Relationships can go through any number of issues, whether these relate to trust (due to infidelity or being disappointed too many times), communication, incompatible values, day to day issues about how to run the home or raise the children, deep held resentments that have not been addressed, or because of the ‘stage’ of the relationship. For example, some people can experience a ‘rut’, whereby they no longer feel excited or interested in one another, or the relationship.
These, or other issues can lead to a loss of emotional connection, and worse still, indifference. But there is another way if both are willing and able. The question becomes what does your relationship and happiness mean to you? Is it worth giving energy, money, time, and effort to save? Because relationship counselling can help couples navigate disagreements and discord, and emotionally reconnect so they are able to communicate effectively, restore trust, work together and feel unified and supported, and enjoy one another again.
When couples experience strife in the relationship, they can start to avoid their feelings, but also one another. This means they spend less and less time together, often doing activities separately. In fact research has show that this dynamic often predicts divorce.
Due to various reasons, an unhealthy dynamic can emerge when couples experience problems. There will often be one person criticising the other, and the other feeling ‘attacked’. Sometimes this can go both ways, with both feeling defensive and criticised at different times.
This can happen for many reasons. Often there is anger and resentment bubbling underneath most interactions and this leads to conflict and sometimes even petty reactions to one another, about anything.
Another symptom of relationship issues is the impact they have on homelife, including children. The home environment can feel like a place of dread rather than the sanctuary it should be, mirroring how one might be feeling about their partner. If there are children involved, this kind of toxic environment can be disruptive in many ways, including to mental health.
Often couples who are not getting along will start to work against one another. This is due to the deeper emotional hurts, frustrations, and resentments that build up. This means both can feel unsupported and will feel unable to support each other because this can lead to further hurt when they do not receive what they feel they give.
When an individual has been let down in a big way, or repeatedly in small ways, they may no longer feel motivated to care about working through issues. Although they appear not to care, on a deeper level, they often do. But they close off from their feelings to protect themselves so they can continue in the relationship.
When there’s ‘trouble in paradise’, partners may choose to escape it by talking to other people online, meeting them in person, or cheating with someone they already know. This form of escapism is just that; rather than confront and resolve issues, they add to the problem and simply distract themselves for a time. But it might also indicate a wish to leave the relationship, or enter into a new kind of dynamic.
When others are aware of a couple’s problems, there might be cause for concern. This can happen because the couple is unable to control how they respond to one another in public, and therefore may make biting remarks toward one another, or simply not speak to one another. Another way that people know is when couples talk to others about their problems and this itself can cause further issues between them.
As couples grow further apart, they usually experience problems with affection, sex, and intimacy. They may even be sleeping in separate rooms. Even if they share a bed and still have sex, it is usually unsatisfying for one or both partners.
Some couples may go through insecurities that lead to mistrust, or have experienced problems that have caused it. When this happens it is very difficult to move past it without working through it, as trust cannot be forced.
A dissatisfying sex-life – this is usually underpinned by other issues that may cause one or both partners to feel disconnected and distant, such that they do not want physical contact. Sometimes it can be the lack of a sex life itself that can cause other problems and impact the relationship. But ultimately, for most people, a healthy sex life is important for their experience of the relationship.
Being ‘stuck in a rut’ – relationships, like life, go through various stages. There’s the initial exciting stage (the butterflies and ‘honeymoon phase’), the comfortable and secure stage, and…..the rut. This is normal because constant excitement is unrealistic and likely involves constant drama, which no healthy relationship can withstand. And many of the early stages occur precisely because the relationship is novel and new. But it is when couples become resigned to the rut that things become problematic.
Cheating – when other people are in some way introduced into a couple’s relationship, it can understandably make partners insecure, especially if one partner has been unfaithful, whether that be emotionally, physically, or both.
Deep and longstanding hurt and resentment – when couples have experienced disappointment from one another, they naturally experience pain and hurt, which if untended or added to, starts to form resentment and bitterness between them, making the void widen the longer it goes on.
Denial and avoidance – when couples bury their ‘head in the sand’, they are ignoring the issues. This means they do not have to face them as doing this would require a response. But denial and avoidance simply keeps the problem going, and over time can make it so big, it seems and may actually be unsurmountable.
Disagreements and incompatible values – when couples are unable to agree on issues or hold differing beliefs about things, they can struggle with all kinds of issues. From mundane day to day things like who puts the bins out, or what they eat for dinner, to the bigger issues, like child rearing.
Family politics – some couples can have problems because their families and sometimes even friends may be overly and inappropriately involved in their relationship, to such an extent that it causes a divide between the couple.
Loss of emotional connection and intimacy – many of these or other issues can lead to a loss of emotional connection and intimacy, such that the couple are no longer attuned to one another’s emotional states, they do not feel close anymore, and may even feel lonely.
Recurring disappointment – some couples experience a vicious cycle whereby one partner is unhappy with the other in some way and demands change, the other promises change but repeatedly fails to deliver. This can lead to indifference, such that a person effectively ‘checks out’ of the relationship.
Substance misuse – some couples’ problems arise because of the misuse of substances, for example, alcohol. The impact of substances on a a relationship can be highly damaging. Alcohol, for example is a depressant, affects libido, can make some people act in unacceptable ways, and can make the drinker hard to be around (if say, they are an ‘unhappy or angry drunk’).
Communication breakdown – alongside all of the above exists the bigger issue of communication. When individuals are able to communicate effectively, they are able to work through most things. But when they are unable to speak one another’s language, they are essentially speaking in tongues – not productive for any length of time.
At Phinity, it is important for us to understand the issues you may be experiencing from the perspective of both parties. This is why we recommend one of two options at the beginning of couples counselling. You can either start with a 75-minute joint session which allows each of you ample time and space to discuss your individual concerns, from your perspective.
Or, each book an individual 50 minute session. This means you will each speak with our therapist, one to one, and have a bit more time to discuss your concerns, individually. The initial session(s) are aimed to help your therapist understand the context of your relationship (such as what your lives look like), and the concerns that have been identified by each of you.
After the initial sessions, whether these be a longer joint session, or individual sessions, you will begin joint counselling. This entails weekly 50-minute sessions. We do offer fortnightly sessions as well, however, we normally recommend that you start on a weekly basis, for momentum, consistency, focus, and to demonstrate your commitment to the process of change.
Depending on your needs, we will work with you to help restore emotional connection and attunement, effective communication and compromise, unity and support, empathy and consideration of the other, even if you hold different views of a situation. Therapy aims to help you transcend yourself, because by putting the other first, and being put first by them, you can both have your needs met.
For some people, therapy may help them accept that they are better apart, this does not mean it has failed. What it does mean however is that you can work together through the separation process, and support one another through it, to ease an already challenging process. Ultimately, therapy will help you learn whether you are better together or apart, and offer supportive ways to navigate either possibility.
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