Meet Greg and Pete
Like many couples, Greg and Pete were at a point in their relationship where they felt ‘stuck in a rut’. They’d been together for 8 years, and married a year ago. They had got to a point where they were so busy with work and other commitments that they didn’t get to spend much time together, and when they did, they found that they were having the same arguments and both felt as though they were going around in circles.
One day, Pete piped up mid-argument and said “I can’t do this anymore, it’s like Groundhog Day. I think we should try counselling.” Greg agreed that it was a good idea. They were both keen to stay together and didn’t want their marriage to end.
Neither Greg nor Pete had been to any kind of counselling before, but they had a pretty good idea that a Counsellor would be able to sort out their relationship. They searched online together and after a bit of debate, agreed on one Counsellor who they thought would be best for them, based on their online profile.
Pete made the phone call explaining their situation, whilst Greg listened, nodded and chipped in at various points in the background. The first appointment was arranged, with no obligation to continue if either or both of them decided at the end of the session that couples counselling, or this Counsellor wasn’t right for them.
In addition to exploring their situation, the first session was an opportunity for the couple to ask questions. Pete asked two questions that were really important for him to know:
1) Can you save our relationship?
2) What’s your success rate?
The Counsellor feigned a confused look and started to search in her handbag. “No, I don’t think I have one of those…”. “One of what?” asked Greg. “A magic wand!” exclaimed the Counsellor.
Okay, Greg and Pete are a fictional couple but their story represents a common scenario for those setting out on their counselling journey. Oh, and for the record, I wouldn’t be quite as facetious as their Counsellor. Couples have ideas about what relationship counselling is, which often include:
- The Counsellor will save our relationship
- Couples counselling is something that is done to you
- Our relationship will be transformed simply by turning up to sessions
- Couples counselling will change the ‘other’ – the one who needs to be fixed (I’m okay, it’s them)
Couples Counselling – A Snapshot
As a Counsellor, entrusted with supporting couples with their relationship goals, I am here to inform you that the work (yes, that dreaded w word) between us is a collaboration.
You and your significant other are the experts on your relationship. You each have your own ideas about what problems exist and I am here to help you to explore what they are and what patterns are maintaining or worsening them.
We will identify what stage your relationship is in – yes, there are theories around different stages that relationships go through, and it may just be that what you are experiencing is a normal phase that can be negotiated and worked through.
Importantly, you will decide for sure whether or not you BOTH want to remain in the relationship, and in addition to exploring what is going on for each and both of you, you will agree shared goals. Working towards relationship goals will require some planning and action to be taken outside of the therapy room.
Is there hope for Greg and Pete?
So, going back to Pete’s questions of whether or not his Counsellor can save their relationship, the answer is no, the Counsellor alone is not capable of saving anyone’s relationship. Working together collaboratively, they’re in with a good chance, but the following factors will also have a bearing, including:
- That both Greg and Pete genuinely want to stay in the relationship
- That Greg and Pete are fully committed and engaged in sessions
- That they are open and engage respectfully in sessions, ensuring that each gets their point across without fear of judgement from the other
- That they agree on the goals (shared)
- That their wants and needs are valued equally
- That they each accept and own their own part in the patterns that are impacting on the relationship
So, if you’re thinking about couples counselling, how does this sound to you? Magic wands aside, the work can feel both difficult and rewarding, and if it’s right for you as a couple, then your relationship is worth it!