Research indicates that a loving, caring and supportive relationship can add years to people’s lives, especially men’s (Harvard Med School). And yet couples can leave it very late to seek support if their relationship is in trouble, often up to six years too late. Research would also indicate that an unloving, non caring relationship can lead to ill health through stress and down right unhappiness. Why is it that couples are reluctant to seek help? Is it that emotional pain is not recognised? Or is it that emotional pain is not considered to be something that needs attention? When it comes to emotional pain, do couples feel they just have to get on with life? Put on a good front? Stop moaning and carry on? Or worse, just keep arguing! Or could it be that relationship counselling is seen as a last resort and that their situation must be pretty hopeless if they need it?
With all of the busyness and demands of modern-day life relationship issues can very often be put on the back burner. Demanding jobs, long commutes, ferrying children about, financial worries, attending to extended family etc etc. The pressures and demands on a couple can seem endless and needing more priority than they (the couple) do. It can seem petty and selfish to put their needs before all of these important issues in their lives. And of course we are now in the middle of a Pandemic which has brought additional major challenges and can bring into sharp focus any cracks that previously evaded attention. The busyness may now be replaced with job insecurity, unemployment, financial strain and all of the challenges of Lockdown. The busyness and attending to all of those external demands may well have been a smokescreen, used to avoid facing the difficulties in the relationship.
When a relationship has been in trouble for some time a very negative and destructive pattern of arguing can set in with both convinced that the blame for everything lies firmly with the other. The couple can feel helpless to stop and keep going round and round in circles. They may want to fix things but have gone so far down the road of unhappiness they seem to have lost the way back. They can no longer see each other as they once did. Constant arguing and bickering becomes the norm. The situation seems helpless. One or other may think of leaving or does leave, or maybe an affair seems much more attractive than all of this arguing!
Then perhaps, one last ditch effort….maybe counselling would help?
The very thought of talking with a total stranger about their intimate private lives can be very daunting to couples, it can seem like a very dire place to be. And counselling is not a magic fix, it can take time for the process to seem like it is helping. It takes time and effort and a willingness to face up to the changes that need to be made, a willingness to face up to self change. As Scott Peck said, people seek counselling as they seek change in their lives, and spend most of the time resisting that change. Change does not come easily, it is far more tempting to believe it is the other that needs to change, not I.
When to seek help?
Sooner rather than later! A strong loving relationship can be a couple’s most valuable asset. Like a sturdy boat it can help them navigate the waters of life whether they be calm, rough, choppy or stormy. If there are leaks in the boat the vessel may struggle when the seas are challenging. But if the boat is kept in good repair it can face even gale force winds. Sure, it will be bounced about but with all hands-on deck it will eventually sail smoothly into the harbour.
Of course, if those on board put all their energy into arguing about the weather or seeking to establish blame for the leaks, things may not run so well. We cherish our valuable assets, protecting them, insuring them, maintaining them. A good relationship also needs care and attention. Regular relationship health checks can put a relationship back on track before it gets into those stormy waters or help to equip the couple with the skills to navigate what may lie ahead. Relationship counselling needs to be seen as a support, to be proactive, pro relationship, a support that can help with the various challenges and phases that relationships go through and not as a last-ditch effort. The bottom line?….loving relationships are good for your health!