Categories
Couple Relationships FAQ

Can counselling help a couple to break up?

Are you one of the many people who assume…

“…couple counselling tries to prevent a couple from breaking up…” ?

Then you might be surprised to learn that this commonly held view is a myth!

When people think that couple counselling is for couples who want to stay together, they’re missing the fact that couples who are breaking-up, divorcing or dissolving their civil-partnership can also benefit from using couple counselling to help them end their relationship.

Breaking-up a Couple Relationship.

When couples build their relationship, they acquire assets: physical, tangible and emotional.

Perhaps the couple share accommodation and a joint bank accounts.  They may develop joint responsibilities, and may have friends of the relationship. Many couples may have children, foster care or adopt children. There may be loved pets.

When a couple reaches a place where they may be facing the end of their relationship, matters such as these – and the couples own emotional attachments and distresses – need attending to.

The couple may be angry with each other, emotions may be running high, and there may be lots of blaming. Because of the relationship’s responsibilities & acquisitions, the couple may have to continue seeing each other during the break-up.

Some couples choose to use lawyers to end the relationship for them. This is understandable, the couple may be able to afford this (usually two lawyers), and the lawyers do the communication behalf of couple.

But some couples, at the end of their relationship, are able to work together to legally dissolve their relationship together – often at a much lower cost (financing and emotionally) than using solicitors. A couple counsellor can help the couple find a place where working with each other to dissolve their relationship is possible.

Working with a couple counsellor to end a relationship can be helpful – not least because:-

  • Meetings take place in neutral territory.
  • The Couple Counsellor is an independent third party who does not take sides.
  • Session times are fixed: the couple know when the session is going to end (which can feel quite containing).
  • Any matter can be discussed.
  • Should one or both partners wish to change the focus of the counselling – this can be discussed in session.
  • Counselling helps bring understanding… and this can reduce the need to blame and hurt.

The Couple’s Focus in Counselling.

One of the first things we do in couple counselling is begin to find the focus for counselling.

The focus of a couple’s work will be what the couple want to change about the relationship (including behaviour).  Assisting both partners express what they wish to focus on can help a couple bring a mutual understanding; that they are on the same page and that their direction is an agreed one.  It may be at this stage that the couple learn what the separation is really about – and may decide to work on that whilst postponing a permanent separation.

The couple may need a way to manage their separation – if not with any friendliness then at least with a modicum of tolerance.  That’s not an easy process – for obvious emotional reasons – but the couple can make use of a professional’s experience in helping their relationship to end.

Why choose a Couple Counsellor?

Not all qualified counsellors are qualified in working with couples.  A majority of counselling training qualifications train the counsellor on how to work with an individual, not a couple.

Couple counselling is quite different.  For example…

A counsellor trained only in individual counselling may meet with a couple and may focus upon one partner first (listening to them & offering questions & comments to them).

For example:  ‘how did you feel about his affair?’  (this is called an open question – it invites the individual to say more about a matter). The therapist may then turn to the other partner to repeat the process.

The counsellor is not offering true couple-counselling.

A counsellor trained in couple counselling, will practice neutrality whilst listening to the couple discuss their issues in a way that’s most comfortable to them (perhaps equally, perhaps one partner dominates the other before the counsellor intervenes).  The counsellor may offer questions & comments that addresses the relationship, (rather than the individuals).

For example: ‘Who first noticed that the relationship was breaking down?’ (this is called a circular question – it invites both partners to address their relationship, rather than their individual perspective in isolation).

 

For more information click here: Dean Richardson and his approach to couple counselling.

Divorce & Couple Counselling.

Couples who have engaged in marriage or a civil-partnership may decide that they wish to divorce.  Solicitors will be involved for the legal matters but the couple can still meet weekly with the counsellor to discuss matters about their divorce.

It is normal for an individual wishing to leave a relationship by “saving face”, and there can be pressure to denigrate their partner (because doing so helps the individual to appear or feel better than the partner).

