Couples counselling is a great way to make sure that your relationship is fulfilling and rewarding.
Research studies have found that couples counselling has a significant long-term positive impact on the relationship in up to 75% of cases depending on the study.
Considering there are some couples who wait till they are in a dire crisis to seek counselling these are really encouraging numbers.
This is especially true if you are one of the ones who is a bit more proactive and is seeking support before reaching the very end. This may include support at any stage of the relationship.
Just like there are developmental stages we pass through as we grow up there are distinct phases that our intimate relationships experience as well.
The sorts of issues that you need to address when you are new to a relationship where you are still getting to know each other & settle in with each other will be very different from the couple who has been together 20 years.
Early relationship counselling
Early relationship counselling e.g. premarital counselling may focus more on deepening your understanding of each other. This allows you to plan your marriage not just the wedding.
This sort of counselling often explores some of the common trouble areas and major life decisions you will need to make together.
Some of the topics that are reviewed include such things as discussing financial matters, dynamics of your relationship with your extended family, views on children, health, travel, sex, communication, career aspirations to name a few.
Often I hear from couples that there are things they hadn’t thought of or simply hadn’t come up in discussion that they found really meaningful to explore in a place where they both felt comfortable speaking their mind.
From time to time couples ask, “Does it mean that we shouldn’t be together if we have to attend counselling while we are still dating or newly married?” The answer is no. It actually shows that you are taking your relationship seriously & willing to invest in building one that can be sturdy for the long haul before you develop too many bad habits that could damage the relationship.
The middle phase of relationships is marked by a more stable predictable and secure pattern of interactions.
At this point you are well aware of each other’s preferences, quirky egocentricities, and habits. You likely have a home together, possibly children & have been able to navigate some of the ups and downs that life has thrown at you. You may notice that some of the things that were once cute or exciting may wear on your nerves at times. The person who is the life of the party may be great to date but not who you want to depend on for carpool pickup from school.
This is the phase where many couples reach out for a little extra help coping with the new stresses and changes that come at this point in our lives.
Couples sometimes come to counselling at this point to help them have conversations around making changes that may impact the family. Things like one partner deciding to return to university to change careers, a job offer that requires a lot of travel or a move out of town or even overseas, a child who is having health or academic issues that need to be addressed etc.
Unfortunately, some couples find themselves drifting apart or feel the relationship isn’t fulfilling anymore. It is quite possible for couples to pull out of these ruts and be stronger for it.
One of the keys to a functioning relationship is to be able to communicate effectively. This is one life skill that could significantly impact society if it became apart of the core curriculum in primary school alongside Maths and English.
For those who feel that the relationship is well and truly over but they want to have a sense of closure & end the relationship correctly couples counselling can help here as well.
It would be fairly common for folks to be considering leaving a relationship if they are also considering counselling. That sense that something needs to change because you can’t take it any more is often present.
Though many of these couples may have a change of heart after a few sessions when they start feeling things shifting for them as a couple. There are some who have already given it a go and now need some support to move on in a constructive way.
I have seen a lot of couples who have wanted some support to be able to work through things to be able to wind down the relationship and fairly separate out their possessions. They often want to spend a bit of time also on understanding how things got to the way they were so that they don’t repeat the same process in future relationships.
The process of separating on cordial terms is especially important for parents. Just because you choose to relabel your relationship from partners to co-parents doesn’t mean you won’t need to work together. In fact many of the ingredients needed for a good partnership are the same as those for a functional co-parenting relationship. Things such as cooperation, communication, collaboration etc. are essential for either role. You can read more on this topic in the post-separation parenting section of the site.