Our intimate relationships are fundamental to our wellbeing. They are an environment in which we unfold throughout our lives, and which stimulate and support our growth as human beings. Our most intimate relationships also have the potential for the greatest emotional pain. Part of the journey of relationship is that as we become closer, we expose more and more of who we really are, including the parts of us which need acceptance and healing. We show aspects of ourselves to our partner that we don’t show to anyone else. We see parts of the other which may be difficult to accept or like. When we open ourselves to one another in this way we become vulnerable, and if we are not received fully by the other we can react to this with defensiveness or withdrawal.
Help for Relationships
At times the hurt and defensiveness become so great that couples find it difficult to heal the wounds and move forwards by themselves. They may find themselves in patterns of behaviour and communication with each other which seem to repeat and not get anywhere. Couples can lose connection with each other and become more and more distant as time moves on. A trained and empathic counsellor can assist a couple to unwind these cycles and get to the emotions which lie beneath. There is hope for relationships and marriages even when they have reached points of great difficulty and separation. It is possible to not only return to the way the relationship used to be, but have it become deeper, stronger, more loving and meaningful than it has ever been. As individuals we are offered the potential of personal growth and healing which goes beyond the relationship to all other aspects of who we are in the world. The troubles and trials the couple has been through can emerge as positive events which have stimulated growth as individuals and as a relationship.
What happens in relationship counselling?
You will be supported to rediscover or create anew the meaning and purpose in your relationship or marriage. Over time you will open up, refresh and enliven your connection to each other and dissolve the barriers to intimacy with care and respect. The counselling occurs in a safe, neutral space in which each person can feel heard and understood. The presence of someone who supports both partners equally naturally facilitates an atmosphere of co-operation. You will both be given plenty of space to tell your side of the story. As a couple you will become more aware of the ways in which your communication is not being effective. As you both take responsibility for your own part in this, the communication styles will change to include more care, honesty, vulnerability and intimacy. You will explore the deeper layers of what is occurring for both of you. It is an opportunity to come in contact with and shift patterns, wounds and belief systems which may have been affecting you for much of your life. It is an opportunity to support your partner to transcend their own self-defeating habits. As the process unfolds we may spend time exploring relevant elements of each individual’s story. This is similar to individual counselling, but with the important addition that the other partner is a witness. This allows that partner to see, feel, and understand the history and context in which the other is acting or reacting. It builds compassion for the partner and gives context to some behaviours which might seem like overreactions or unfair. This counselling process is an intimate dance between direct couple work and the facilitation of each partner’s individual healing journey. This relationship counselling process uses Transpersonal tools as well as those of Emotion-Focused-Therapy. It offers the benefits of a traditional marriage counselling approach but also has tools, techniques and perspectives which are much broader and have greater potential for deep lasting change. You will be supported to explore and become more aware of aspects of yourself beyond thinking and talking. You will have an opportunity to get in touch with and express deep emotions. You may discover new tools, sources of wisdom, or aspects of yourself which have been undeveloped. Meditation, imagination, expression, movement may all enter the process. The kinds of tools and practices which are employed are tailored to your needs and what feels comfortable or meaningful for both of you.
Types of relationship supported
Most commonly the people who come to relationship counselling are couples in a romantic relationship or marriage who are having difficulties and want to remain together. However this counselling process is also effective for other circumstances or types of relationship, where many of the principles and basic processes described above still apply.
Divorce / separation counselling
Where the couple ending the marriage or relationship want to retain as much of the friendship, connection and love as possible through the transition of the relationship. This is often particularly important in a marriage where children are involved.
This can assist a couple to clarify the marriage commitment they are about to make and to enter the marriage with clarity, grounding and direction. It helps the couple to become clear about each other’s expectations, hopes and concerns about the commitment they are planning to make through marriage. This process can set the foundation for a successful and long-lasting marriage. Counselling support is of course offered for couples who wish to embark on a non-traditional marriage or some other form of commitment ceremony.
Same sex / gay couples counselling
Counselling for homosexual couples is treated in the same way as heterosexual relationships are. Whilst there can be factors which are more specific to homosexual relationships, these enter the counselling process as they are felt to be relevant by the couple themselves. Of course a supportive and non-judgemental space is offered for gay couples.
Polyamorous / open relationships
People or couples who are exploring non-monogamous relationships can have particular support needs in relation to these choices. It can be difficult to find counsellors who offer not only a non-judgemental space, but also truly respect the deeper themes and values that often accompany this path. Whilst currently in a monogamous relationship of ten years, I have personal experience of open relationships and have many close friends who choose this way of relating. I offer support for polyamorous individuals, couples and lovers to work through their relationships in conscious and loving ways.
Some couples may choose to come to counselling not because their relationship is in difficulty, but in order to explore its full potential. The relationship can become truly wonderful and a vehicle for personal and spiritual growth.
Some of the most intense relationships we have are with our family. It can often be helpful to seek the support of someone who is removed from the family dynamic and can equally support each of its members.
Friends can also pass through times of hurt, loss of trust or connection. It is a sign of deep value for the friendship that friends are willing to seek help to heal the relationship.
Business partners, co-workers, housemates….