Couples counselling can assist the couple with the separation processes through divorce; both partners may leave the relationship in a neutral (perhaps even friendly – though not essential) way.

Are you a couple thinking about breaking-up?

Whether divorce, dissolving, breaking-up, or separating, couple counselling can assist you in the process of bringing your relationship to an end.

Dean Richardson offers couples counselling in Portsmouth and Southsea (Hampshire) and online via Skype.

 

Categories
Couple Relationships FAQ

On Bringing Couple Counselling to a Close

Couple Relationship Counselling is about working in therapy with conflicts in a couple’s relationship.  The couple can be married, in a civil-partnership, being romantically involved or just simply colleagues who have a relationship (business or personal) that has developed conflicts (read more…).

Closing States of Couple Counselling.

There are two states for the end of couple counselling: resolved and unresolved.

Resolved: when the initial conflicts – plus conflicts that appeared during the course of couple counselling – have been worked through to the couple’s satisfaction. Satisfaction may mean: enough so that the couple can work on the issues themselves without further therapeutic intervention.

Unresolved: when the initial conflicts – or conflicts that appeared during the course of couple counselling – have only been partially worked  through & the couple are still distressed at – or helpless from – the conflicts.

Both of these states can be worked with during an ending to couple counselling. Although resolved might appear to be a better state, it depends upon what the couple want as it’s their relationship (and always has been even with therapeutic intervention).

When a couple decide to end counselling, working toward an ending is an appropriate choice (rather than simply stopping counselling without notice).

Topics for Closing Sessions.

In the final sessions it can be helpful to discuss the following:

  • What matters presented at the assessment for couple counselling (read more…).
  • What matters came up during the couple counselling?
  • What matters do both partners agree that we have worked through?
  • What matters do partners disagree on.
  • What matters are left outstanding (any “unfinished business”) – for both partners together, or for each individual partner?
  • What might the couple wish to do about the unfinished business?
  • What has been gained from the counselling process … and what is being lost as it ends.

A purpose of such a review is so that couples counselling can end with the work being reviewed openly.  Both partners can leave therapy knowing what is agreed as being resolved, and what matters are left unresolved.  Knowing what work is left to do means the couple can consciously continue to work on further matters in their own time and their own way.

Number of Sessions.

The number of sessions to bring couple counselling to a close will be decided in a discussion with the couple.  It’s preferable that an ending to counselling is brought about once the presenting issues have been worked through – so the ending is a case of how many sessions would be required to discuss sufficiently the closing sessions topics.

This, plus any outstanding matters the couple wish to talk about.

Ending Counselling without Final Sessions.

Leaving counselling without such an ending as discussed above can be unhelpful to the couple’s relationship.  Unresolved conflicts can continue in the relationship – assuming that the relationship continues.

Sometimes the couple decide they wish to separate and they leave the relationship (couple counselling can also be used to help a couple to separate) and when the couple no longer maintains the relationship, the counsellor’s “client” (the relationship) can no longer be brought to counselling.  Other types of endings can then be discussed.

So, working towards an ending in couple counselling are an important part of the counselling process.  whether the couple involve the counsellor in the ending or not.

Categories
Couple Relationships

Five Secrets of Happier Couples

As a professional couple’s counsellor, it’s an occupational hazard that I only get to work with unhappy couples.  Fortunately, I often do get to experience a transitional stage where a couple begin to transform their relationship into something that’s more positive and more happy for the two of them.

I am sharing these five “secrets” (not really secret!) based upon my observations.  Whether heterosexual, gay or lesbian, how couples moves their relationship from an unhappy state into a more happier state have common features.

1) Couples spend quality time on their relationship.

At least by the time a couple begins to meet with me for couple therapy, the couple have stopped spending time on the relationship.

This is sometimes due to the fact that sometimes couple learn to not communicate for very good reasons – and by not spending time on the relationship those reasons can be kept under lock and key

Living together is not spending time on the relationship.  The relationship is that thing that the couple have created together (and sometimes begin to destroy together).  Learning what the relationship is for a couple (it can be different for each couple) is the first step. 

