3d Illustration of tough decision ahead traffic sign

The reality of relationship counseling.

We experience the ‘urge to merge’ when we think we have found a date who will become OUR mate. We find ourselves in a state of euphoria, a head over heels adrenaline rush, driven in part by Mother Nature, wanting us to procreate and sending Hormones that hijack the Head and affect the Heart. This is the time we don our rose coloured spectacles, idealising the other, whilst concurrently projecting our best self – aiming to be both ‘interesting and interested’. If observed by some more wise persons they might assume we were riding along, head in the clouds AND on square wheels.

However this period usually lasts no longer than 12-18 months. It is for this reason that the last and very important chapter in my book ‘The Really Useful Grown-Ups Guide to Dating & Mating’ is titled Deciding. Whether it has been seven months or seven years you might one day wonder what you are doing with This Person In This Relationship.

There is a rhythm to the ending of a marriage just like the rhythm of a courtship – only backward. You try to start again but get into blaming over and over. Finally you are both worn out, exhausted, hopeless. Then lawyers are called in to pick clean the corpses. The death has occurred much earlier.

                                                                                                    Erica Jong  How To Save Your Own Life

Different tracks

Some of us Drift along in relationships that are not really fulfilling, but they kind of work. Some of us Tolerate circumstances, possibly hoping things will change. Others Resent for a period of time, hoping it will get better, however, there is an old saying that you never stub your foot on a mountain, but, believe me, even small repeated resentments will become the Himalayas over time. Frequently couples wait to visit a therapist when they are at the Raging stage. Some want to discuss with the therapist whether the other’s intractability is at fault – and sometimes it might be. (There are Narcissists and Passive Aggressive personalities, to name but a couple, who can testing put it mildly,to cohabit with. The decision might then be do you resign yourself to living with the behaviour or do you leave?)

Whoops – we are off the rails

When the rose coloured spectacles do slip, and they almost always do, there can be the potential for disappointment on either-or both- sides. This can be the time couples, married or not, reassess their desire to cohabit. Once you Heart changes and you lose the desire to be in the relationship, its demise is almost inevitable, although your Head may well delay accepting that fact. Everything your partner now does may make you less happy, with insecurity, betrayal and anger creeping into your interactions.

This is often the time couples have a first visit to a relationship therapist or marriage guidance counsellor. Sadly though, much like a doctor cannot cure an incurable disease, a therapist cannot save a relationship when your heart has quit. While a therapist can help you examine your feelings only you can know your own emotions.

What do YOU really, really want?

In the book ‘Sacred Cows- ‘The Truth about Marriage and Divorce’ the authors suggest distressed couples examine their basic desires BEFORE seeking counselling. Imagine a Relationship Fairy appearing, complete with wand, able to fulfil your greatest desire about your current relationship. (Note – no wishes about money or eternal life – she is the Relationship Fairy after all!) No-one will know what you ask for so you can be totally honest.

Do you want your partner to agree regarding raising the kids, how to spend money, or whether your mother is a reasonable person. Or do you want the Relationship Fairy to cast amorous dust in your partner’s eyes, so they make passionate love when you walk through the door? Do you want your heart filled with love for your partner – or do you want them to run off with the tennis pro to Brazil??

Armed with your personal honest evaluation of your desires, you are better equipped to select the advice that best suits you. Or indeed to recognise that no self-help book, therapist or counsellor is going to save the current relationship.

Proviso Even when couples therapy might not bring resolution, don’t ignore therapy altogether – it can be beneficial in working through separation issues and ensure that patterns of relating are not being blindly followed with your next choice of partner.

Counselors, Therapists and Self-Help Books.

Therapists, and the millions of self-help books out theretend to fit into various camps. There are those who wish to reduce conflict and/or rekindle romance, those who suggest you fake it till you make it, that you are selfish if you consider separating and so on and so on ad nauseum.. However, all the conflict resolution in the world, the empathic listening and sharing, the sensate exercises dutifully carried out won’t help if your partner doesn’t love you, has an incompatible sexual orientation, or a personality disorder that you cannot live with. You can waste much time and money and heighten your frustration.

There are counselors who believe in saving marriages at any cost. Is this what you want and if not it might be wise to ask up-front

Do you believe your role is to assist Robin and I to become happier people, or to save our relationship?’”

A good counselor will assist you to repair a damaged relationship if that is what both individuals desire. They will also help you to decide whether being in this partnership is the right thing, right now and into the future, for you both. And if you want your relationship to flourish – and not flounder because of sexual glitches – seek guidance from a professional sex therapist. Google “sex therapist + (my town) and you’ll get a list of qualified professionals working under a strict Code of Ethics. You don’t need a referral from a GP.

I wish you what you wish for yourself