In my experience, the fundamental problem with couples in counselling is the breakdown of communication and expectations of each other.
This can occur when the years progress and people’s interests change and develop. This is not discussed, and the individuals carry on without addressing the issue, expecting their partner should know what they feel and think, or know their acquired likes and dislikes, and these expectations hinder effective communication.
Examples of this:
- Starting a family and your ideas of raising the children are different. This can cause arguments, avoidance, problems for the children and distance
- In-laws that the partner feels have interfered in the relationship, while not feeling supported by their other half
- An affair/affairs
- Growing apart
The following are the types of couples I've worked with.
Counsellor for Separating or separated couples
In relationship breakdowns where children are involved, the therapy addresses the issues that caused this breakdown. However, it also looks at how you can focus on your children without bringing your personal relationship issues into the relationship with your children. Having counseling with an impartial person who understands the complexities of separation when children are involved will support the aim to work out the best situation for the children and yourselves as a separated couple.
Counsellor for Pre-marital Issues
I've had only a few clients who chose to have brief counselling to address issues before marrying. I really commend this and found with these couples that it was because they wanted to spend the rest of their lives together. They wanted to make sure that any issues prior to marriage were discussed, which therapy can help with.
Counsellor for Marital problems
Marriage is a commitment to each other when vows are taken, but they mean different things to each person. So it's common when marital difficulties arise that they are varied and unique to each couple. These problems can occur early in the marriage or years later. Some of the common issues that come up are doubts like “do I still love this person”, suppressed anger that has surfaced, alcohol abuse, domestic abuse, loss of confidence within the relationship, adultery and loss of intimacy, to name a few.
Counsellor for Bio-cultural couples
Even though the above-mentioned issues are the same for all couples, the counseling process can help with misunderstandings when there are racial and ethnic differences between partners. Having a counsellor who's aware of these issues can help you summarise what's being said between you which will help to get to the bottom of your issues without misunderstandings. In incidences like that, I encourage the couple to express themselves in fewer words and be direct, which the therapy process is very effective for.
Counsellor for Couples without your partner
You don't need to have your partner with you to have couples counselling. The issues can still be addressed without them. You may think this defeats the object. It doesn't, because when I counsel couples, the same principles will apply to understanding what you need and want. I will help you go forward and be able to communicate this effectively to your partner, take responsibility for your own self-worth and gain confidence to make that happen. Here are a few cases where clients have attended without their partner:
- Affair(s): When their partner has had an affair and the client wishes to address the issue regarding how they feel, the impact it has had on the relationship and whether to remain or leave after this trust was broken. The counselling helps the client to bring what they've learnt about themselves or the situation to their partner to address the issue. So even though the partners are not in the therapy session together, it's helping the client to communicate their feelings to their partner.
- Same-sex couples: When dealing with same-sex couples, I've found a common issue is the way society has affected the sexuality of one or both partners, and how this impacts self-worth, honesty and dealing with problems within their immediate family. This does create problems within a relationship, especially if one of the partners does not come out to everyone such as family or work colleagues. In all my cases with homosexuals/lesbians, they have come on their own to address their issues. Once the client has felt heard without feeling pressured or judged, it helps develop an understanding and strength to determine when and how they wish to make further changes.