  • Some couples set a “date” night once a week. 
  • Some set a meeting night once a week to discuss their relationship.
  • Some keep a “relationship” diary where both partners can write messages to the relationship about what’s going well (or not).

Sometimes a poorly relationship needs some focussed time spending on it.  It can simply be that the couple have forgotten that their relationship needs care, and for a while it needs to be nursed back into help.

2) Couples can hear each other’s communication.

One of the more frequent interventions I make in couple’s counselling is “What did you make of what your partner just said, there?”.

Couples who are in a distressing relationship can often answer “I don’t know”, or misunderstand their partner, or say things like “Well if he/she loved me I wouldn’t need to explain”.  These couples have have lost their skills in communicating.  It can be a very painful state to be in.

Inviting each partner to learn what the other partner is saying can be very helpful.  If a partner gets the communicate message wrong, it’s helpful for the partner to patiently teach the other what was meant (avoiding chastisement).

3) Couples can be comfortable when apart from the relationship.

Some couples have found they have unintentionally excommunicated all their friends to the point where only their partner exists in their world.  There may have been an unintended plan in doing this – I’m talking attachment styles.

When thinking about attachment styles (eg the early relationship of the infant to its caregiver) the infant may be secure; that when mum goes out of the room the infant will carry on playing, knowing at some level that mum will be back in a bit.  On the opposite scale, an insecurely attached infant will be greatly distressed when mum disappears for a little bit. For more on attachment styles, read “Attachment Theory – an Overview”.

Deeply felt insecurities may manifest in the relationship.  Jealously (“where were you all night?”), suspicion (“who are you seeing behind my back?”), are just two manifestations.

Having partners understand how each other attach in intimate relationships can help both partners appreciate where unpopular behaviour stems from (sometimes way back in the past).  Showing consistency (eg going out with the lads every Thursday night causes anxiety, but coming back home at an hour both partners agreed) can greatly help address initial change from insecure attachment to something more secure.  Secure attachment can handle unplanned behaviour (eg coming home late) where as insecure attachment may not.

4) Couples can share the truth / show authenticity.

No-one can tell when you’re lying.  Honest!

There are many reasons why people lie, and as a therapist one of the greatest demands on my practice is consistently authentic.  It’s essential that I demonstrate trust-able behaviour, consistent responses, holding boundaries agreed up front.  It’s a form of replaying the holding care that a care giver does (or should) when the infant is very small.

In the beginning, it’s likely that you and your partner were more truthful with each other than later in the relationship (ever heard of “pillow talk”, for example?)

Introducing inauthentic behaviour or telling lies will be felt at some level by our partner.  If you find there isn’t a place to tell the truth, maybe secret #1 might be the first place to address this.

5) Couples recognise their relationship as being unique.

When problems arise, everyone may have a say: your family, your friends, your partners family & friends, work colleagues, the people next door.  They’ve all been through it… but have they?

In couple therapy, part of my role is to provide an encouraging atmosphere of promoting the couple coming up with ideas and solutions of their own.  I don’t have any exercise that if performed correctly will cure the relationship’s problems.  I have no magic words that will make the unhappiness go away.  But what I do do is help a couple to realise that their relationship is pretty much unique and that they do not have to adhere to what society says is the behaviour of a happy relationship (see Secret #4!).

In society, we usually want to fit in, so we make our behaviour fit with everyone else.  We know that mum and dad never had a bad word and never argued.  We know that the couple over the road were married for 70 years and never spent an might apart.  Except … what people say about how their relationship works may not be quite the truthful story.

Helping a couple to disengage with what they think is supposed to be the right way to behave in a relationship, and helping them engage creatively and with inspiration with what they would both like in the way of relationship-behaviour can contribute greately to making their relationship work … after all, there’s no relationship quite like theirs.