What are the Main Causes of Conflict with Couples?
Communication gaps and misunderstandings are often the biggest cause of difficulties in relationships. You think you’re doing ok, until the misunderstandings begin to build or until you hit a crisis. Then resentments start to build. And build. Then all the issues you have never really cleared or resolve start to rise to the surface. Every interaction becomes an argument or disagreement, even if it’s not meant to be.
Each person will have different reactions – you may shut down and avoid the other person, or become more frustrated and increasingly vocal to try to get through, ending up shouting and saying things you cannot take back. You probably do a bit of both at different times. Issues don’t get resolved, so when there is conflict, you’re not only fighting about the current issue, but a lot of the unresolved past issues as well. Quite a burden to carry!
Move on, forget the past!” is a common request (command!) made after difficulties. But this is easier said than done. Especially if you do not have the skills to resolve conflict and arrive at a deeper understanding.
The biggest challenge
The biggest challenge I find is that couples leave counselling for too long. Couples keep putting it off to a later time, because it feels sometimes “easier” just to carry on and avoid the real issues. Often you don’t know how to handle issues constructively or how to find solutions. You keep on getting stuck in the same old patterns. You may hold a fear of what may emerge once counselling starts; that you may be blamed and accused of being wrong or at fault, or that counselling can make things worse.
How Therapy can assist your relationship
My sessions focus on understanding what is happening in this relationship, how it got to this point, what some of the major influences are (both negative and positive). We learn to understand the couples cycles of conflict and misunderstanding, learn some communication/ listening skills, and conflict resolution skills amongst others.
Once you start to see these cycles and patterns, so much begins to make sense. Often anger and frustration can dissolve over time, to be replaced with better communications, warmth, tolerance and acceptance. Friendship, respect and care can revive and deepen.
However sometimes the relationship has deteriorated too far and there is not really a way back. We work towards a more mature and amicable way of starting the separation process, so that there is less harm and hurt to all parties, including the children. (Note, this is not mediation or a legal process).
The First Session:
- In the first session, we explore the reasons why each person is here; what has happened to bring you in.
- Then what each person would like to get out of the sessions. This may differ and it is important that each person has a chance to express him/herself.
- We look at some general history, eg. how long you have been together; major influences have occurred in the past few years, children, their ages, and other issues depending on the couple and what is happening.
- I describe how I work, some of the things we can do, some of the things we cannot do… so that each person can feel more comfortable in their expectations. The focus is practical and realistic.
- We together explore what is the next step
Most couples will learn a basic communication technique, where the focus is on how you communicate, and how you listen. So easy in theory, but more challenging when your past emotions, hurts and resentments and misunderstandings resurface. We look to reduce blame and replace it in time with understanding and compassion.
We explore over time what patterns of relating and communications have developed over time. Some helpful and some destructive. Understanding means you can start to make small changes where appropriate. We also affirm and encourage what is already working and is positive and constructive in the relationship.
Pre marital Counselling and preparation:
Most couples are together a while before making this life changing decision. Already some incidents and lack of understandings/resentments have crept in. Pre marital counselling helps you build constructive and effective communications skills, conflict resolution skills, clarifying what you both want to create and build in your marriage, finance, intimacy, the extended family, step children etc.
Understanding The Parenting Role
Most relationships start to take strain with the arrival of the first baby. We look at some of this history, and if appropriate explore how baby brought stresses into the relationship, and how this can be managed. Or how it affected the parental and family relationship over time. Disciplining children/adolescents is a huge area of possible conflict, as parents have different personalities and styles. This is explored and where necessary, skills are offered.
Challenges with Blended Families
Step parenting and merging families bring their own set of challenges (as if parenting your own children is not challenging enough!). How to build up the 2 merging families is explored; what each child brings, what each parent brings, discipline issues, communication issues…
Divorce and Separation
So prevalent in our time. We look at the effects on the family, children and extended family, and explore how this can be managed effectively, with the minimum of conflict where possible.
Parent/ Child counselling and conflict resolution
The parent / child relationship is often challenging. Mother / daughter issues; or Father/ son issues arise and are not resolved. Therapy offers you a safe space to explore this relationship and find ways of resolving the conflict and misunderstandings.
Contact Sharon to make a first appointment, to get you on your way