapist. If you are open and honest during the therapy, the counselor will likely be able to gauge the severity of your problems and determine potential solutions quite quickly.
Resolution for most issues will entail some degree of change for both parties involved in the relationship. If the problem is not one that will respond to change, or either of the parties are unwilling, the therapist may prescribe two other options – to abandon the issue and move ahead in the relationship by working on communication so as to avoid additional issues in the future, or to end the relationship altogether based one or both of the parties unwillingness to work towards a resolution.
In the end, couples therapy gives individuals and couples the opportunity to consult with a trained, attentive, neutral party in order to resolve their differences. Remember that “differences” are par for the course in any relationship; however, no one involved in a loving relationship should feel distressed, criticized, blamed or threatened as part of the partnership.
Behaviors and emotions can sometimes overwhelm couples so that they can’t find a simple solution to an issue or problem, and they become hostile, critical and bitter towards their partner. That’s where an objective couples therapist comes in best – to help you solve your problems, and gain perspective on yourself and your relationship.
If you want to find constructive solutions to any ongoing problems, big or small, don’t think twice about seeking professional help. Counseling has become a huge industry over the past few decades, as more and more couples find it difficult to manage the stress of everyday life with the intense pressure of close interpersonal relationships.
So before you throw away a very important person over an unimportant disagreement, and in order to avoid the same problem in the future, seek out some advice and help from a registered counselor or therapist. You have nothing to lose, not even another night’s sleep.
It’s hard to measure if counselling is effective, but it’s an industry that’s rapidly growing as more and more people discover the benefits for themselves. If you haven’t considered relationship counselling before, please don’t leave it until it’s too late.
Conflict is a normal part of being a couple. However, all of us need to feel loved, understood, and respected by the people we are close to, and conflict in these relationships can undermine our emotional security. What makes a difference is how conflict is handled. Couples who resolve conflicts constructively strengthen their relationships over time by improving intimacy and trust. Constructive strategies include stating opinions and needs clearly and calmly, and listening to and attempting to understand the partner’s point of view.
Conflict becomes destructive when needs are not expressed to partners or when they are expressed in ways that criticize, blame, or belittle the partner. For instance, a woman who is hurt that her husband plays golf every weekend instead of spending time with her may accuse him of “selfishness” instead of expressing how lonely and hurt she feels.
When a couple is distressed, typically one partner takes the position of not saying how they feel while the other partner takes the position of blaming and criticizing. This pattern, which is very common in distressed relationships, tends to get worse over time. These couples often feel trapped in fights that are never resolved.
Couples who experience ongoing conflict can become aggressive with one another, and may push, slap, or hit each other during arguments. Other couples handle conflict by avoiding it. Avoiding conflict also damages relationships because partners become increasingly distant from one another. Although researchers do not know why some couples become distressed and others don’t, most agree that the ways couples resolve conflicts and provide emotional support to one another are critical.
The impact of conflict on individuals and families is enormous. Couples who repeatedly have conflicts are at risk for a variety of emotional problems, notably alcohol abuse and depression. Distressed couples do not cope well with life’s inevitable stress, such as unemployment or illness, and they run into difficulty when they go through normal changes like the birth of a child.
Children who witness repeated conflict between their parents also are at risk for emotional and behavioral problems. One of the most serious impacts of relationship conflict is divorce. The most common reason given for divorcing is feeling unloved.
Behavioural Couple Therapy (BCT)
Cognitive-Behavioural Couple Therapy (CBCT) helps couples change the negative ways they think about their partners. While this treatment does not seem to be quite as effective as BCT at the end of treatment, couples continue to improve after treatment.
Emotionally-Focused Couple Therapy (EFT) tackles the frustrated emotional needs underlying relationship distress. Instead of trying to solve problems, the health professional helps the partners to talk about their needs to feel loved and important in ways that promote compassion and new ways of behaving toward one another.
At the end of treatment, the majority of these couples have improved, and 70% are no longer distressed. One study also showed that couples who had worked with emotionally-focused therapy remained satisfied with their marriages two years later.
Unfortunately, few couples seek psychological treatment before divorce, at which time it is often too late. As a result, programs for relationship enrichment and prevention of conflict have been developed. These programs focus on improving communication and teaching conflict resolution skills to couples before they are in trouble. Often they are offered to groups over a weekend or series of weeks.
While these programs are effective in the short-term, research shows that couples often have difficulty maintaining these new skills once the program ends.