Archive for commitment

Let’s have a good row

Couples coming to counselling will usually describe communication problems as one of the main reasons for seeking outside help.
A magnetic twosome that starts in a glowing bubble of love, fuelled by a powerful cocktail of chemical reaction is likely to have some disappointing moments as realism and disappointments begin to sneak up on the happy couple.
Psychologists describe this first stage in the passage of a relationship as the Romance Stage which generally lasts around 18 months to 2 years before life cruelly pushes us into the Power Struggle stage. 
Often, the higher the hope the deeper the disappointment when our ‘other’ transpires to be just that … No longer our twin soul, but another who just doesn’t see things the right way (that is, the way we see them)
This is where couples endeavour to point out to each other, often not with much gentleness, exactly where the other one is going so very wrong.
The partner who had seemed so kind and understanding can often become an enemy who just doesn’t get us at all.
Now, when momentarily disenchanted with our beloved, all we see are the flaws and the differences instead of those glowing attributes and understandings that seemed to blind us at the start.
The power struggle is a hard system to shift, but when I ask in a first session how a couple argues, it’s the answer ” O, we never row” that makes me know the work will probably be long and hard.
It is often the ability to have a creative row that can lead a couple to some better understanding of each other and show there is passion in the dynamic between them.
There is, however, a big difference between abusive anger which is unsustainable and cruel, and a good barney which often leads to repair and an affectionate re-entry into the safety of the loving side of our partner.
Here are some tips for A Good Row.

1. Pick your battles 
It’s pointless to keep moaning about unloading the dishwasher (aka ‘nagging’) unless you can recognise what is really being said. Are you actually asking for more help around the house, or maybe it’s about just feeling generally unheard and unimportant. Think it through and try to explain your feelings. Behind most power struggles is fear.

2. Avoid accusatory language
This one is easy. So when describing some issue of contentiousness, don’t use the ‘you’ word, as in ‘you always..’ Or ‘you never…’ And instead, own the feeling that it evokes in you.
‘When X happens, it can make me feel …..’  (Fill in your own reaction)

3. The impact of childhood 
Ingrained issues often come from past experiences. Think of where you may have felt this way before you ever met your partner. Ask how anger was dealt with in their family. Conflict averse families don’t help kids to learn how to process difficult feelings. Critical parents can breed critical children – often they grow up to be hard on themselves and will dole it out because they can’t bear their own feelings of not being right.

4. Try to listen
This one is tricky in the middle of heightened emotions. But do try to think about what is being said rather than just waiting to speak. If people feel heard, they are more likely to listen to your point.

5. Not in front of children
Sounds so obvious, but often doesn’t happen. Children can be really scared by continual rows. Never include them or confide in them. Sometimes gripes are bound to become public, but make sure they also see you hugging and close so they grow up seeing that anger isn’t a deal breaker, but can be successfully and lovingly negotiated.

6. Keep it clean
However bruised we feel it’s important to keep to the relevant issue and not allow anger to take over and become a character assassin. Hurting because we feel hurt can only cause deeper pains that take a long time to heal.

7. Don’t use sulking as a weapon
Sometimes confused feelings cause people to withdraw. It’s ok to discuss this at a quiet moment and explain that we need a period of quiet time to regroup. This is so different to doling out The Silent Treatment, which is borne out of inability to express feelings and is tantamount to withholding and over-harshly punishing the other.

Now for the good news, overcoming the worst of the Power Struggle Stage can lead to a healthier Commitment Stage and a far stronger and successfully tested relationship.
Here’s Huey Lewis to explain.

Christina Fraser

 

Difficulties with Commitment in your Relationship

January is a month where we were bombarded in the press about the need to make new year resolutions, make changes to our work life balance, loose weight and go to the gym more, eat less sugar and more complex carbohydrates.

In my counselling room recently, I have been aware of how many couples hope and expect 2017 will be the time when their relationship moves forward. However when the subject comes up couples can be faced with very different views on what moving forward means for both of them.

It is clear that making a commitment to a relationship means different things for different people: for some its moving in together, for others its getting engaged, wanting marriage or deciding to have a baby together. For many, these steps come easily and for others making a decision to commit can bring a great deal of distress and disharmony to an otherwise healthy relationship and often results in looking for help from a couples counsellor.

