Couples therapy, also commonly referred to as couples counselling or relationship counselling, involves sitting down with an expert who is highly skilled in navigating relationship conflict. Sessions usually last 50 minutes and couples meet on a weekly or fortnightly basis. Research suggests that on average 12 to 16 sessions of couples therapy is sufficient to achieve lasting positive change in the relationship, and there is a 70 to 80% success rate. The first session typically involves discussing the history of the relationship, the patterns of conflict, what causes stress in the relationship, and the main problems experienced by each partner.
Conflicts and disagreements are unavoidable and are a healthy, normal part of any committed relationship. Conflict between partners arise due to differences in values, goals, or underlying personality traits that are incompatible. The presence of conflict is not a concern, it is how each partner and the couple respond to the conflict that defines the success or otherwise of the relationship. Listening to each other and working through conflict respectfully actually strengthens the bond between you and makes for a stronger more stable relationship over time. This cycle of rupture and repair is what makes a relationship robust.
However, for some couples, there are patterns of conflict that are unmanageable or irresolvable and they keep popping up over time. Common presenting problems in couples therapy that lead to heightened conflict include poor communication, excessive criticism, unrealistic or high expectations of one or both partners, or selfishness and lack of compromise. Couples commonly need help to negotiate these recurring issues effectively.
If you are experiencing a lot of conflict with your partner remember some key points:
- Listen to your partner’s point of view
- Be open and respectful when discussing what you need
- Maintain a positive attitude
- Focus on problem-solving and compromising
- Avoid attacking or criticising
- Keep calm and take a break if either of you are feeling angry, exhausted or overwhelmed
- Make time to address the problem when you are both more relaxed
- Retain an open-ended dialogue
- Understand you can’t resolve every disagreement and “agree to disagree”
- Own your part in the conflict
- Get professional help if you need support
Taking the step to get outside help can be daunting. At Mindwell Psychology our approach to therapy is deeply respectful and we endeavour to make this process as easy and rewarding as possible. Please reach out today and make an appointment with our Couples Therapist.