A number of couples with whom I have worked recently are evidence of a shift in attitude concerning relationship care. They have sensed that things are not going well and come along earlier rather than later in a bid to avoid continuing relationship deterioration and potentially, ‘hitting the wall’.
Once a couple hits the metaphorical wall, it’s a long way back and takes a lot of work and dedication.
Most of us are familiar with the notion of preventative health care for the physical body. Well, consider this ‘preventative relationship care’. The kinds of interpersonal turbulence that set off alarm bells for these couples were: lingering low moods, one of the partners seeming detached or absent, unsatisfying communications, dwindling sense of intimacy, disturbed levels of libido, a general absence of a feeling of togetherness and an inability to have satisfying conversations around important issues and changing circumstances. Such conversations are often emotionally hijacked or blocked, resulting in an abiding frustration.
Basically the couples had reached a place of being stuck and realised that it was impossible to solve various impasses from inside the relationship. A counsellor offers ideas, reactions and feedback from a vantage point outside of the relationship, whilst honouring and supporting both sides without prejudice or bias. Fresh perspectives are generated and skills gained which enable a couple to function more collaboratively.
Often couples are given tasks to go home and experiment with which are designed to counteract that subtle sense of over-familiarity and presumptuousness that can creep into a long-term union. These tasks also engender intimacy, something that in my opinion, begins with effective communication.
Relationships are intimate vessels or vehicles carrying bonded passengers travelling on an ever-evolving journey. Given changing circumstances over a lifetime, the relationship actually rests upon shifting sands and a couple may require outside assistance in navigating this changing landscape. Over time, individuals mature within themselves and different roles are assumed by both partners out in the world. We become parents, carers, assume workplace positions and are part of an extensive social fabric. These factors create complexity, which can substantially impact a relationship. Thus the relationship requires ongoing attention and vigilance, given that it needs to constantly adapt.
Love is a wonderful attribute of a union but unfortunately it doesn’t maintain, nor manage togetherness. That’s why at times our loved ones can drive us crazy! The infrastructure of a relationship requires maintenance, reinforcement and revitalisation for love to prosper over time and through adverse and challenging circumstances.
In essence, ‘preventative relationship care’ can kick in when the storm shows up on the radar, rather than when the shipwreck is already apparent.
So, if pain persists, see your counsellor.