I often encounter couples who appear to present with a really secure and connected relationship and this all goes out the window when one partner wants the relationship to move forward as a natural progression of a committed relationship and the other is in no hurry to change this and is more than happy to stay where they are.

Often discussing moving forward and making a commitment brings happiness and excitement for one and overwhelming anxiety and panic to the other. This is something that affects both men and women.

Some sessions with a Coupleworks counsellor would help partners to look at:

What are some of the causes of Commitment Anxiety?

♣ Fear of intimacy and deep emotional connection
♣ A damaging previous break up or ending of a relationship
♣ A belief this is not the ‘right relationship’
♣ Trust issues
♣ Difficulty with attachment needs being met in childhood
♣ Experience of separation or divorce in parents relationship
♣ Fear of rejection
♣ Negative media exposure on unhappiness of committed relationships
♣ Over focusing on divorce statistics
♣ Fear of loosing independence and being tied down
♣ Not wanting to parent
What are the effects of Commitment issues on a relationship?

♣ Tendency to avoid long- term relationships
♣ Closeness and safety is replaced by distance and avoidance
♣ Risk of developing depression
♣ Loss of confidence in self and partner
♣ Increase in conflict to avoid discussion

Treating commitment issues in couples therapy

An experienced therapist can help identify potential causes of commitment issues in a couple relationship and explore useful ways to work through these issues.

Couples can learn how to understand their fears of commitment, where and how it may have originated and how a rigid way of thinking can be quite paralysing. It opens the way for partners to better discuss fears of making a commitment with each other in a calmer, safer way, and hopefully develops an ability to be more truthful and open about their needs and desires.

Dawn Kaffel

Technology and Humans.

For many years I have been struck by the similarities between technical frustrations and difficulties which can arise in a couple.

If we look at the comparison of a computer’s hard drive and a human’s unconscious, we can see an example:  If you put the wrong software into an incompatible computer it will act out by throwing up windows full of incomprehensible jargon and probably shut itself down.

This is similar to pressing the wrong button in your partner and igniting an inexplicable reaction, far outweighing the nature of the trigger.  The human may well shut down and become an alien to the offender, just as a computer does.

With a couple, various scenarios may occur.  Anger, hurt, detachment, withdrawal from intimacy and a rift, hopefully temporary between the bemused offender and the withdrawn or furious reactor.

What follows with a computer shut down is further frustration, anquish and stress when ringing a call centre operative for help. This person, who within a brief of 10 questions and answers, tries to help. Temperatures rise, solutions don’t help and in the end a supervisor is found who helps to calm things down and get the computer working again.

With human breakdown in communication there is a similarity.  A number of accusations and denials, familiar to the couple, are hurled to and fro till in the end one or the other suggests that a couple counsellor needs to be found.  The result often being that things are calmed down and a different way of managing these communication breakdowns is found.

Technology and human interaction are, of course, not the same thing at all but technological hard and software both need human insertion in order to work,  thus it is not surprising that reactions in both cases are similar.  Coupleworks can help with human misunderstandings when couples have tried everyway known to them without success.  In the same way a supervisor has to be sent for as a solution to the computer break down.

Rapidly developing technology requires change  A sketchy knowledge of a multitude of different professions is now a necessary feature of couple and family life.  Travel agent, flight booker, medical knowledge and decisions about personal health, banking, user names and passwords crowding a human brain along with daily life.

Coupleworks listens to couples and treats their dilemmas with respect. Together they try to unravel the difficulties encountered in their individual stories.

Clare Ireland

Wedding Season

Over the next few weeks thousands of weddings, both of heterosexual and same sex couples, will be taking place up and down the country. The summer has been the most popular time to get married for many decades and with the British weather, that’s unlikely to change.

But what has changed is how people view their wedding day. Until around the 1970’s what was widely held to be the norm was that marriage provided the gateway to the whole experience of living together and sharing a single home. But the large majority of couples today have already been living together for some years before they tie the knot. So what is it that they see themselves doing? In my experience, most couples feel they have reached a point where they can take the risk of declaring to themselves and to others that they wish to be married. Of course other factors can be in play. They may want to provide what they see as a more secure base to have children. Sometimes too there is a hope that marriage will resolve problems in a relationship that already exist. But for most, getting married is a statement that their relationship is now sufficiently permanent to celebrate and give ongoing stability to.

