Relationship issues account for a considerable amount of distress among people of all ages. This isn’t really surprising: relationships are hard work. Whether you’re talking about a married couple, a mother and her child, siblings, or a boss and employee, what you have is two different people managing the stress of working towards a common goal. When you consider all the possible ways personalities can clash, and how at different stages of life there are developmental issues (e.g. starting a family, children flying the nest, negotiating boundaries) to navigate, it’s a travesty that relationship management is not taught in school.
But while relationship problems are extremely common, people who seek professional relationship counselling are quite rare. This could well be attributed to the numerous misconceptions about the process of relationship counselling.
Consider 5 of the common myths about relationship counselling below.
1: Relationship counselling will decide which one of us is right.
Some couples (we’ll use “couples” from this point to refer to all kinds of relationships) have a long list of things they hate about each other, which becomes a battle of whose list is longer!
Consider married couple Paul and Amy. After catching Amy browsing a casual encounters site, Paul felt that Amy should be a stay-at-home wife to prove she was trustworthy. Amy, on the other hand, feels that its Paul’s tendency to be “suffocating” that caused her to consider a one night stand in the first place. For Amy, it’s Paul who should make the effort to get things back on track.
The pair went to relationship counselling expecting it to function like a court, with the therapist handing a verdict after hearing both sides. Relationship counselling doesn’t work that way. In a relationship, both parties contribute to the problem – and to the solution. What relationship therapists do is help clients gain an understanding of dysfunctional dynamics in their interactions, so that they can be assisted in finding a better way to live and be, both together and apart.
2: Relationship counselling can “recover the magic.”
“We want is to feel like we did when we first got together”
Relationship counselling is not a magic pill that will make you feel tingly, crazy in love, swept off your feet. Yes, it may allow you to recover the spark of those heady early days; couples can rediscover what made them fall in love in the first place. But whether you recover these feelings is down to you.
In practice, what relationship counselling does is not “bring back the old” but “create the new”. This something new doesn’t push the ugly past under the rug. Instead, it thrives in spite of, and even because of, the bad. Feeling in love again can simply start as a decision… feelings to follow. The good news is that relationships built on experience and mistakes are more mature and more resilient.
3: You are forced to play nice.
Many of those who refuse relationship counselling do so out of fear they’d be asked to sit down and really communicate with someone they can’t tolerate.
Rebecca, the child of a parent with narcissistic personality traits (incredibly self-absorbed and incapable of empathy), has had enough: 31 years of being ignored and used means there’s no repairing that relationship. In fact, just the idea of being in the same room with one or both of her parents brings Rebecca out in hives. She simply refuses to go to counselling where her parents would be present.
Relationship counselling will not force you into dialogue with someone you don’t like – unless you want to and you feel ready. In fact, relationship counselling can be one-on-one sessions, with the option of conjoint sessions later on.
4: Relationship counsellors will fix the problem for you.
This is true of any therapy process: therapists don’t issue prescriptions and then leave you to go on your merry way. For the most part, relationship therapists facilitate healthy communication between parties. Yes, most experienced practitioners have frameworks for assessment of relationship dynamics. But therapists are mostly skilled guides; you and your partner have to do the work.
5: It’s expensive.
As with all services, you do have options. Different therapists have different rates, especially now with so many online options which cuts down on time and costs. Feel free to shop around for what works for you, but do consider that learned, ethical professionals generally have rates proportionate to the quality of help they provide.
Subscribed to any of these myths? Then it’s time update your understanding, as well as the state of your relationship. Your relationship could be on its way to recovery by tomorrow if you seek professional help today. Book a consultation through the site, call or email for more information.