“We’ve tried Relate – but all they did was watch us argue then repeat what we’d said back to us – which got us nowhere, and was a waste of time and money!”
Sadly I’ve heard this, and similar, comments too often. The existing narrowly-focused methods of ‘couples counselling’ can fail to appreciate the complexity of a relationship, and that what works for one couple will leave another couple feeling frustrated and impotent. We need a more ‘whole-brain and holistic’ approach to exploring and repairing our most important human asset – our relationships.
The marital and sexual therapy of decades ago is still copied and practised by many counsellors and agencies. Their focus being upon improving communication styles, increasing emotional intimacy, increasing and prolonging physical arousal, and delaying sex… which is fine – up to a point.
What this overlooks is that too much intimacy, talking and physical closeness can be repellent to some people – and such an approach might only make things worse! It’s hard to desire something or someone who is predictably close and available. Desire is stimulated by lack, by missing something or someone and what they bring to our life.
There are several facets to every relationship. My own ‘assessment’ questions (for couples) cover a wide range of these facets and help to expose the dynamics and underlying motives, desires, hurts and grudges in a relationship, and to show how far things have deviated from the preferred state.
A more holistic approach to repairing a relationship (or working towards an ending if this is inevitable and one side is committed to the ending) looks at each person within their whole context and includes their own family of origin and what they witnessed there; each person’s career/work relationships; their self-esteem, life ambition and aims; the areas in which they are compatible; and clarifying – and working to make up for – any deficits.
It is always interesting which partner makes the call for help, when and why.
I’m also curious about:-
* The patterns they play out in the drama of their everyday relationship.
* Their individual attachment styles and how these effects one another.
* The effects of childhood trauma, neglect, abuse, conditioning and the decisions made by the child-brain which still direct the ongoing play of their adult lives.
* The consequences of any brain injuries – even mild concussions and sports injuries to the head.
* Their partner’s mood disorders – and how to adjust and adapt to these.
* Their level of compatibility – using 12 criteria (and allowing for age-related compromises!).
* Both partners’ self-knowledge, awareness and personal responsibility for the relationship.
* The level of assertive, clear and compassionate communication – and their awareness of different styles and levels of communicating.
* How real, authentic, respectful and genuine they are with one another.
* Their understanding of the different types of relationships, and the different stages they tend to go through.
* Their home/work/fun balance, and their priorities
Emotional and physical intimacy are important – but within a wider framework of a mutually trusting and rewarding partnership. We all steer our own ship and can chose who to have on board with us. We tend to prefer those who help us to enjoy our shared journey.
A whole-brain life and a holistic lifestyle principally enhances our relationship with ourself – which needs to be good enough to then allow for better relationships with others.
(The eight-week course (two hours per week) from ‘The Ripple Effect’ Process called ‘Understanding Relationships’ demystifies couples therapy and offers many valuable insights and useful guidance which helps to enhance relationships in a ‘whole-brain and holistic’ way.)