"The hope for a better human future lies not in an endless succession of technological advances but in a realistic grappling with the fundamental issue of the quality of human relationships; and central to that fundamental task I see the urgent need to make the achievement of a deeply satisfying and rewarding relationship possible for an emerging number of married couples." (David Mace, April 1987, Journal of Marital and Family Therapy)
The above statement was written many years ago now and technological advances continue to increase.
The following information may be a helpful guide as to whether or not relationship counselling may be of use to you.
Are you wanting to be well prepared for making a life together, or continuing your life together, or getting back together? Counselling can help clarify your values, look at what you bring to your relationship in terms of family culture, ways you deal with conflicts, your beliefs and ideas regarding money, bringing up children, sex, religion or spirituality, or how you handle hurts (an inevitable part of being human!). It is empowering to realise that you can consciously choose what it is that you want to create together and take forward and which bits you prefer to leave behind.
Your family background is not deterministic in that each person has a unique response to the way they were brought up. The richness of people's lives that emerges when exploring family backgrounds and relationships provides valuable insight for couples and often helps make sense of the inevitable differences that can cause conflicts. No matter what kind of past you have, there are always parts of it, special people or special places that are helpful and strengthening. Being aware of these can help sustain you through the difficult times.
Are you feeling distant or isolated from each other? This is a very common problem and natural occurrence particularly when children arrive on the scene or when you are focussed on career or home building and/or parenting, or struggling with external stressors such as redundancy, work stress, extended family issues or grief and loss. Many couples come to counselling having grown apart. The way you deal with this is quite important in this day and age when separation is so common and can appear to be the only solution to change what you are up against.
Looking after yourself, each other and your relationship is crucial, how you go about that is another matter. Some couples will fight with each other, others will keep their distance in order to maintain the status quo and not upset the apple cart! It is well worth the effort of finding a way to deal with any issues earlier, rather than later when they may have grown into a far bigger problem to tackle and you have become stuck in a cycle which, ultimately, may result in you detaching from your partner to get away from disliking both your partner and yourself!
It is sometimes during lengthened times of neglect, boredom or busyness that your relationship becomes a sitting duck for infidelity to strike! Repairing relationships with this kind of damage (infidelity) is challenging but possible, if both parties are willing to engage in the recovery process. In my experience this is not a "quick fix" but can be achieved and can even deepen your connection.
I see many couples who do love each other deep down, but are not feeling loved by each other which can lead to all sorts of problems taking hold. There are ways of working out just what it is that is going to sow the good stuff into your relationship. Sometimes, it is a relatively simple matter of knowing how to initiate conversations which will let each other know how it is going, being able to address concerns and being willing to enact solutions. It is important that you feel safe enough to share your vulnerabilities with each other and if you have been caught in a pattern of harmful and destructive behaviours or words against each other this can erode trust and block the intimacy that makes your relationship rewarding and satisfying.
However, many couples only come to counselling at the point of crisis rather than before it reaches that point. Sorting out issues sooner rather than later is usually wise.
So, do you want to find out how to strengthen your connection, repair some damage and rebuild, get back together, go your own ways or maybe find alternative ways of staying together? The distress you may be feeling can help tell you what it is that you actually value and is a reliable marker or signpost to help us figure out what changes are going to be helpful for you. How these changes are integrated into the way you relate, and what supports will help you achieve and maintain these, are an important part of relationship counselling.
If you are separated, or in the process of deciding whether to separate, or going through the process of separation but want to remain connected as parents for your child or children's benefit, I am experienced at helping you find ways to ensure your children don't miss out. Together we can work out what the obstacles are for you and tailor a realistic plan to meet your needs. Having a mediator with you is an effective way of firstly diluting the tension, supporting the sadness or dealing with the disappointment and usual resentments to help you to get to the core of what's going on in order to be able to plan a way forward. This may involve working with each of you separately at first in order to facilitate the way forward as you go through the process of negotiating a different kind of relationship.
If you are in a relationship where you have children and/or your partner also has children, you will usually be facing a very interesting journey which can be rich and rewarding but will also bring many challenges in terms of the adjusting and adapting to the new arrangements and relationships that are faced by all involved. There are often major conflicts that arise in such situations and the way these are handled will be important, in that it can worsen things or improve things, and will set your course for your future.
It is my experience that people's vulnerabilities are pretty similar and when it is consistently safe enough for the more vulnerable parts to be exposed and when they are treated with care, it will usually result in the closeness and the sense of acceptance and belonging that human beings thrive on.
Relationships can be rewarding and satisfying or distressing and full of turmoil. It is worth making sure you are doing what you can to achieve a relationship which is enjoyable, meaningful and functional. A well nourished and tended relationship will strengthen you both to get through the many challenges that life brings. Hope is the anchor of the soul.