Can Counselling Save a Relationship?
When things between you and your partner aren’t going well, it can affect your mental health and make you feel lonely and resentful. Luckily, problems in your relationship don’t mean it’s unsalvageable. Often the solution can be couples counselling that can teach you how to communicate more efficiently and break the old patterns that make your relationship suffer. If you already made it to this page hoping to find a solution, trying to make it work is definitely worth a shot.
Read on to find out how relationship counselling works, what to expect and if it can save your relationship.
Is Saving a Relationship Possible?
In short, yes. 70% of couples who try counselling benefit from it.  Previous studies show that couples therapy can improve your coping skills, resolve various relationship issues, and help you with mental health issues.  However, even though counselling has the potential to save a relationship, it won’t turn you or your partner into a completely different person.
At its essence, the goal of relationship counselling is to learn skills that will allow you to work through your differences and communicate more effectively. To make it happen, both you and your partner have to be open to self-development and willing to look at each other’s behaviour less subjectively.
What Issues Make People Seek Couples Counselling?
No relationship is perfect and having disagreements now and then isn’t unhealthy. But if relationship problems cause chronic stress and start affecting other areas of your life, it’s time to seek help before it turns into a more severe issue such as depression.
The typical reasons to seek couples counselling include a significant change such as retirement, unemployment or losing a job. Counselling can also help with communication problems, cheating and infidelity, infertility, substance misuse, mental health issues, sexual difficulties, cultural differences, and anger management issues.
The issue you’re dealing with isn’t always straightforward. One day, things might work out great between you and your partner, and then you might suddenly wake up feeling resentful towards them. Sometimes your partner’s behaviour isn’t necessarily at fault, but the problem might lie with a lack of communication.
For example, if your partner works late and you feel they focus more on work than spending time with you, you might start feeling frustrated and believe they no longer care about you while in fact, they make it their priority to work hard to for the arrival of your future baby.
Suppose you don’t communicate your needs to your partner. In that case, there’s a chance your negative emotions will build up, and you might start engaging in passive-aggressive behaviour that will strain your relationship even further. Your partner might respond to your distance and unspoken frustration with further distance, further damaging the relationship.
If you’ve noticed that you don’t spend as much time with your partner as you used to, the communication is reduced and ineffective, and your sex life suffers, it may be time to consider couples therapy.
What To Expect From Relationship Counselling?
Counselling isn’t meant to be a quick fix and won’t be beneficial if both parties aren’t committed to doing the work. If both you and your partner still struggle with the aftermath of childhood experiences such as trauma or abuse, it might be worth considering individual counselling as well.
Unlike individual therapy, relationship counselling doesn’t typically delve into past personal problems but focuses on your current habits and communication patterns. This type of therapy focuses on the relationship, not a particular individual. A therapist will ask you and your partner about your couple’s issues and the way you deal with and attempt to solve disagreements within the relationship. You’ll be encouraged to listen to each other’s concerns and feelings and receive homework to do in-between sessions. For example, your therapist might ask you to practise simple communication skills when a disagreement arises at home, such as listening to your partner’s explanation before jumping to conclusions.
The aim of couples therapy is mainly to learn to communicate better. This is because not being able to communicate your needs and being able to understand and respect your partner’s needs is often at the core of relationship problems. You’ll learn that every problem is better looked at in terms of both partners’ needs and skills they might be lacking. For example, if one of you cheats, it’s not helpful to label their behaviour as wrong and expect them to fix it. There may be other things to consider, such as loneliness, lack of connection and the partner’s inability to talk about their needs not being met in the relationship. Of course, this does not mean that cheating would be justified. While recognising that cheating is a hurtful behaviour that can significantly undermine trust, it may represent the most prominent symptom of other, more deep-seated issues within the relationship.
In short, relationship counselling can help you discover the cause and mechanisms of conflict between you and your partner. It will also help you make improvements by letting you see things from your partner’s point of view and giving you skills to work on your communication and expressing emotions and needs effectively.
For example, if you and your partner don’t communicate effectively, you’re less likely to raise your concerns when you feel uncomfortable or upset about something. If you catch your partner frequently leaving the room while speaking on the phone, you might jump to conclusions and start wondering if they’re hiding something. This can lead to a lot of anxiety and frustration. However, if you approach your partner and be honest about how you feel, you might find out they’ve been advising their friend on a sensitive topic that they promised they wouldn’t share with anyone else. The key here is to keep in mind that for a relationship to work, it’s essential to move from competition to collaboration: work with your partner, not against them!
What Happens If Relationship Counselling Doesn’t Work?
As mentioned before, the key to successful couple therapy is the will to resolve the conflict between the partners and improve communication skills to help them cope with disagreements better in the future. If you break up despite going to counselling sessions, it might be a sign only one of you is committed to the relationship.
