Underpinning my approach is the focus on the relationship as the issue, not what each partner has done to spoil it or make it difficult. Yes, both partners have probably contributed to the reasons they want to seek some outside help, each partner has a part to play. By the time they have decided to see someone there has often been a lot of blaming and criticism, so I am keen to avoid any more of that. It does not help. The fact that they made the appointment and showed up tells me that there is hope for the relationship. They believe it can be different if they could only find the way.
Almost without exception people feel that the communication between them could be better, and that the relationship is no longer meeting their needs in the way it did in the past. A primary aim of the way I like to work is to help people back into feeling connected with each other. The most painful thing among couples I see is the sense that they have lost the closeness and sense of connection that they once had. This leaves them feeling sad and lonely.
Another key matter I like to attend quickly is helping couples to reduce the emotional intensity and stress. Once there is a level of calm, they can make an assessment of their relationship, what they want in it and what they want to avoid. Sometimes they want a way to separate constructively.
To help with working out the best way to get what they want, I gather quite a lot of background information about health, family structure and major life events, as there are often many factors contributing to unhappiness in a relationship. Once we have agreed a way forward for a couple, one that they feel hopeful about, then we can proceed.
Almost inevitably it will involve work the two people will do in their own home in their own time. This is because one session of therapy a week or a fortnight is not going to be enough to bring the changes. We would always agree together what the tasks are to be, and when and how they would be undertaken so they know they can do them and how much time they might have to commit. If they are not do-able, they won’t get done and will be pointless.
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