So the dream that was Brangelina is over. Another celebrity couple it seems unable to cope with the pressures of life and maintain their relationship. But what about us ordinary folk? How do we cope when the stresses of life get in the way?
Counselling is a process in which the therapist will work with the couple to explore their backgrounds, context and emotional processes. The aim is for the couple to re-consider some of their beliefs and behaviours and find new ways of communicating and being together. Generally, this is done in one hour blocks on a weekly basis until the couple feel they are able to relate in new ways.
But what happens outside the counselling room is crucial to this process. Often part of the reason couples are struggling is due to the pressures they face. We may not be jetting round the world, saving children and mixing with presidents and film stars, but we face pressures. Pressures like; children, wider family, work, paying bills, dependents, friends etc. Clients regularly report they have no time just to be a couple, sharing each other’s company with no distractions.
So whilst the one-hour session can help consider new angles and ideas, these need to be put into practice. And this involves creating space. Space for couples to talk. To share ideas about the counselling. To remember what it is like just to be a couple and communicate with each other.
I’ll often give “homework” to couples, simple exercises designed to elicit extra information about the couple. But it’s also about trying to provide a reason for the clients to carve out that little bit of “them” time. If just siting and talking seems self-indulgent, having a task to do can help them feel like it’s OK to take time out from the hustle and bustle of modern life.
But this is an important message for all couples, whether in counselling or not. How much time do you spend just being you? Is it OK to leave the kids with a sitter and just go off and have you time? Do you communicate about things other than work, or bills, or who’s turn it is to wash up? If people could create more time to be together on a one to one basis, then the issues facing them may not turn into a crisis and therapy might never become necessary!
So even if it’s only 30 minutes each week, create a space. Go for a walk. Go for a meal. Turn off the TV (I know – radical, right?). Talk to each other about your feelings, not about your work. Create a space which is for you and you alone and engage with each other. You might even enjoy it.