Couples seeking relationship counselling often report that they have put off seeking professional help for some time. They describe feeling perplexed by their inability to communicate effectively with their partner, in spite their well-meaning intentions and can start to feel hopeless and frustrated about how to make their relationship work. In an attempt to avoid such painful feelings, many partners adopt something of a “don’t ask, don’t tell” approach to communication, whereby they attempt to avoid discussing challenging topics or emotionally difficult experiences for fear that it will cause conflict or damage the relationship irreparably. Whilst such defensive manoeuvring is understandable and can come from the best of intentions, avoidance of discussing important topics tends to cost couples in the long term with regard to their level of connection, closeness, and sense of security. Ironically, such defensive manoeuvring ultimately makes relationships more fragile over time.
Signs You Could Benefit from Relationship Psychology
Whilst every relationship is different, there are some common signs that can flag a that a couple would benefit from engaging in counselling:
- A breakdown in communication, where silences and withdrawal are common
- Repetitive patterns of conflict: The feeling of arguing about the same issue or set of issues over and over again with no resolution
- Conflict that is increasing in frequency and/or intensity. Sometimes this can involve an increase in hostility, attack and defend patterns of communication, stonewalling, or in some instances, things can escalate as far as abusive behaviour
- Choosing to spend less time in the company of your partner or feeling anxiety or dread when anticipating the next interaction with them
- Refraining from sharing significant events with your partner and instead choosing to share these events with others
- A decrease in sexual intimacy
- Little time made towards maintaining the relationship, focussing all of one’s attention on children, work, or other outlets
- Fantasies about engaging in romantic interactions with other partners
How Can Next Wave Psychology Help My Relationship?
Dr Amber Denehey has conducted research in the area of attachment theory and relationship dynamics, completed specialist training in couple therapy, and has had a number of years’ experience with helping couples work to better their relationships. Therapy is aimed at creating a safe space for both members of the couple to better express their needs in healthier ways that bring about more positive interactional patterns. One of the things that can make it difficult for couples to work on their relationship independently is that in all relationships, unconscious dynamics play a powerful role in determining the outcomes of interactions. What this means in non-psychobabble terms is that even though your rational brain means to communicate one thing to your partner, factors that are outside of your awareness and control will influence the way that message comes across and is received.
For this reason, one of the most important functions of the couple therapist is to help the couple work through these factors that are outside of their awareness and conscious intention, so that messages can be more helpfully translated and attachment needs can be better met. Dr Amber Denehey takes a systemic view of relationships, meaning there are no “goodies” or “baddies” in relationships, only two individuals that are doing their best to feel safe and regulate their needs for attachment in accordance with what they have learnt about relationships growing up. For couple counselling to be successful, it is of utmost importance that both parties feel heard and valued.