Luke Carrangis is our resident psychologist here at Gisborne Health Essentials. In this article, Luke takes us through how to shift your perspective from breaking up to making up when your relationship isn’t panning out you would like it to. Couples therapy can help you turn it around. Read on to find out if counselling may help your relationship.
Originally published here, this article has been republished with permission.
Seeking out couples therapy is not an indicator that you’re in a ‘bad’ relationship or marriage and it certainly doesn’t have to be a pre-cursor to a break-up. Every relationship has up and downs – and as a psychologist, I understand just how challenging they can be. I want to assure anyone out there who may be experiencing a loss of satisfaction or breakdown in their relationship that there is hope to turn things around.
Couples therapy and relationship counselling can be used in all types of relationships, even those that are already strong. That said, I recommend reading on to see where couples therapy or counselling could very much help.
1. You’re constantly fighting and/or bickering
Not surprisingly, constant fighting is one of the most common reasons couples feel they are unhappy in a relationship. It’s completely normal for couples to have disagreements, big or small, however, the way that you express yourself during these interactions is one of the key markers of a healthy relationship.
Couples therapy can help you develop healthier ways of communicating with one another as well as uncover any underlying reasons that could be fueling your constant disagreements. The good news is that once these things are pin-pointed and addressed you can expect to see a significant improvement in your relationship.
2. You feel as though you’re growing apart
As a relationship progresses, ideally, you and your partner should be growing closer but many couples we work with comment that they are ‘drifting apart’, or ‘have become different people’. What we commonly find with couples who are becoming more and more distant is that the relational friendship (the friendship part of your relationship) is becoming eroded. This includes 3 key areas;
- fondness and admiration for one another
- turning towards one another when you are in need
- staying up to date with each other as you both grow and expand as people
The good news is that these are all things that can be worked on if both partners are committed to improving their relationship. After doing a thorough assessment of your relationship, an experienced couples therapist will be able to pinpoint exactly where the issues in your relationship lie then arm you with the right tools to address your struggles. These things combined should set you back on track to a closer and more satisfying relationship.
3. You bury your feelings
Do you find yourself avoiding communication with your partner over important issues or feelings? Burying your feelings or simply pretending everything is fine can lead to tension, isolation, resentment, not to mention the loss of intimacy that occurs when you emotionally withdraw from your partner.
When people in intimate relationships turn away from each other, rather than facing their issues and working through them, it can be a slippery slope. Utilising a number of evidence-based approaches, a relationship counsellor can help you uncover the root of these tensions, help you work through the unexpressed emotions, and set you on a path to a healthier way of communicating with one another.
4. The sex has lost its appeal
Sex is one of the major issues couples not only fight about, but have difficulties discussing. Both men and women can at times feel guilty about bringing up sex as an issue in their relationship – however like any other crucial aspect of a relationship, if feelings of dissatisfaction are not discussed there is no chance of ever reaching a resolution and tension and resentment inevitably build up to a breaking point.
It’s quite normal for couples to have mismatched sex drives or face other issues around ‘incompatibility’ when it comes to sex. My experience is that if couples are given the help they need to talk about sexual issues in a respectful and safe environment – I often see some very beneficial outcomes for both partners involved.
5. Money, or lack of it, is causing you trouble
Did you know that money is one of the leading causes of anxiety in a relationship? Things like what you spend your money on, how much each person contributes financially and even how important money is to each of you can cause arguments and tension in your relationship. Additionally, financial strain (lack of money, mounting debt) is a significant cause of stress in a relationship and can affect the way we react to situations with our partner leading to more arguments and loss of connection.
The key to working through problems and disagreements around money is healthy communication. Additionally, a strong relationship can be a source of comfort and strength when external stresses, such as financial strain, become an issue. When issues around money arise, we seek to work on strengthening the communication skills within the relationship as well as work on building trust and intimacy so that the relationship can weather the hard knocks that life will throw you.
6. You often think about cheating
If you catch yourself increasingly thinking about being with someone else – or have already – this is a clear sign that something is broken in the relationship. People cheat on their partners for many reasons. Often, you may fantasise about being with someone else because your needs in your current relationship aren’t being met. If you have the desire and the opportunity, you may act out on these fantasies which could spell disaster for your relationship. Whatever the reason, infidelity can destroy relationships. Why? It’s simple. Trust and commitment are the fundamental pillars of a relationship and if either is irreparable, your relationship will come tumbling down.
Infidelity is obviously one of the hardest things couples can go through, but however bad it may seem, if two people are committed to staying together resolution is possible. If infidelity has already occurred, couples therapy can help to repair the trust that was broken because of the betrayal and work on solidifying the couple’s commitment to the relationship. Additionally – to ensure that each person’s needs are being expressed, heard, and met – couples therapy will arm you with stronger and healthier communication skills so that neither of you will be left feeling the need to go outside of your relationship for satisfaction.
7. You want to strengthen your relationship
There is a common misconception that seeking couples therapy means that you have a ‘bad’ relationship that needs ‘fixing’. For some, relationship troubles, whether they are big or small, can be hard to face and for this reason couples often avoid dealing with relationship issues until it’s too late.
The truth is, even mostly happy relationships would benefit from couples therapy. There is no shame in seeking help, in fact committing to put the time and energy into your relationship shows courage, and demonstrates that you value your relationship with your partner.
Don’t give up, we can help
Luke Carrangis is passionate about helping couples to work through their struggles and build stronger connection and intimacy within their relationship. Gisborne Health Essentials provides a safe space for couples to work through whatever challenges they are facing.