Preparing for Couples Therapy

Sadly, the breakdown of a relationship is still very much prevalent in today’s society.

According to a social study carried out by the University College London (UCL) in 2021, over one in five people (22%) said they experienced a complete breakdown of a relationship either within their family, with friends, colleagues, or neighbours because of the pandemic. In the same year with regards to partner relationships, the 2021 Census recorded the following:

  • the lowest number of marriages on record since 1838.
  • a significant increase (24.3%) in the number of people who now cohabit as a couple (albeit, not in a marriage or civil partnership).
  • divorce rates for both opposite-sex and same-sex couples were at their highest since 2014.
  • and overall, around 58% of everyone over the age of 16 in the UK is in a relationship.

Why can’t we maintain a relationship?

These reports reflect the changing dynamics of relationships here in the UK, and also serve to remind us that being in a relationship or developing a relationship is still an important part of who we are.

We are hard-wired to desire love and care and have a need to show it to others. Relationships can often play a vital part in defining who we are. Many studies show that enhancing and developing a couple’s relationship and preventing it from breaking down has many benefits for each partner as well as the wellbeing of any children in the relationship.

One of the challenges that most couples face is that relationships are fluid and need to continuously change and develop. Change is not a bad thing. Unfortunately, we are not always prepared for it and many times we do not know how to handle the changes that need to happen in our relationship. One partner may be completely blind to the changes stating “I am happy, why is there a problem? ”, while the other partner is at their wits end trying to hang on in there.

Some of the difficulties often cited in a relationship might include:

  • the transition to parenthood and the challenges of raising children.
  • money.
  • health and wellbeing.
  • sex… or lack of.
  • in-laws, family and friends.
  • infidelity.
  • respective and expected roles.
  • poor communication.

All of these represent some form of change, and it is not always clear why the change has come about. And, to further complicate things, our interpretation of these changes might be a sense of rejection, of no longer being wanted, respected, heard, seen or loved.

One of the significant developments that the reports cited above illustrate is how our attitudes towards relationships and their structure have changed dramatically. It is no longer socially necessary to be married in order to live together (at least in some cultures!). The structure of a relationship today might include marriage, companionship, an open relationship, civil partnerships, monogamy, polygamy, casual dating, cohabitating or good old friends with benefits.

When couples come into therapy, there is some preparation they can do.   

Dr. Ellyn Bader and Dr. Peter Pearson, co-creators of the ‘The Developmental Model’ of relationship counselling suggest a couple jot down their answers to three questions before attending a Couples Therapy session:

  1. What kind of relationship do you want to create so you are glad to see each other at the end of the day?
  2. Why is that kind of relationship important to you?
  3. What is required of you (not your partner) that will bring about your ideal relationship?

So, to get the most from your Couples Therapy, why not answer these questions individually before coming along? Then, we can talk more when we meet.  

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