They also think that the ceremony itself won’t make any difference to their day-to-day relationship and are often surprised to find tensions and difficulties surfacing. The reasons for this are often complex. For some making the public commitment proves to be profoundly unsettling, triggering memories and unconscious feelings of their own family experiences. The net result is that they are taken aback that at the point when they announce stability they feel de-stablised.

Therapy offers a place to talk through expectations, to explore and understand what might have been triggered and to work through these disappointments. This gives couples the opportunity they need to confront the reality that there is no end point to growth in a relationship but they will need to continue to work together on it throughout their lives.

Couples can begin to explore possible difficulties by talking through:

• Expectations of what marriage means

• How that is different in your mind – or not – from cohabiting

• What your experience was as a child of your parent’s marriage

• How would you like yours to be similar or different

Sarah Fletcher

What makes us return to a partner, after separation, even if we know it’s not right?

  • If it is very soon after the break-up, it may be that the grief and loss feel overwhelming and unmanageable. This may be particularly true if we have experienced other significant losses in our lives. A panic that we are unable to cope with the sadness, grief and loneliness means we rush back into the security of being part of a couple.
  • It can be that we have suffered insecurities in childhood, or experienced distressing rejections or abandonments. We would prefer to be in a relationship, even if there are difficulties, rather than let that pain resurface.
  • We can fear that we lack the resilience to face life as a single person. We worry that, alone, we cannot manage social situations, or handle finances, or deal with the challenge of being a single parent. We might bargain that accepting the problems in a relationship is a price worth paying.
  • It can be hard, sometimes, to believe that we deserve a different kind of relationship. If we have issues of low self-esteem or a weak sense of identity, it can mean we accept half-measures and are grateful for any attention – however meagre or negative. Feeling ‘not-good-enough’, means we can settle for ‘second-best’ (or, at worst, something destructive or even damaging).
  • We dread that time is running out, that we may not find another partner, or that we might lose the opportunity to have a child.
  • We can repress our own unhappiness rather than contemplate dismantling a relationship which has big emotional investment and commitment. It feels unbearable to face the acute distress of our partner or children. We fear our potential to cause destruction. We are overwhelmed by guilt; with the responsibility of splintering the couple or family. We feel such shame that we patch up the relationship in order to avoid criticism and condemnation from family members, friends, community, or church.
  • Working with a relationship counsellor offers the opportunity to explore our needs and emotions more calmly. It can be a relief to untangle our confused, often unconscious, and often contradictory, impulses. What is being suppressed and avoided?
  • We may choose to stay. Counselling can then help reveal and clarify the dynamics of the relationship. We can be stuck in damaging patterns of behaviour and need to contemplate the changes required. As we address the issues, we can begin to take responsibility for our own role in the difficulties. How can we respond differently?
  • However, if the decision is to separate, counselling can help us manage the disorientating feelings of loss and our fears for the future. Alternative support networks and resources will need to be identified and established. New boundaries and terms of relating will need negotiating. With support, by examining our worst fears, by identifying our best hopes, and by establishing our strengths, a decision to move on and start again, will be more sustainable.

Crossroads in Relationships

Crossroads in Relationships

In every relationship there comes a point where a couple starts to think about moving forward.  This might mean a more serious commitment, such as seeing each other exclusively; introducing each other to parents; living together marriage or children.  This is a crucial and difficult time for couples to negotiate because it becomes a statement for themselves, friends and family that their relationship is serious.  This is invariably a make or break time between couples.

Who says it first?

Couples rarely feel ready to move their relationship forward at the same time and this can create an imbalance in the relationship.  If couples can learn to accept that difference doesn’t need to translate into rejection it can reduce tension and allow a couple to think about their relationship and move forward in a way that can accommodate them both.

‘But I thought we would have six children and move to Italy.’

When couples assume that their partners want the same things that they do problems arise.  Being clear with ourselves about what we expect from our relationship helps us communicate this to our partner.  Difference is not the problem; it is not being clear (and specific) about what these things are that result in conflict.

It’s a relief to say it as it is.

When we feel free to name what we need and want it helps to give shape and direction to our lives as a couple. Of course we need to learn to compromise, but as our mothers’ used to say: ‘If you don’t ask you don’t get.’ So get talking.

Shirlee Kay