How Brighton and Hove based Couples Therapy and Counselling can help resolve relational problems
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Falling in love is surely one of the greatest things about being human, that very special sense of attraction that occurs when someone draws your attention and you begin to lose yourself in a cloud of giddiness as if your feet really have left the ground. It is as if we are primed for this coupling with another person because most of us feel wonderful when we’re in love and motivated to live life alongside our mate.
Good intentions and a positive outlook generally pave the way for the growing relationship and all is well until we begin to CLASH and you may find yourself desperately searching for evidence of the “wonderlust” that swept you off your feet!
How can it be that something “sooo good” has turned “sooo sour.” It doesn’t make sense, it can be disorientating, educe a lack of confidence, anxiety, depression, fear, loneliness, panic and even initiate addictive behaviour towards drugs, alcohol, gambling or food. We may undergo negative interaction cycles possibly brought upon by insecurity, anger, avarice, self esteem issues, immature communication, conceit etc. And yet we are also inclined to stay rooted in the relationship, stunned like a “rabbit in headlights,”as if our being there still will make everything alright again and the “real side” of the person we fell in love with, will return. We may even continue making love in the hope that this intimacy will iron out any problems that otherwise seem insurmountable but sadly this is typically just a short-lived pleasure that only masks underlying difficulties for a while. Then the sense of doom and gloom may emerge again, reconnecting you to the sadness you are beginning to feel as if a shadow is in your wake.
So I’d like to try and unpack with you what might happen when two loving hearts that seemed united in blissful harmony, begin to crack and seep what feels like “poison” in the context of interpersonal space.
Couples Relationship Counselling in Hove, East Sussex
Firstly, it is worth acknowledging that we come into relationships with different value systems and early experience of relating to others starts when we are very young. However your experience has been, this probably shapes the way that you relate to other people in adult life. This includes expectations of others, so you build an idea of what response you might receive to different emotional states like happiness, excitement, sadness, depression, anxiety and say panic. Let me offer you a few examples to demonstrate this:
Anxiety: this might arise from your partner starting a new job, awaiting the results of a blood test or anticipating meeting up with new people for example and you may probably respond to your partner’s anxiety using your own frame of reference, without even realising what you are doing. By this, I mean that you will possibly make some unconscious interpretation about the events in question and respond to your partner’s anxiety in terms of your own level, were these events happening to you. Partners tend to “assume” that they will receive whatever they are “expecting” given past experience, often. So, someone who has been supported with empathy, kind words of support and loving attention in formative years, may well be expecting this of a partner – without being aware of the importance of communicating these needs! And if someone has been harshly treated or dismissed, they may reject any attempts you make to care and cherish them because they are not expecting this, given their early experience. So your behaviour, which may seem very “normal” to you, may in fact be threatening and challenging to them!
In a Brighton relationship counselling scenario, attention could be drawn, by the Hove couples counsellor, to individual “expectations of partner responses” in the light of early experience and to explore how you communicate and what you may take for granted about each other.
Excitement: imagine you are in a relationship with someone for whom events like “birthdays, christmas and anniversaries” engender a lot of excitement, so that your partner talks about them endlessly beforehand, discussing possible plans, treats, events and so on. Suppose this attitude is anathema to you, as your own experience of such times has been very low key, so that they pass without you spending much time focusing on them at all. Whilst you may have become fairly satisfied with this perspective and inclined towards continuing this “low key” approach to celebratory events, in the context of a relationship with someone who has a very opposite view, this may be very likely to create “fireworks” without some careful consideration and negotiation. Unless two such partners take time to review their different expectations and how their formative years have informed their experiences of celebration, they are likely to disappoint each other and may attract untold misery into their lives around such times. The partner who is excited and “expecting” may well have learnt this behaviour within his or her family environment growing up or it may even be a response to “not” having this but thinking that he or she “should.” There are different explanations that are likely. And the partner who is contrastingly “low key” may not relish having lots of attention and fuss made over him or her at times of potential celebration for personal reasons that need to be acknowledged by the “relationship.”
Hove Couples Therapy
Couples Counselling could help two people learn to validate their partner’s individual experiences that oppose their own and consider how to be more effective together in managing challenging situations, whatever they may be.
Clearly, it is not enough to “fall in love” and feel connected to someone else through an initial state of passion. We need to spend time understanding the person underneath the social persona we are besotted with and be prepared to accept some challenges over which we may have to negotiate, if we want to continue together. This requires effort from both parties, a very important capacity to be open-minded with willingness to accept difference and be prepared to learn how to be effective as opposed to stubborn and rigid. If the loving connection you so desire is of value enough, you may need to be prepared to understand yourself in the eyes of your partner as well as being able to offer back what you, yourself perceive. This can be difficult to do, so Hove counselling can help to show you how to begin. What forms of therapy are best? Here are some options that you may like to reflect upon:
Dialectical Behaviour Therapy or DBT: introduced by an American Psychologist, Marsha Linehan, to help people with emotional instability. DBT has a number of different modules in which a therapist can offer you skills to enhance emotional management. In the context of relationships, the DBT module Interpersonal Effectiveness, can increase your ability to articulate your individual needs, especially if they are different to your partner’s. It can also help you to become aware of the dangers of foregoing your self-respect in response to relational pressure as well as guiding you in the art of effective listening.
Positive Psychology: of whom Martin Seligman is a main proponent, offers very practical suggestions about how to assess yourself in terms of your key strengths and how to ensure that your relationship benefits from these daily. Relationship counselling and talk therapy with a Brighton and Hove counsellor would offer you the opportunity to explore your “signature strengths” through one of Seligman’s assessment tools, which you can also access yourself on his website www.authentichappiness.com. It may be that there is insufficient space in your relationship, to undertake important activities that strengthen your well-being which inadvertently then feeds your relationship. A Hove-based couples counsellor who incorporates core therapy principles of respect, accountability, confidentiality, empathy and consent, could encourage both partners to identify their individual levels of happiness as well as that within the relationship. This would enable you to address the balance between time together and time apart.
Attachment Issues: An exploration of early relational experience may help to illuminate some of the reasons for connection difficulties between two adults. You may like to review the esteemed work of John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworth to understand more about our current knowledge of human attachment. If past events are preventing the growth of a relationship because of personal history, then this may need to be addressed. In this case, individual therapy with a different therapist in Brighton and Hove might be considered alongside relational work or with a break from relationship counselling.
Integrative Therapy: Integrative therapy uses a blend of different therapeutic approaches, including those mentioned above, according to the needs of those seeking help. An element of coaching may encourage couples to “work” in-between sessions to maximize the benefit of key points raised in treatment sessions.
Hove Marriage Counsellor – Couples Counselling in Hove and Brighton Relationship Therapy: Call 01273 917732
Hove Marriage Counselling and Couples Therapy in Brighton and Hove, East Sussex
The Hove counselling Practice – Brighton and Hove Psychotherapy
126 Shirley Street, Hove, East Sussex BN3 3WG, UK
Tel: 01273 917732