Relationships, Couple Counselling and that Wedding
The recent royal wedding with lashings of pomp, pageantry and romance was presented as a celebration of an almost idealised relationship. The day evoked a sense of togetherness. The overwhelming impression was of a couple who were determined on their special day to do things their way.
The nature of that wedding provided a reminder that there can be no single right way to celebrate a relationship. Each wedding or each celebration is unique to that couple. It is also important to recognise that after that ceremony has ended it is often then that the real work within each relationship begins.
Friends and family who are close to the couple will often have a view on how things should be with regard to the ongoing development of the relationship. That is likely to be particularly so for those who live a very public life.
A challenge for the couple can come if discordant voices emerge from those who have been significant figures of influence. The couple may want to listen to whatever comes from respected and well-loved figures but to do so whilst developing that sense of independence. No one is likely to have the unique insight into the relationship which each of the two involved people will develope.
Perhaps however the most challenging time is when it is apparent that very different views on important issues are held by the other person in the relationship. Yet alternative views should not be surprising. Over time when two people live so closely with each other, differences will inevitably occur in all but the most harmonious of relationships. The issue is not so much how to avoid differences but more about how to successfully resolve them.
Whether the disagreement is within an intimate relationship in one’s personal life or at a team meeting within an organisation, the good practice rules about managing disagreements remains the same. Listen to what is being said. Hear the other person out and reflect before responding. Basic steps which are so well known, easy to say but sometimes so very difficult to hold to particularly if there are emotions bubbling away ranging from bruised feelings at an insensitive remark to anger and incandescent rage at a betrayal.
Usually couples will become intuitively skilled at managing conflicts within their relationship. Much is made of escalating divorce rates but the reality is that many relationships survive difficult times because of the love and tolerance shown by each person.
Sometimes however the emotion may be too raw, the hurt too great or the sense of betrayal so incomprehensible that attempts at dialogue become disruptive and just exacerbate an already fraught situation. It can be then that external support may be helpful. It is on those occasions that couple counselling work can be useful in facilitating a return to that reflective and listening position.
Yet relationship counselling can be challenging. To invite a stranger into the privacy of an intimate and private relationship is a brave step to take. Often as therapists we will hear the comment that it was an act of necessity or desperation. The decision to go for couple counselling was a final throw of the dice if the relationship was to have any chance of continuing.
Whatever the reason for the decision to involve the therapist, there is from my experience one important factor which should always underpin a move towards couple counselling. The decision to seek support from the therapist or counsellor must come from the couple and not one of those well-meaning friends or family.
It is your relationship. You and your partner own it and live it. You will be the best judge as to whether you and your partner can resolve those differences together or whether additional input from a trained relationship counsellor is needed.
Relationships can be confirmed in a ceremony with great celebration or with a quiet restrained acknowledgement. Whatever the form it is likely to be some time later that the real challenges emerge. There are a myriad of ways in which those difficult challenges can be dealt with including discussion with friends, seeking advice from family or with some serious talking together over a midnight glass of wine.
Couple counselling is just one more option to consider. It is a bold step but for some couples it will be the right one to take.
The independence of the therapist who does not have allegiance to either party can often provide a new dynamic which may be sufficient to encourage the relationship to pause, draw breath and then move on. For some couples it will be a sensible move to make.