The most common type of counseling people go to professionals for help with is relationship counseling. 85% of couples, have, are, or will at some point, seek relationship counseling. It isn’t surprising either, considering that making a relationship work typically requires more mental work than we’re taught to think it does. Specialists in this field have proven quite capable of helping couples live happier more rewarding lives.
The tricky part about relationships is remembering that it is not about who is right or wrong, or who’s responsible when something goes wrong. Getting around these natural, knee jerk responses is the primary focus of couples counseling. By developing a dialogue of communication between the partners, counselors help people with balancing their desires and needs with those of their partners. Blame does nothing except alienate people and place stress on a relationship. In fact, if looked at from a detached outside view, we’d all have to admit that most of the things that drive us crazy about our partner are actually normal every day things that we don’t think twice about when done by a stranger.
It’s typical for relationship counseling to take place in a neutral territory, such as the counselor’s office, or an agreed upon communal space. (Like a coffee shop, church, or anywhere the counselor is willing to meet the couple.) This allows for the counselor to set guidelines for discussion, and enforce equanimity between the two partners. The controlled environment allows for reasonable discourse that would otherwise be derailed by the intense feelings that might result.
Not all couples need the same kind of counseling. Some couples may require a more active mediator, who arbitrates disputes. Relationships can be emotionally intense, for some it is easy for a discussion about a grievance to turn into a screaming cacophony. This doesn’t make them bad people. It is in these situations that a relationship counselor will help illustrate the points of each partner to the other, steering the discussion to resolution without explosion. Hopefully this will lead to a real, and new, understanding between the couple.
Others may require a more passive counselor, who may set some brief guidelines, but essentially encourages the couple to talk out their issues between themselves. This process can lead to a new level of intimacy between the partners as things they may have been afraid, or ashamed to say, will presumably be willingly shared, strengthening their bond to each other. In the end, every couple is unique, and arguably would be best served by a unique counselor. Regardless, statistically, couples who seek counseling do in fact improve their relationship.
The first and most difficult aspect of keeping a couple healthy is to identify the issues that may lead, or are leading, the couple to pull apart. Sadly, it can be so easy to become lost in our emotions and thoughts that we can’t really “see” what the real issues are. This is where counseling comes in. Counseling aims to target the unique problems a couple is having communicating, address those problems, and ultimately prepare the couple to grow and prosper.
If you are in that lucky 15% of relationships that never needs counseling — good for you. But, if you are like most people, relationship counseling can make your life, and your partner’s, better.