Marriage or any intimate relationship is like an empty box. It must be filled before we can start to take it out. Both parties involved in the relationship must put in love, trust, a habit of giving, praising, and making some adjustments to keep the box full. If we start to take out more than we are putting in, then the box will be empty. Emotional, physical, and sexual intimacy is the core of any such bond.
Marriage and relationship counselling provides couples with the opportunity to rediscover each other’s needs and concerns in an effective way. If you and your partner feel that you need help communicating or solving a problem, talk to us to overcome your relationship differences and succeed as a couple.
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Marriage and Relationship Counselling
Marriage counselling, also known as couples counselling, relationship counselling, or couples therapy, is a form of therapy that supports people in intimate relationships. Therapy may be helpful for partners considering separation or seeking to improve communication, intimacy and conflict resolution. While the relationship itself is the focus in marital counselling, each partner is expected to pay attention to self-improvement and self-awareness.
FINDING THE RIGHT COUPLES & RELATIONSHIP THERAPIST
It can be helpful to consider whether the relationship counsellor is a good fit for both partners before scheduling a couple’s therapy session. It is important to choose a relationship counsellor who:
- Has been certified and trained to offer relationship counselling
- Has experience in dealing with the couple’s specific issues
- Works with the couple to develop a therapy plan
- Shows compassion to both partners
- Maintains neutral and unbiased perspectives
- Mediates the conversation to prevent one partner from interrupting the other
- Maintains control of each session
- Is easily accessible
- Encourages feedback from the couple to see if they are comfortable with the services offered
APPROACHES TO COUPLES & RELATIONSHIP COUNSELLING
Approaches and techniques used in couples therapy can vary depending on the training of the marriage counsellor and the issues experienced by the couple seeking treatment. Some common therapeutic approaches in relationship counselling include:
- Imago relationship therapy creates a safe environment for partners to share their experiences and remove negative beliefs or communication in the relationship
- Emotionally focused therapy aims to increase mindfulness about one’s and the partner’s emotions and learn to redirect them to more constructive behaviours. This helps to create new, positive interactions between partners and strengthens their emotional bond.
- Internal Family Systems therapy identifies and targets different sub-personalities or parts and how they function in one’s mental system. This helps partners better understand each other and the patterns existing in their relationship.
- The Gottman Method increases feelings of closeness, affection, respect, resolve conflict effectively, and creating a shared meaning
- The developmental model of couples therapy focuses on the growth and development of each partner individually and the couple as a pair
- Positive psychology helps partners focus on positive traits and strengths that encourage more healthy behaviours within the relationship
- Narrative therapy separates the problem from the couple and addresses them independently from the couples’ traits which helps gain insight into adjustments they may need to make in the relationship.
- Individual counselling can serve as a precursor to relationship counselling. It may be a treatment approach for one partner if the other is unwilling to come to relationship counselling.
HOW COUPLES & RELATIONSHIP COUNSELLING WORKS
Couples counselling aims to help partners learn more about each other and acquire healthy problem-solving skills. The marriage counselor or LMFT may interview both partners, together or individually, during the first few meetings. Afterward, they may provide feedback. The couple may set therapeutic goals with the guidance of the therapist and develop a plan for therapy so that each person knows what to expect and how to improve. In couples therapy, positive results often depend on the couple’s motivation and dedication to the process.
As treatment progresses, each partner may improve their active listening and communication skills. Partners also often learn to support each other in new ways. Conflict may arise during therapy sessions which is common. An ethical marriage counselor will remain neutral and avoid taking sides. Some marriage counselors offer supplemental individual sessions to each partner as a standard part of treatment. Others may offer individual sessions upon request.
Relationship counselling is typically held once a week. The schedule can vary depending on the couple’s goals and whether each partner is also attending individual or group therapy sessions. Couples counselling is offered in a variety of settings, including private practices, university counselling centers, and group practices.
Marriage counselling is often short-term, though healing a relationship may take more time. Ultimately, relationship counselling will continue for as long as the couple is committed to completing the treatment plan or until they reach a resolution.
Who is Relationship Counselling For?
Any couple with a history together may benefit from relationship counselling. Couples may seek counselling to resolve relationship issues, gain insight into the dynamics of their relationship, strengthen their emotional bonds, or find amicable ways to bring their relationship to an end. Premarital counselling is available for individuals who are engaged to be married.
When is Relationship Counselling Recommended?
As all couples experience tension or conflict at some point in their relationship, many people are unsure when they should seek couples counselling. The reality is that couples may seek relationship counselling for many different reasons, including:
- Power struggles
- Communication issues
- Substance abuse
- Sexual dissatisfaction
- Financial issues
- Anger issues
- Major life adjustments
- Frequent conflict or high stress levels
- Conflicting ideas on child rearing
Most couples counselors recommend that couples seek counselling as soon as discontent enters the relationship. Therapy need not be considered only when an issue becomes a crisis. In many relationships, couples turn to therapy only when issues persist for an average of six years. This delay can make it more difficult to repair or resolve problems.
