| A Consultant’s Diary
AUDIO: Case Study
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Struggling with a relationship issue?
Do these feelings whirl round in your thoughts?
You are not alone, these are common reactions when relationships run into problems.
I want to change my relationship for the better, but how?
These may be the thoughts and questions you may have running through your head about love and your relationship. These relationship worries are common and shared by many people. You may now be feeling that the time has come to take action to improve things, and counselling is an excellent way to proceed. Let me explain why counselling is a powerful way forward, and commend you on your courage to decide to look for a positive change.
Women and men are fundamentally different, they both need to be in loving relationships but the most challenging thing people have is having a relationship! I find one person in a relationship typically seeks help because they may be concerned about an inability to explain to the other partner what’s going on. They have feelings of hurt, concerns for the children, or one or other may have had an affair. They wonder if they are being believed when they speak up. There is always the strong sense that they want the next decade or two to be much better than the current one.
Who makes the first step?
The person that gets in touch with me often considers it is the other who is at fault, because they seem okay, and the caller is not. It is normally the woman, although occasionally men make the first move to get help. Sometimes men come to me because they are told to come to me by their partner. I can successfully work with one person, though it is better if both of you come.
I will work hard to build a positive rapport and trust with you. My sessions are conducted in a safe and confidential environment, and I promise to offer you my empathy, genuineness, and understanding. You will find my counselling genuine, safe and therapeutic, and you’ll soon start making different decisions about your relationship. This comes from within, and I will help these decisions surface for you.
Listening and understanding will lead to positive change
I will help you explore why, for example, one partner may feel they don’t know how to explain what’s going on and the other seems passive, or defensive. By listening and sometimes challenging, we’ll together identify the imbalance, feelings of hurt, and problems for the relationship. I will help you understand about how to manage compromise, and how to turn this to a win-win. Clients have told me of the relief of being believed. Sometimes I find one or both of the couple have lost the skill of giving and receiving, and a positive change needs to be rediscovered to help both realise they both still love each other and are getting something from the relationship.
When couples have children, as you may have, I find they are often concerned to stay together to work things out for the children. Adults have coping mechanisms but children do not, and they do suffer when relationships go wrong. My experience is that couples are willing to seek help to work things out.
Dealing with blame is often easily resolved. There is a huge sense of relief that the other that they don’t have to make that person better. I have an image of two trees standing side-by-side with the branches touching at the top but they don’t have to feel completely dependent on the other to make them feel good. Relationships are the same. We will explore together how you both can learn to feel good about yourselves without needing the other to do it. Relationships work best by being interdependent.
During the counselling sessions, there’s a moment when change for the better happens. It is a powerful realisation for the couple that they can manage something for themselves, and not have to rely on the other to make it better for them. This comes as a huge relief to both parties. They both gain a sense of teamwork and suddenly feel empowered, no longer blaming the other.
One couple’s experience
Let me give an example. With one couple who stood out, she felt anxious about something, so she would put it on her partner. He found it hard to communicate or listen to her go through all the stuff that would then come out. They had been together for some years, and they wanted to elongate that, but they don’t want to have their future time to be lived in the same way. They want some change to happen. Anger and blame flared, she wanted him to listen more to her, and he seemed passive when faced with her.
Once they learned they didn’t have to have an argument but simply state “I feel pain right now” or “I feel fear right now, I’ve just realised I’ve lived with you all this time and we are just about to get married, do I want to?” It is all about choice. There is nothing wrong in having an argument but if it affects you or your loved one in a not so good way, then you need to know you can choose to do something different, and most people don’t know how to do or say something different.
Dealing with relationships’ riskier times
I often find more people come to me for counselling after Christmas, or after a holiday. When we spend 24 hours a day together over an extended time, there are huge challenges that strain any relationship, the extra bits come to the surface. But if we understand why this happens, I will help you see how to effectively deal with the strains from this occasion and avoid future ones.
Sometimes, inevitably counselling will uncover that one party really does want to leave. I make it really clear in the beginning, that unless you care about the other person and that you and the other person really do want to improve your relationship, then you are wasting your money and time. However, much more importantly, if the counselling does turn you both round, think about what has been avoided.
Time to act
“Just to say a massive thank you for all your support, help and guidance as my counsellor during this challenging life experience. Has been a massive contribution to getting me back-on-track; and to enhancing my learnings to support my future and my decisions that I may take….”
David Nov 2014
Anita Jackson is a trained consultant and has a PGDip Psychosynthesis Counselling and Teacher/Dip Imagework. She is a member of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP).