Choosing to make a commitment to marriage, a civil partnership, or to co-habit is a major decision. However, it surprising how often couples have little guidance in preparing to make this decision and building a strong foundation for their life together other than a ‘try it and see’ approach alongside anecdotal advice from friends and relatives. It is understandable and not uncommon for a couple in the early stages of their relationship to want to overlook ongoing niggly tensions and misunderstandings, or ignore unspoken issues that if spoken about may unsettle their wish for a future together.
Amongst the joy, excitement and dreams of a future life together it is not surprising for a couple to assume that ongoing unhelpful patterns of communication or behaviour will just sort themselves out with little impact on their hoped for future happiness. Some couples will find ways of navigating their dilemmas without the need for counselling whilst other couples may have really benefitted from counselling guidance and support early on in their relationship to circumvent resentment, misunderstandings and dissatisfaction creeping in and getting in the way of their hopes, expectations and dreams of a life together. Other couples may find that their usual ways of understanding each other, communicating, and ‘resolving’ issues don’t seem to be helping when faced with a key life transitions such as having a child.
“Why do we need couple therapy?.....we’re in love!”
Because of popular ideas about love and romance it may seem ‘unromantic’ to think about having couple counselling early on in your life together, but it could actually be one of the wisest investments you make. One partner may be curious about the idea but the other may hear a suggestion of using couple counselling to build on and enhance resources for your relationship as a criticism. However, when making other major decisions it is not unusual to spend time researching it and equipping oneself with resources for successful outcomes, so why not do that for something as major as your couple relationship?. We are not born with, or given an instruction manual for how to live well with another person, so how can we expect ourselves to know how to do this without some of our own research or support?. My handout Expectations as a Partner can be a helpful resource in becoming more aware of your expectations of each other.
In offering the idea of couple counselling for couples early on in their life together I am not suggesting that ALL couples need it but I am suggesting that it could be helpful to find a way of becoming curious about your expectations of each other, understanding what those niggly tensions and resentments are really all about, actually speaking about “the elephant in the room”, and developing skills for effective communication.
Exploring your relationship and building your relationship skills as a couple early on in your life together can provide a lot of scope for exploring new ways of communicating and behaving without having to confront entrenched patterns that have built up over many years, and pave the way for using effective communication for navigating your life together.
I am increasingly receiving requests from couples in the early months or years of their relationship. If you are a couple deciding whether you want to build a life together and/or noticing that your relationship might benefit from some guidance for ongoing niggly tensions or misunderstandings I can help you with :-
Exploring your expectations of each other as a partner
Understanding and working through tensions, misunderstandings and resentments
Skills for effective communication
How to navigate conflict