Couples therapy is also beneficial for partners who have made firm resolutions about the future of their relationship. A couple in a healthy relationship may seek counselling to increase intimacy or find new ways to connect with each other emotionally. Couples who have already decided to separate may pursue couples counselling in order to find amicable ways to end their relationship on respectful terms.
People who are engaged to be married might also choose to seek premarital counselling. This can help couples explore areas of conflict or concern that may cause difficulty or dissatisfaction in their marriage. Therapy allows couples to discuss differences in opinions, personal values, and their expectations. Premarital counselling can help uncover more deep-rooted or underlying issues than a couple was expected to discuss. This can be beneficial as it allows couples to evaluate whether they are truly compatible before getting married.
There are many advantages to engaging in couples therapy. However, not all conflicts can be improved with therapy. For example, in domestic abuse cases where violence is causing one partner to fear the other, couples therapy may not be effective. In these cases, one partner’s life and safety may be jeopardized if they remain in a relationship with an abusive partner. Victims of intimate partner abuse are encouraged to make a police report or seek a local crisis center in the event of an emergency.
How Effective is Relationship Counselling?
Studies indicate couples therapy can have a marked positive impact on relationships. Research evaluating changes in marital satisfaction after therapy shows approximately 48% of couples reaching improvement or full recovery in relationship satisfaction after 5 years. Approximately 38% of couples experienced relationship deterioration, and 14% remained unchanged over the same period.
Couples therapy is most effective when both partners are committed to improving their relationship and sticking to the treatment plan. The approach is much less effective if one partner refuses to participate in treatment or if the relationship is violent or abusive. The effectiveness of couples therapy is also lowered when those in the relationship do not think they need to change and only expect their partner to change. When partners are open to reflecting on their own perspectives and habits, couples therapy is likely to be more effective.
In every relationship, conflicts may arise at different points. When these conflicts become challenging to resolve and other issues such as financial troubles, infidelity and lack of intimacy surface, this can create more relationship problems. Communicating in a constructive manner can help resolve these problems and bring the couple closer together.
Dr John and Julie of Gottman Institute created The Four Horseman of Apocalypse metaphorically used to recognize and navigate four counterproductive behaviours that if remain unchanged, can end a relationship
- Criticism: Attacking your partner’s personality or character rather than his or her behaviour. These negative behaviours and comments can make a person on the receiving end feel attacked, rejected, and hurt.
- Defensiveness: This typically occurs in response to criticism. When you feel personally attacked by your partner, you immediately go into self-protecting mode by playing an innocent victim so that your partner will back off. This becomes a problem because no one accepts accountability and understands the other’s perspectives,
- Contempt: One assumes a feeling of superiority over their partner treats them with disrespect and express behaviours that makes them feel despised and worthless Such as mocking them with sarcasm, ridiculing, name calling, mimicking or using body language like eye rolling or scoffing.
- Stonewalling: This is typically a response to contempt. Stonewalling occurs when the listener withdraws from the conversation and stops engaging with the partner. The person attempts to avoid confrontation and create a sense of psychological distance.
The recent pandemic and living in quarantine have also put strain on many marriages. As it is, people are dealing with many pressures, worries and anxieties during this time. Couples spending extended time with each other as a result of lockdown measures have on one hand strengthened the bond between them, but on the other hand it has also worked as a catalyst for break ups in many other relationships. Several lawyers in Singapore have stated that they have had more divorce application related enquiries since the start of the circuit breaker.
Problems with Communication
It is not always necessary to opt for counselling only when a couple is having problems in their relationship. They can also do it to understand their partner in a better way or transition peacefully out of a relationship. There are many reasons why a couple seek marriage counselling including but not limited to the following:
- Deteriorating communication with each other
- Feelings of insecurity and loss of trust in partner
- Feelings of indifference towards a partner
- Feelings of contempt, anger, and resentment towards each other
- No common ground between partners
- Need for personal space or to live separately
- Infidelity, addiction, or abuse in the marriage
- Children seem to be the only common medium of communication
Counselling is a medium that provides a safe space for a couple to discuss their concerns and work through it. It aims at providing better communication, stable family life, emotional wellbeing, sense of safety and the feeling of being heard. No marriage is perfect, but counselling is a successful tool to bring it back on track if need be.
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Before it gets worst, let us help you process and validate your feelings, identify triggers, stressors, and contributing factors that may have put you in distress leading to marital and relationship issues. We will explore effective coping skills, communication skills, stress and anxiety management as well as mediating the various miscommunication or misunderstanding that will help you excel better in your relationship and to meet your relationship expectations or responsibilities effectively.
This article uses material from WebMD and other useful references for relationship and marital issues. The article is for use of reference and information only, for specific diagnoses and treatment, please reach out to our licensed and/or certified professionals.