Much of the work that we do at Inner Compass Counseling focuses on relationships and includes working with couples and marriage counseling. Sometimes, couples come to us and at least one of them has done individual counseling, but neither of them has ever done couples counseling. They often wonder, what is the difference between couples and individual counseling?
In couples counseling, I often tell people that there are three clients, the two individuals, plus the relationship. I ask a lot of questions about “the relationship” such as “how does that impact your relationship” or “how do you feel about the relationship”. Often couples are not used to thinking of their relationship in this way and it takes a bit of adjustment to get used to thinking about “the relationship”.
Sometimes couples want me to give them the steps to fix their relationship, sort of like a manual with certain steps to follow so that their relationship will improve. While we certainly do talk about steps to take to fix a relationship, there is no “one size fits all” for every relationship. At the beginning of our time together, I spend time trying to understand the relationship, where things have gone wrong, and where they are going right. Based on an understanding on where things have gotten “messed up” between the couple, we begin to come up with a plan, together, to begin to heal the relationship. Sometimes this consists of very concrete steps, and sometimes it is more fuzzy, as we explore feelings and underlying needs.
Do we talk about communication? Yes! I think every couple I have worked with had an initial complaint of “we can’t seem to communicate.” Since it is such a common grievance, we certainly talk about better ways to communicate between a couple. We also talk about the underlying blocks that prevent a couple from communicating. I often joke with couples, that if I send them home with the homework “Use I statements and tell your partner what you are feeling”, that when they get into a fight, the “I statement” will become “I feel like you are an asshole.” This is why we often spend time working on what is underneath the inability to communicate in an effective manner.
Will things get better between us? With all of the work I have done with couples, I can definitively say that things usually get better. As couples begin to open up to each other and begin to understand the reasons why their partner reacts as they do, they are able to soften and open up to each other and begin to understand each other, which has an added benefit of better communication between the two of them.
Please feel free to book a free 30-minute consultation with us today so we can get started helping you to change your relationship so that you feel closer to your partner. We hope to hear from you soon!