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Evolving Connections Counselling

Relationships, Individuals, Families



STEP INSIDE LOVE: Insight into Relationship Counselling

Posted on January 4, 2020 at 10:30 PM

Throughout my time as a therapist, I have noticed an interesting duality that occurs in the behaviours of some clients. On the one hand, people are aware that they have a right to ask for something that they need from their partner while at the same time they may feel embarrassment and/or shame about what it is they need. This situation can often lead to difficulties in communication between partners but is something that can be worked on through therapy.

The following case study has been drawn from a real session. Names have been changed to protect identities but the content is real.

Step Inside Love

Tony and Sam have been a couple for over 30 years. Both came to relationships counselling because constant bickering and withdrawal patterns had led to criticism and stonewalling behaviours that were too much to bear. As a couple, they felt concerned that the relationship was on shaky grounds and were aware that the rest of their family was finding it quite challenging to manage the tension and to be around them. They agreed that the common value for them was family unity and harmony and they named the negative interaction between them as "The Distancer".

Tony and Sam worked hard in their therapy sessions. Both identified that they had experienced feelings of betrayal and emotional injuries throughout the majority of their relationship and they tallked to each other about significant events that had impacted severely upon them in the past. Through their counselling sessions, they learnt to speak from a place of vulneraibilty to help each other hear and understand what each of them needed. However, the work was not quite done as yet.

During their seventh session, the couple reported that whilst they had noticed that "The Distancer" was less prevalent in their lives when it came to dealing with the "big stuff",  it continued to appear over "trivial stuff". Sam relayed the experience of Tony bringing in dusty footprints into the house whilst working on laying a new deck on their veranda. Sam was aware of the right to ask for something - not having the clean floors soiled by work boots - but also felt some embarrassment to ask because Sam was aware that Tony was working and sometimes it is difficult not to make some mess. The duality of thoughts seems also to have found its way into the counselling session. Right from the start and peppered throughout the story was Sam's constant apology for "...wasting the session..." and "...I know it seems really silly but..." 

Turns out, that once that experience had been fully explored, the key factor for Sam had been feelings of unacknowledgment and devalue and that actually these feelings were also experienced by Tony. Through their work in their sessions, both Sam and Tony came to recognise that they had felt triggered and had defaulted to "The Distancer". Furthermore, they came to see that the values they both held of being heard and seen and to be shown that they are valued by one another are constants.

Even those things we might ordinarilly see as 'trivial' can turn out to be the very things that allow us to overcome the duality of thoughts and actions.

Happy 2020 Everyone!


Jo X

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Such an important post. I love how this couple were encouraged to name the discomfort between them and how over time both realised they needed the same things ro be addressed.
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