Does couple counselling work?

 

It depends how it is done. The new science of love relationships is informing us how best to approach therapy with couples. When these newer approaches are studied the results have been astoundingly positive, much better than the studies of previous therapies.

 

When these newer approaches are used couples report that they feel more secure and satisfied with their relationship. Their mental health improves as well, and they are less depressed and anxious. They also are able to hold onto the changes they make long after therapy has ended. Choosing someone familiar with newer approaches that consider the emotional component of relationships is recommended. 

Frequently Asked Questions

 

We just seem to fight so much, what is going on?

 

For some couples disagreements are highly charged and emotional.  Each feels they are fighting for something so very important to them - that something extremely valuable is at stake.  If these fights continue the  couple can  fall into repetitive patterns of behavior that can plunge them into cycles of intense fighting and withdrawal. Overtime they may have more and more difficulty getting re-connected to the the love and good feelings that they previously had together. Miscommunications increase as these carry-overs of negative feelings persist and grow.

 

It is important to realize that disappointment, disillusionment and arguing are present to varying degrees in all couple relationships. Contrary to popular belief, it takes intention and effort for relationships to work well.  It can be wise to receive help to figure this out so that you both can find out what you are really fighting for. The answers may surprise you.  Once you know - disagreements are much easier to manage. Then you can use differences to move you forward into a more secure and happy life together.

How does therapy help?

 

All couples have issues that they will grapple with. It’s not differences that cause problems in relationships, it’s how the differences are dealt with. Good therapy aims to help couples restore trusting, safe connection so they can each express, and get their needs met.  Relationships get better or worse, one interaction at a time.

 

To really help couples find happiness, we help them shore up the foundation of their relationship. This involves helping them relay a strong base of trust, and rebuild their emotional connection. The key to restoring connection is, first, interrupting and dismantling destructive sequences and then actively constructing a more secure and receptive way of interacting. It gets easier once you try it out, and realize the benefits.

What if there has been a betrayal or an affair?

 

Therapy can help couples recover from a betrayal or affair. Many couples do recover, and some build an even stronger relationship than before. That is not to say it is an easy road. Couple or marriage counselling can help couples learn to “infidelity proof” their relationship. However it cannot repair relationships when one of the partners have already decided not to reengage in the relationship.

 

Sometimes the person having an affair thinks they have fallen out of love with their partner, when this is not the case. It is easy to misconstrue the intense feelings that come with an affair, when compared with a relationship in trouble. It is wise before they decide, for each to look closely at what they are giving up should they chose to exit the marriage. Therapy can also help individuals manage the grief and sadness that accompanies the end of a relationship, if that should occur. 

We have had years of stability but now something is not right?

 

It is normal for couples who have been happily together for years, and have  great relationships to go through difficult periods.  Additions to a family or children leaving the home can be particularly stressful times. Economic hardship, job loss, life transitions, and family illness are other stressors that can impact  couple relationships.

 

Retirement can be particularly challenging if you are not prepared. During changing times, it is extra important to maintain an understanding approach to your partner, and request that for yourself.  It makes sense to plan for impending retirement and the impact it may have on your relationship. This can be a great time to revitalize your couple life as you envision your next chapter together.

What about sexual problems?

 

Couple therapy can be a place where couples talk about their sexual problems. Sexual problems are often linked to relationship problems between the partners. These problems involve deep feelings and often go to the heart of the day-to-day couple relationship.

 

A common misunderstanding is that a lack of sexual interest necessarily indicates a loss of love or commitment. A couple therapist sensitive to these issues can help you achieve a better understanding of how your shared sex life may be affecting you and your partner, and also how your couple relationship impacts this sensitive area.

 

There are sometimes physical causes for sexual problems.  Sexual dysfunction can be a one of the symptoms of certain medical conditions as well as a side effect of certain medications. Sometimes just getting more rest and rebalancing the work load of each partner can have a positive impact. Physical and health issues should be considered, and getting a medical assessment can be an important first step.  

What can I expect when coming to couple counselling?

 

During the beginning of counselling, you will have a chance to express:

 

  • the concerns you each have  

  • your perception of the problems

  • what your hopes are for the couple counselling

  • the impact the difficulties are  having on each of you and the relationship

  • what you have tried so far to make things better 

  • the positive parts of your relationship

  • how ready you are to make changes that could help your relationship

 

You can expect that your situation will be treated respectfully and specific to the problems you have together. The therapist will bring their expertise in moving the conversation in certain directions, but will always check to make sure of the relevancy and benefit to the particular couple. 

What if I have concerns about couple counselling?

 

Most therapists understand that for some people it can be difficult to attend counselling and will make an effort to make It as comfortable as possible.

 

Some typical concerns are:

 

  • I will be blamed and criticized

  • it will only make things worse

  • I won’t know what to say or how to express myself

  • I will look foolish

 

It is quite common for clients to experience relief and pleasant surprise that the session was much less stressful than they had expected. An experienced couple counsellor is trained to understand the concerns about therapy. An important part of their job is help partners give voice to the problems, and to frame these in a way that is not blaming and critical of their partner. 

What if my partner won’t go to therapy?

 

Some people with marital problems won’t seek help even when it is essential. Changes  happen more readily when both partners are willing to participate.  However, not everyone will come or has a willingness to change.

 

Coming on your tends to spark a partner’s interest, and will give you some useful ideas about how to improve the relationship from your side. You will also discover some better ways to approach your partner about the idea of coming to couple counselling with you.

 

 If your partner won’t go to therapy there is still hope. Although it is harder to fix a distressed marriage on your own, you can individually do things which can have a positive impact, and will help you feel empowered.

What is marriage preparation?

 

Most people spend far more time in preparation for their wedding than they do in preparation for their married life together. The wedding is over in a day, the marriage hopefully will last a lifetime.  Find out which soul-searching questions are the ones you need to ask your partner to make sure that you have talked about the important things you will need to know before you marry.

 

Couples that are wondering about compatibility, will be much more confident about whether or not to pursue marriage after completing some in-depth and personal questions and discussing these together. We will  cover factors that lead to success-or failure-in a relationship, and how to build a good decision-making partnership. 

Can I do relationship counselling if I am single?

 

Yes, relationship counselling can be very helpful whether you are in a relationship or not. Discover some reasons why you may not have found happiness in past relationships. Learn what the key elements of success are. Relationship counselling can help you with all kinds of relationships in your life. 

We have had years of stability but now something is not right?

 

It is normal for couples who have been happily together for years, and have  great relationships to go through difficult periods.  Additions to a family or children leaving the home can be particularly stressful times. Economic hardship, job loss, life transitions, and family illness are other stressors that can impact  couple relationships.

 

Retirement can be particularly challenging if you are not prepared. During changing times, it is extra important to maintain an understanding approach to your partner, and request that for yourself.  It makes sense to plan for impending retirement and the impact it may have on your relationship. This can be a great time to revitalize your couple life as you envision your next chapter together.

Susan Leslie M.Ed R.Psych

Couples  Marriage and Relationship Therapist

 

susan@susanleslie.ca

403-264-6175

#226 - 2505 - 17 Ave. S.W. Calgary, Alberta T3E 7V3 

 

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Copyright 2014 Alexander Gordon Lafreniere