What comes to mind when you think about couples counselling? Is it something that interests you, intrigues you or possibly makes you feel fearful? Do you think that couples counselling is only for couples experiencing extreme crisis and not for you?
Happiful’s sister site, Counselling Directory, spoke with therapists Jenny Oyston and Lucy Fuller about why people seek couples counselling and how it can be a positive step for any partnership. As Jenny suggests, it’s all about the Triple A effect...
Couples counselling can help increase your awareness and
understanding of one another and your individual
Working with a counsellor can help to enhance a sense
of acceptance of each person and their own concerns and issues.
Couples counselling can be a catalyst for change and
can support a couple to agree points for action moving forwards.
But, what are the reasons that make couples seek counselling?
Jenny and Lucy both agree that there are a number of very common reasons for couples to have counselling together. Jenny is keen to point out that one of the major catalysts for seeking help can be the 'downward spiral' of negative interactions. “Change in circumstances for one or both partners can be stressful and exaggerate what one partner sees as a negative aspect of the other’s behaviour.
“In stressful times we want our partner to be there for us and able to 'hold' our anxieties for us, but if both partners are under stress and both in need of support, this becomes very difficult and can lead to arguments, or what I call ‘the downward spiral’, leaving both partners feeling negative about themselves and the other, leading to feelings of resentment, dissatisfaction, blame, depression and loneliness.”
Lucy believes that some of the most common stressors that also prompt couples to look for support are:
- Difficulty navigating important life stages, such as becoming parents,
empty nest syndrome or retirement.
- Drifting apart - this is often a problem that results from poor or little
- Affairs - the threat (real or perceived) of an affair.
- Mismatched expectations - these can be unexplored areas of conflict, usually
resulting from messages learned in their respective families of birth.
- Relationship is not prioritised - one partner may throw themselves into
work or childcare and the other feels neglected.
- Sexual intimacy - or lack of.
Sexual desire and feeling sexually attractive both change over time and are also affected when we go through a stressful period in life
Sexual intimacy, or the lack of sexual intimacy is also a very common reason for visiting a couples counsellor. “The initial period of a relationship when sex is frequent and exciting does not last in the same way into long term relationships” Jenny explains. “Sexual desire and feeling sexually attractive both change over time and are also affected when we go through a stressful period in life.
“Lack of intimacy in a relationship is not an issue if it suits both partners, but where sexual needs are different it can become a problem.”
Lucy agrees and believes that counselling can help to alleviate issues around intimacy by helping partners to articulate what they want and how they feel, in a safe space. “Each person can be helped to explore their changing needs and share these with their partner in an environment which respect each person’s sensitivity, doubts and fears. The counsellor has a number of strategies available to help, but very often, simply finding appropriate words to use can work wonders.”
The benefits of couples counselling
Counselling will offer the support and safe space to move forwards in a more positive way, ensuring each person has had an opportunity to be heard
Jenny sums this up, neatly. “Couples counselling can help partners to really listen and hear what each other are saying and work together to rekindle the empathy and love within their relationship.”
Although not every relationship will be improved through couples counselling (a decision not to remain together may be made), counselling will offer the support and safe space to move forwards in a more positive way, ensuring each person has had an opportunity to be heard.
Finding the right counsellor for you
Through Counselling Directory, you can find counsellors in your local area and read more about how they practise and the areas they specialise in. Take advantage of an initial free consultation or phone call, to both decide whether the counsellor is right for you and ask them anything that may concern you - draw a list up in advance if you can. You may wish to consider the gender of the counsellor or whether they expressly say that they work with LGBTQ+ couples.
Making a decision about the counsellor you choose, together, can be the first step in process committing to a better route forward in your relationship.