Successful, intimate relationships take continuous care on both sides to sustain through change, adversity and pressure. Quality connections start to break down when one or both parties stop looking after their partner’s needs, whether this be around:
• Trust and respect
• Physical intimacy
• Relationship equity
• Personal growth
• Quality time
Regardless of age, time together, or relationship experience, couples will encounter difficulty, disagreement and disappointment – an unpleasant, albeit unavoidable symptom of a partnership, and life. The way we handle issues in a relationship is a marker for the future satisfaction and success of a relationship, or one that is headed towards crisis.
Healthy and constructive couple coping strategies may involve talking through issues openly and respectfully, perspective taking to see the other person’s viewpoint, constructive problem-solving; and concession making when a win-win may not see one partner completely getting their own way.
Relationships generally start to show cracks when less constructive strategies are used in the face of disagreement. These may include:
• Name-calling and personalising issues (“You’re an idiot!” “This wouldn’t have happened if you weren’t such an insensitive so and so”)
• Blaming your partner (“This is all your fault!”)
• Issue escalation (“If you don’t want to help out around the house then don’t live here!”)
• Proliferation of past issues (“And what about that time when you…..”)
• Engaging in tit for tat (“I will only do this, if you do that. And if you stop doing what I expect of you, I will stop doing what you expect of me.”)
• Stonewalling tactics or issue avoidance (i.e. “I’m not discussing this with you” [Pretends to be asleep or experience phone reception issues to shut down further conversation])
Any of these sound familiar? Over time, less constructive strategies generally lead to the growth of bad habits in relationships with couples harbouring resentment, disappointment, disengagement or frustration towards each other.
Marriage or relationship counselling can be a constructive gear change for couples in these situations. When both parties recognise they are off track and when there is a genuine interest and motivation to work on rebuilding quality connections, counselling may support couples to work through their issues in an objective and productive environment. Couples can be challenged around behaviours, habits or thinking styles that are maladaptive or acting as roadblocks to couple harmony. Unfortunately, many couples leave counselling as a ‘last resort’, and frequently it is a case of too little, too late. Particularly, if one or both parties are apathetic or indifferent to the course of their relationship.
Cause Effect Psychology offers marriage and relationship counselling in a manner that focuses on rebuilding connections without attributing judgement or partner blame. Senior psychologists at Cause Effect, with formal Gottman Therapy training and experience, ensure a high quality, ethical appropriation of therapy for couples in strain or distress. We also work with couples who are seeking to further enhance or envigorate their marriage or relationship given life transitions (i.e. retirement, empty nesters, bringing baby home, death or illness in the family, etc.) that can change the relationship dynamic.
If you would like to speak confidentially to one of our psychologists to learn more about our marriage and relationship counselling services and how they may improve your partnership, please contact our clinic on 07 3207 1851 or see our specialty site The Couples Clinic.
Written by Kasia Gordon – Cause Effect Psychology