Sometimes problems come up in our relationships that make us consider the possibility of relationship counselling. Two voices wage war in our minds. One tries to advocate the benefits of couples counselling, while the other tells us that our struggle is a normal part of any relationship. The purpose of this article is to provide an objective means by which you can (hopefully) put that struggle to rest.
This article should start out by recognizing that there is no relationship that could not benefit from couples counselling. Having the external perspective of a trained and experienced professional allows one to look at their relationship in new ways, and ask new questions revealing powerful, valuable, insight. However, unlike checkups at the dentist or doctor, ‘preventative’ couples counselling is not always convenient for couples busy schedules.
So here are a few pieces of wisdom that you can use to determine for yourself if couples counselling is something that could benefit your relationship, or if it is truly needed.
You Can’t Break Out of Negative Patterns
So many aspects of human behavior are circular. This is especially true of human relationships. Just as the sun goes around the world every day, much about who we are, the lives we live, and the relationships we enjoy follow consistent, repeating patterns.
These ‘circles’ follow trigger events. Just as waking and sleeping every day follows the rising and setting of the sun, your behavioral patterns and those of your partner can be marked by certain beginnings.
For some, it’s the dishwasher. Maybe it’s more convenient for your partner to empty it because they get home earlier from work. And yet, without fail, the burden lies on your shoulders every day. As a discrete act, emptying the dishwasher is a pretty easy thing to do, but it’s even easier for your partner, so it’s irritating to have to do.
When emptying the dishwasher becomes incorporated into your daily life, it’s becomes no longer a discrete act, but a responsibility that has been placed unjustly on your shoulders. What was irritation builds into rage, and eventually you burst.
For others, it’s driving. Maybe your partner has a problem with emotional control behind the wheel of a car. A single driver not signalling a lane change sends them flying into a rage. They start shouting names and driving erratically, contributing massive stress to your life. You can only take so much, and the desire builds to confront this problem in your partner.
In both of these cases, we see negative emotions are produced as a result of a ‘trigger’ on a consistent basis. Every time one of you neglects to empty the dishwasher, the other gets a little more annoyed. Every time one of you flips out on another driver, the need to address irrational anger gets a little more prominent. Every time something happens, negative emotions predictably occur within your relationship.
Until a breaking point is hit. One of you cant take any more irritation, or any more anger, from the other; and so a burst happens.
This is normal.
What determines whether or not you need couples counselling isn’t the fact that you’re dealing with these pent up emotions. It’s whether or not your relationship can process them in a way that is good for the relationship.
You cannot put two human beings in the same space and not expect conflict over a long enough period. Conflict is nothing to be worried about. The only thing conflict tells you is that both of you are, in fact, human.
But what does that conflict do?
If one of you bursts, and the relationship changes to prevent future build-up of negative feelings, ensuring that a burst like this never happens again, then you are not in need of couples counselling.
If one of you bursts, and you continue to get back into the same fights again and again, on a circular, repeating basis; you have a communication problem that could benefit from the insight of an trained, experienced, independent observer.
If you choose to go without, you may well be choosing to simply accept the stress, tension, and resentment that comes from this ‘circle’ for the rest of your life. Without a healthy change to the way your relationship responds to these bursts, you can only expect them to happen again and again forever; or an unhealthly change, where one of you simply ‘gives up’ and accepts stress and resentment as a simple part of life.
Neither of these alternatives are good, and neither are necessary. To avoid getting into the same fights over the same things for the rest of your relationships, or avoiding fights by giving up on your legitimate needs, wants, and expectations; simply get in touch with Capital Choice. All you need to get out of these nasty circles is the right perspective, and that’s exactly what you get with couples counselling.
Its Easier Not To Talk
Good communication is not something that good relationships ‘have’. Those with good communication skills have good relationships.
Its popular to believe that when you find the right person, things will simply ‘click’, and strong communication will come naturally.
There is a grain of truth to this belief, but taking it too far can be very dangerous for a relationship. Two people in a committed, long-term relationship are in a relationship because they have found compatibility with each other. They are able to talk and share things with each other that no-one else can. But to take that observation and conclude that they must therefore be able to naturally talk and share everything with each other is dangerous and illogical.
The fact of the matter is that much of the time, we can’t even articulate to ourselves the things we think and feel. When it comes to the thoughts and feelings at our core, doing so is a massive struggle, one of the most difficult parts of being human. Even if we are capable of getting to the core of who we are and how we feel, the task of then bearing this information out to another multiplies the effort required.
Being honest with oneself is difficult enough that many choose to avoid doing so altogether. So its not hard to understand why communicating with another can be such a struggle.
If you’re struggling to communicate, chances are you’re doing things right.
If you expect that communication should not be a struggle, perhaps you’re avoiding struggling with the possibility that it is.
The fact is that communication is hard. But it’s not impossible. Like any skill, it takes consistent practice.
But not just any practice. Its generally said that practice makes perfect, but when it comes to communicating in a relationship, only perfect practice makes perfect.
If you make mistakes regularly when communicating, you are practicing bad habits, and becoming better at being a poor communicator. One of the most popular mistakes that most people practice every day, concerns ‘I’ VS. ‘You’ language.
‘I’ vs. ‘You’ Language
Most fights happen because partners are trying to articulate the way that they feel as a result of a partners action, words, feelings, etc. But instead of articulating their feelings (which is hard) they articulate actions (which is easier).
Consider: “You drank too much at the Christmas party. You embarrassed me in front of my coworkers.”
If your partner said this to you, but you didn’t agree, it might sound like a criticism. With the right tone, it may even sound like an attack. When people are being criticized or attacked for doing things they feel are totally legitimate, they get defensive.
What isn’t obvious here is that the ‘critical’ partner isn’t actually trying to criticize at all. They simply want to know that the other understands how they feel, they want to hear “I understand” or “I’m sorry”. But instead they get something to the effect of “you’re wrong”. On your side, you feel as though you are only protecting your legitimate feelings on the matter. On the other, however, it feels as though you are denying the legitimacy of your partners feelings; so just like you, they get defensive.
Both of you simply want to know that the other understands and cares. But what ends up happening is that constant ‘you’ statements make you feel like they don’t care to understand. “You did X”, “Well you do Y”, “Well at least I don’t do Z!” back and forth it goes until its easier to simply walk away from the discussion.
Instead, try ‘I’ statements:
“I felt embarrassed at the Christmas party. I don’t think it was appropriate to become drunk around my co-workers.”
Right away, the available responses to this are different. We’re not being accused this time, not having a belief or criticism pushed on us. We’re talking about feelings now, specifically ones that upset the one you love. Two people in love don’t want the other upset, so they can collaborate to solve a problem they both want solved. Not that you drink too much, but that drinking past a certain point makes your partner upset.
It may be the case that the solution in this case is for the accused to drink less. But it may also be the case that the accuser needs to adjust their expectations. Most likely, both need to adjust in order to strike a peaceful balance. As long as communication sticks to ‘you’ statements, the emphasis will always be on the other, and not on both.
Capital Choice Counselling
These are just two examples of the unique insight that Capital Choice Counselling can bring to a troubled relationship. If you find that you and your partner are experiencing recurring negative patterns, or are struggling to effectively communicate, get in touch with Capital Choice.