Archive for couple relationship

The Course of Love Alain de Botton

‘Love means admiration for qualities in the lover that promise to correct our weaknesses and imbalances; love is a search for completion.’

This quotation, which in many ways both expands and focuses Plato’s search for your other half as described in his Symposium, comes early on in the book by the contemporary philosopher Alain de Botton. The Course of Love is by no means a dry and academic dissertation on the theme of love – still less a series of speculative notes detached from human realities. Rather it is a delightfully written novel, following the relationship of Rabih and Kirsten, which takes the time to unpack what is happening for them along the way.

Listen to him again…

‘In reality, there are rarely squabbles over ‘nothing’ in Rabih and Kirsten’s marriage. The small issues are really just large ones that haven’t been accorded the requisite attention. Their everyday disputes are the loose threads that catch on fundamental contrasts in their personalities’

Botton explores and unpacks the ordinary everyday issues that many couples struggle with and are common themes that come into our consulting rooms at Coupleworks. Through the engaging and compelling narrative of Rabih and Kirsten’s lives, interwoven with profound and thought provoking commentary, he covers issues of conflict, sulking, sex, blame, children and parenting, staying faithful and aging parents.

Underpinning his understanding of the couple relationship is the way in which we are shaped by our early attachment figures – our parents – and how this script forms a pattern for us in our expectations and actions towards our significant partner. On the one hand we expect our partners to respond in ways that are familiar to us, whilst on the other hand we can find ourselves reacting powerfully or seemingly irrationally to certain behaviours. This can lead to conflict, misunderstandings and a growing distance between a couple.

One of the themes he highlights which I find to be one of the most common features of couple therapy, is working with the disappointment that our partner is not going to be the person we would like them to be. But this doesn’t have to mean an unhappy ending. In working through the disappointment and letting go of a sometimes idealistic dream, there is much contentment to be found in an acceptance of the fact that our partners are different and other, and finding an intimacy and connection through that difference.

A final quote from Alain de Botton.

‘The partner truly best suited to us is not the one who miraculously happens to share every taste, but the one who can negotiate differences in taste with intelligence and good grace’

This book is accessible and a recommended read for all those who face the joys and challenges of being in a relationship!

Sarah Fletcher

How to survive the empty nest

All over the country in the last few weeks tens of thousands of families have had a child leaving for college or university. For some couples, this is the first child leaving and there is a lot of planning to do for the imminent departure in terms of kitting out their room and preparations for them to live away from home for the first time. If there are other children still living at home or the student remains living with their parents, the change and adjustments are not always as poignant and focussed. When the last child leaves home, however, the empty nest is a reality and this can be a testing time for couples.

For young people it is a rite of passage: leaving home, becoming more self sufficient and resourceful and making their own way in the world – something every parent would want for their child. But for the parents it is a huge adjustment when they begin to change their role in their children’s lives. It is a time of mixed feelings – of joy and excitement, but it can bring loss and loneliness too. The fridge is no longer emptied at the same rate – the house is quieter as it is no longer filled with noisy teenagers – and remains clean and tidier for longer. But how do couples manage this between them? The focus shifts from parenting back to the couple and this can bring about a crisis. Can the relationship survive this increase in time together? It propels couple relationships into a vulnerable phase and there are many couples who aren’t able to make this transition and do separate in the years after their children leave home.

So what can couples do in these first few weeks and months to prevent that happening?

TALK to each other about how they feel about the empty nest – sadness and loss – or a relief?

RECOGNISE and ACCEPT that their feelings might be different and try to understand the other’s experience.

TAKE up a new hobby or interest – try to make the most of the extra time you have

RECONNECT with friends that you haven’t seen for a while

MAKE PLANS for theatre, cinema or weekends away – you may have more flexibility and opportunities – use it.

LET GO – whatever you do don’t hang on to your child in order to fill the gaps in your life and your relationship. Don’t live your life through them.

ALLOW them to become the adults you have wanted them to be and allow yourselves to enter into this new stage in your life and relationship.

Coupleworks see many people coming for couple counselling at this stage in their lives. Often they have neglected their relationship for many years in favour of family activities. Children have covered up gaps and resentments and difficulties that have not been addressed. Counselling can provide an opportunity for these issues to be worked through and a chance to rebuild a connection that may have been lost or stifled.

Sarah Fletcher

Five Tips for Improving your Relationship in 2014

We can offer praise in so many situations, but this can so easily disappear in relationships. remember to thank each other for the small things. Make a point of showing appreciation for at least one thing a day.

Find time for each other. The couple relationship will not flourish without attention. Take the time to do things together. If finances are tight and going out is tricky, try and make an evening at home special even if it is just eating at a table and switching off tv, phones and computers for a few hours.

Listen to your partner if they are trying to get a point across. You think you have heard it all a thousand times already, but try and think why this situation always becomes so loaded, and why they feel so strongly. Remember that behind nearly every power struggle is fear. Look out for the deeper issues and find out how these things were sorted in their original family.

Walk and talk. being in a confined space during a difficult discussion can make things feel worse. if there are subjects that need serious thought, try going for a walk. Being outside and together but not looking at each other can help. We are less likely to misread facial expressions and body language.

Finally remember that we can never change another person, and it is tiring and frustrating to try. The only person we can change is ourselves. Try dealing with problems in a different way, and it is almost inevitable that your partner will therefore respond differently.

Christina Fraser