Relationship Counselling / Couple’s Counselling / Marriage Counselling

Why and When Couples Seek Help

Couples usually make appointments only when the chill in their relationship has reached zero degrees. What once had been a loving relationship is now characterized by irreconcilable differences in their beliefs about financial decisions, physical intimacy, contact with relatives, and even how to load the dishwasher. They are used to hearing daily comments from each other such as “I can’t put up with your sporting obsession, and you’re always ignoring me!” or “I can never do anything right or “I’m here at home all day with the kids, how would you possibly understand what that is like”. You are always blaming me!”

Because they have practiced their side of the argument for so long and they are so good at knowing how to attack each other’s weaknesses, persistent patterns have developed.

Change takes time and relapses will occur!

Couples often arrive believing that the therapist’s job is to “fix” their partner. Many couples are sceptical about whether therapy will work.

Each needs to understand that they are both good people; however, their patterns of communication have created a daily fencing duel. The therapy process will hopefully return you to your prior loving relationship only after you each become aware of how each contributes to this daily duel and begin to make changes. Awareness about the part that you each play in this relationship drama is essential.

I call this being “Above or Below the Line”

O – Ownership
A – Accountability
R – Responsibility

Success – what part have you played, own it, be accountable and responsible for your actions

B – Blame
E – Excuses
D – Denial

Failure – Blaming, making excuses and denying your part in it will ensure failure of your relationship

Identify what part you have played in the situation that you are faced with…….are you above or below the line? How could you do it differently? What is my part? Am I blaming, making excuses or perhaps in denial about the part I played?

So we need to each own our part in whatever has happened and move forward from there. Many couples are not able to do this as they have a need to be right, therefore exonerating them from any wrong doing in the relationship.

Therapists Are Not Referees

Couples often arrive at the session believing that each partner will be laying out his or her “position” and the therapist will act as a referee to decide who is right. It is not a matter of one person being right or wrong, since both partners make sense from their perspective.

I point out to the couple that the process will work if they both “are willing to try on some new ideas and own their part in it”

By pointing out the importance of the “we” and not the “me” in their relationship, they begin to understand that both are expected to participate by making changes. This means that counselling is a joint venture to better understand the relationship rather than an adversarial one.

How Our Brain Impacts the Dishwasher

In his short Utube video clip called “The Tale of Two Brains” Mark Gungor explains the difference between the Male & Female brains. How one fires on emotion and the other on logic…….very interesting, and explains how misinterpretations’ occur in relationships.

I explain to couples that when Jack says to Tracy: “That’s no way to load the dishwasher,” he may be thinking he is speaking from his analytical brain to hers, but in fact, he is stirring her limbic system. She reacts emotionally and, in turn, stirs his emotions.

This small incident can blow-up into their version of “War and Peace”.

Talking to couples about basic brain functions and how the 100 billion neurons in their brains make decisions, helps them to think of therapy as a conscious exercise.

Appreciations are to a relationship as the sun and rain are to a seed. They trigger the happy neurons in the limbic system and bring couples closer together. Most couples who come to therapy have not heard appreciations from their partner for months or years, so we do a practical exercise in Appreciation. This exercise sets the tone for rebuilding warm feelings and trust and can be very emotional for some couples.

In Summary

Couples who are determined to do the work required to look deeply at themselves and accept their part in the problems (above & below the line) that have bought them to therapy, rate a very good chance of healing their relationship and living a very successful life together.
After living with conflicts for so long and having to defend your own ego against attacks, my job is  to help you both to truly listen and understand what your partner may be thinking and feeling so that you will both act (not re-act) accordingly.

Contact Paula