Committing yourself to another human is one of the greatest sources of happiness for people. The fact that humans are ‘pack animals’ means that the comfort gained from having another human in close company is paramount. This is arguably why the topic of love and relationships has intrigued society for thousands of years, resulting in some of the most well known works of art and literature.
While humans crave social contact, intimacy, and support from another person, relationships certainly come with an array of complications and problems. The challenges and struggles that face couples in a relationship, from social to financial, can be very tiresome. From tensions to arguments and personality clashes that inevitably occur from relationships, there can often be the need for relationship counselling.
In reality, there is no concept of ‘the perfect couple’. While movies and TV shows would like to portray to us what ‘perfection’ really is, it simply does not exist amid the challenges of being with someone in a committed, long term relationship. It is completely normal for troubles to arise along the way.
However, when these troubles turn into long term problems and when arguments and fights start creating a toxic energy between you and your partner, the need for relationship counselling can come into play.
Despite some arguments against relationship counselling and myths saying that it only worsens the problems or has a low success rate, the main purpose of relationship counselling is to promote communication. In the vast majority of cases, a lack of communication is the fundamental problem of relationships in crisis. Therefore, with communication being at the key of relationship counselling, it certainly does open the right door.
A study by UCLA psychologists Lisa Benson, Meghan McGinn, and Andrew Christensen found that relationship counselling is most successful when it follows five underlying principles. Whether or not the counsellor takes a behavioural or emotional approach to the therapy, these five core principles pave the way to getting the relationship back on track.
1. Changes Relationship View
With relationship counselling, the overall purpose can often be to change the way the two parties view the relationship. Over time, relationships can sometimes fall into the trap of one person ‘blaming’ the other for their lack of success, or acting in jealous and manipulative ways due to personal unhappiness. Obviously, this is not the key to success.
With this principle of relationship counselling, the therapist takes a look at daily interactions between the couple. It is also about looking at how the couple interacts with each other in different social and physical contexts. How do they greet each other? How does their body language speak? How do they deal with each other’s stresses? This is able to help the therapist alter the way the couple sees their own relationship and find more adaptive ways to continue forward.
2. Reduces Friction by Modifying Dysfunctional Behaviour
Tension that hides under the surface is a big cause of friction. Friction has the risk of blowing up into something that is much bigger, and more destructive to a relationship. Often, friction comes about from behaviours of one person in the relationship that the other sees as dysfunctional or negative in some way. Dysfunctional behaviours can be small, such as not turning the tap off properly, or much bigger, such as domestic violence. First, the therapist will establish the scale of dysfunctionality.
From here, this principle guides the therapist on the best course of action to modify the dysfunctional behaviour. In some cases, it can simply be raising awareness of what they are doing to irritate their partner and getting a conversation happening revolving this behaviour. In other cases, it will be referring the person to a specialized program in abuse, drug rehabilitation, anger management, or whatever it necessary for the behaviour.
3. Reduces Emotional Distress and Avoidance
Coming back to the fundamental key to the success of a relationship being communication, when couples are not able to express their emotions and private feelings, a rift is inevitable. Getting couples to express their deepest feelings, their darkest thoughts, and the things that scare them the most is a big part of the principle.
With this in mind, the therapist will guide the couple through both theoretical and behavioural practices about expressing emotions. Much of this can stem back to childhood attachment issues and underlying unconscious reservations about being vulnerable. The fear of rejection is deeply embedded in human psychology, so overcoming this hurdle between couples is a major stepping stone. This principle guides counsellors to help couples to express their true feelings in a productive way that will help draw them back together.
4. Improves Communication
Communication is part of the ‘three C’s’ of intimacy. Communication, compromise, and commitment are part of the pillars to a happy relationship. When communication falls apart, things start to collapse quite rapidly. It is important that communication isn’t abusive or negative, rather something that is constructive and positive between couples.
When the communication is toxic, relationship counselling can help stop this. Through counselling sessions, couples learn how to communicate better. This is not only about talking to each other, but also about listening in-depth, finding a more supportive and understanding way to have discussions, and taking steps to be more empathetic towards one another.
5. Promotes Positive Strength
Every relationship starts for a reason, and a big part of relationship counselling is helping couples to remember these reasons. Often, relationships fall apart when the struggles of life get in the way of the spark that was ignited in the first place. Much of relationship counselling does focus on the problem areas and tries to solve them, so this principle is about bringing in the positives that already exist and trying to enhance them.
The whole point of promoting positive strength is to help the couple remember what they enjoy about each other’s company. Focussing on the positive emotions, the good memories, and the connection between a couple is a big part of the road to recovery.
To find a counsellor in your area to help your relationship search our directory here.