My name is Keena Hudson and I have been a counsellor in the Sutherland Shire for 20 years. Making an appointment to see a counsellor c...
Saturday, August 6, 2011
How to get the most from couples counselling
TO CREATE LASING IMPROVEMENT IN YOUR RELATIONSHIP YOU NEED:
1. A focus on changing yourself, not your partner.
2. Attitudes and skills to work as a team, including
a. Listening with curiosity and compassion instead of butting in or being defensive.
b. Speaking up instead of complying with resentment or withdrawing.
3. The motivation to persist and persist and persist.
4. Plenty of time to talk, help each other out and have fun.
LONG TERM GOALS COST.
The first cost will be time. The time you put into your relationship will probably encroach on either your personal or professional time.
The second cost is emotional comfort. It is challenging to change yourself and the habits you’ve developed over a lifetime.
The third cost is energy. It simply takes effort to remember to be more respectful, more giving and more appreciative.
GETTING THE MOST BENEFIT FROM COUNSELLING
No one runs a business without goals. Nor do we schedule business meetings without an agenda. So the more specific you are in 2 areas - the sort of relationship you want to create, and how you want to be as a partner - the more effective our work can be.
Similarly, if you prepare mentally for our meetings, they are more likely to be productive. In preparing for a session think about
What is the next step I need to take to be the partner I want to be?
What would I like our relationship to be like?
How has what happened this week fit into the wider context of our relationship?
FIVE TYPES OF INEFFECTIVE COMMUNICATION
Most ineffective reactions can be classified into one of five categories. Although we use all of them once in a while, most of us have favorites we use when feeling threatened, fearful, inadequate , resentful or some other kind of emotional pain.
Withdrawal - Stonewalling, becoming stoic, giving minimal responses, or leaving in the middle of a heated discussion.
Blaming - Accusing, finger pointing, yelling, trying to dominate the discussion.
Resentful compliance - Overly compliannt to your partner in order to avoid tension or potentially nasty discussions.
Whining - Complaining, competing for the victim position, ‘poor me’, or being very indirect about what you want.
Confusion - Inability to think clearly, going blank.
To create a flourishing relationship, we have to resist using these ineffective coping reactions.
PRINCIPLES FOR MAKING RELATIONSHIPS WORK
1. Edit yourself. Couples who avoid saying every critical thought when discussing touchy topics are consistently the happiest, so learn to bite your tongue.
2. Soften your “start up”. Arguments first “start up” because a partner sometimes starts a discussion by making a critical or remark in a confrontational tone. Bring up problems gently and without blame.
3. Accept influence. A marriage succeeds to the extent that the husband can accept influence from his wife. If a woman says, “Do you have to work Thursday night? My mother is coming that weekend, and I need your help getting ready,” and her husband replies, “My plans are set, and I’m not changing them”, this guy is in a shaky marriage. A husband’s ability to be influenced by his wife (rather than vice-versa) is crucial because research shows women are already well practiced at accepting influence from men, and a true partnership only occurs when a husband can do this as well.
4. Lower your tolerance for bad behaviour. The lower the level of tolerance for bad behaviour in the beginning of a relationship, the happier the couple is down the road.
5. Learn to repair and exit the argument. Successful couples know how to exit an argument. Successful repair attempts include: changing the topic to something completely unrelated; using humour; ‘stroking’ your partner with a caring remark, offering signs of appreciation for your partner. If an argument gets too heated, take a 20-minute break, and agree to discuss the topic again when you are both calm.
6.Focus on the bright side. In a happy marriage, while discussing problems, happy couples make at least five times as many positive statements to and about each othe,and their relationship, as negative ones. A good marriage must have a rich positive atmosphere. So make deposits to your emotional bank account.
In thinking about your goals ask yourself:
What sort of relationship do I want to create?
For this to happen, what sort of partner do I need to be?
What do I need to stop doing?
What do I need to start doing?
THREE BIGGEST BARRIERS TO CHANGE
Laziness, resentment and fear are the big 3.
1. Laziness. Creating lasting significant change takes effort in both time and emotional energy from both. One person cannot do it all on their own.
2. Resentment says “This is my reward for suffering and putting up with so much B.S.” But nursing our resentment is like drinking poison and hoping the other person will die.One big problem with resentment is that it makes us feel helpless. And our resentment makes us so unpleasant, the other person has little incentive to repair the situation.
If you are holding onto resentments, what is the price you are paying?
3. Fear. We are afraid of feeling rejected, being dismissed, anger, not feeling loved or supported. So as well as being afraid, we feel emotional pain about them. But instead of expressing this fear we usually fall into one of the types of ineffective communication.
IMPORTANT CONCEPTS FOR COUPLES THERAPY AND RELATIONSHIPS
We are all responsible for how we express ourselves, no matter how others treat us.
Most people come to couple therapy to feel better, but it’s better to approach it to get better. As people we tend to want what we don’t need, and need what we don’t want.
The hardest part of couples therapy is accepting you will need to improve your response to a problem (how you think about it, feel about it, or what to do about it). Very few people want to focus on improving their response. It’s more common to build a strong case for why the other should do the improving.
Couples therapy works best if you have more goals for yourself than for your partner.
Your partner is quite limited in his/her ability to respond to you.
You are quite limited in your ability to respond to your partner.
Accepting that is a huge step into maturity.
Improving your relationship means improving your own reaction to stress.
You can learn a lot about yourself by understanding what annoys you and how you handle it.
You need to have a good understanding of a problem before you can find an effective solution.
In a strong disagreement, do you really believe your partner is entitled to their opinion?
Under stress, do you have the courage and persistence to understand what you’re partner’s going through, and the courage to express what you’re going through?
It’s important to explain to your partner what is happening for you, because they can’t value what they don’t understand.
Can you reasonably expect your partner to treat you better than you treat him/her?
Can you reasonably expect your partner to treat you better than you treat yourself?
If you want your partner to change, do you think about what you could do to make it easier?
Do you know how you feel in important areas of your relationship? If not, it is like playing poker when you see only half your cards. You will make a lot of dumb moves.
Trust is the foundational building block of a thriving relationship.
You create trust by doing what you say you will do over a significant amount of time.
If neither of you ever rocks the boat, you will end up with a dull relationship.
You can’t change your partner. Your partner can’t change you. Becoming a more effective partner is the most efficient way to change a relationship.