Additionally, while couples counselling can be a huge help for some, other couples might realise their differences are impossible to overcome and decide it’s best to part ways. Sometimes letting go is the best option. In these cases, it may be worth considering individual therapy, especially if you noticed unhelpful patterns in the history of your romantic relationships.
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Top Tips For Healthy Relationship
If your relationship is suffering, chances are it’s not only one partner’s fault. Here are some things you can do to improve things between you and your partner before counselling begins:
Improve the way you handle conflicts
If your partner does something that upsets you, make sure you sit down with your emotions before you confront them. Try to use “I” statements to avoid sounding accusatory when you do. This will give your partner a chance to understand the way their actions affected you without feeling the need to defend themselves. This way, you’ll reduce the chances that a disagreement or disappointment develops into an argument or, worse, a fight!
Don’t forget self-care
When things aren’t going great between you and your partner, it’s easy to let yourself obsess over it, but you should remember to take care of your health first. The best way to do this is by practising self-care. Relationships require time, effort and careful cultivation. If this is temporarily impossible because you are distant from one another or it is not the right time to address your couple’s problems, you could use this as a self-care opportunity. Make sure you devote time to your hobbies or sign up for a class to learn something new. Remember to do something nice for yourself every day too. For example, you could have a bath, treat yourself to new clothes or watch a movie you love.
Understand that conflicts are normal
No relationship is perfect, and the way you and your partner deal with disagreements matters more than the disagreements themselves. No matter how compatible you both are, you’re still different people with different perspectives, so you can’t expect to be always on the same page. While a good relationship is about reaching a compromise, you have to learn to accept each other’s limits first. Having conflicts doesn’t mean you’re not suitable for one another. Working through conflicts effectively constitutes the foundation of the strongest and longer-lasting relationships.
Try to spend quality time together
If you and your partners don’t share any hobbies, committing to trying a new thing every other weekend might help your relationship strengthen. It might not be easy to find the time when life commitments get in the way, but sharing experiences will help you strengthen the connection with your partner. For example, you could make sure you have a date night every other weekend. You could simply dine out or go on a short trip – anything goes as long as you’re away from distractions and can focus entirely on each other.
Don’t underestimate acts of kindness
All relationships have ups and downs, but even the worst argument doesn’t mean your love for them vanishes. Make sure you’re kind towards your partner even if you aren’t currently on the best terms. You might not be able to work things out yet, but it’s important to let your partner know that you care about them. For example, if you usually do the laundry, so your partner has time to go to their class, don’t stop doing it just because you recently had a disagreement. At the same time, you should continue to make sure that you communicate your needs to prevent this from building frustration and turning into a long-term problem.
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Tips to Make the Most of Relationship Counselling
Think about therapy goals
To make the most out of your counselling sessions, think of goals you want to achieve that are more specific than simply wanting to “fix” your relationship. For example, you might want to feel more heard by your partner or hope you can both learn to express your emotions better. Ask yourself, ‘what would my relationship look like if I felt happy with it again?”
Be prepared for things to get worse before they get better
Counselling can initially cause more disagreements between you and your partner, partly because it might be easier for your partner to open up in front of someone they see as impartial. You might find the source of your partner’s behaviour that isn’t something that crossed your mind before. For example, your partner’s lack of intimacy might come from having problems at work rather than cheating. You might also realise that problems are more significant and deep-seated than you previously thought. For example, if your partner has been distant lately, you might find out he or she struggles with mental issues
Commit to therapy
If your first sessions cause more disagreements between you and your partner, take it as a sign the therapy is needed and commit to it even if it makes things temporarily worse. Remember that just because you have a lot to work on doesn’t mean you and your partner aren’t compatible or your relationship is failing. If you both want to do the work, your relationship will likely not only survive but also grow more robust.
Focus on changing yourself and how you communicate, not your partner
Even if you’re the one who suggested counselling, it doesn’t mean your partner is the only one who has things to work on. Instead of trying to fix your partner, focus on getting the most out of therapy and improving skills you aren’t great at, for example, talking about your emotions, admitting when you’re wrong and apologising. Sometimes we tend to put all of our focus on our partner’s flaws and forget that relationships are a 2-way street. If you repetitively use ineffective communication features such as passive-aggressive remarks, your partner might start losing patience and respond with similar behaviour to avoid feeling cornered. This might essentially bring out the worst in them and put you in a vicious cycle where you both trigger each other without realising it.
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Saving Your Relationship With Couples Therapy
Dealing with problems in your relationship can be stressful and isolating, but there are ways to address them. Don’t wait until therapy is the last resort, and get professional treatment today.
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How to convince your partner to try couples counselling