Couple Counselling – and just when is a discussion an argument
- Counselling; A time to end and a time to begin1st March 2017
- Counselling and the art of giving back1st February 2017
- And this year I will…..1st January 2017
- Social Anxiety, Counselling and Christmas1st December 2016
- Couple Counselling – and just when is a discussion an argument1st November 2016
- Therapy, Mobiles and the Challenge of Choice1st October 2016
- Counselling, September and an Ellison’s Orange 1st September 2016
- Counselling – A room with a view1st August 2016
- Counselling: Choices and Decisions1st July 2016
- Counselling, Musee d’Art et d’Histoire and the Inevitability of Change1st June 2016
- Counselling and the art of Ambiguity. 1st May 2016
- Repetition; Normality or Folly. A Counselling Perspective1st April 2016
- Lions, Lambs and Therapy3rd March 2016
- Valentines Day, Counselling and the Great Unknown1st February 2016
- Janus Faced? The New Year, Counselling and Psychotherapy1st January 2016
- So which road do we travel this Christmas...1st December 2015
- Counselling, Guy Fawkes and Scapegoating1st November 2015
- Counselling Work and Narrative Therapy1st October 2015
- Counselling, Therapy and the end of Summer1st September 2015
- Wheat, Rye and Counselling1st August 2015
- Counselling and a break away3rd July 2015
- Counselling and the unexpected1st June 2015
- Counselling, Elections and our opportunity to choose1st May 2015
- Therapy, an April fool and the art of lost memory1st April 2015
- A Spring Clean Therapy and Counselling1st March 2015
- Couple Counselling & Valentines Day1st February 2015
- Nothing changes if nothing changes but this year can be different!1st January 2015
- Social Anxiety Disorder A Christmas Concern1st December 2014
- SAD & those dark Winter nights1st November 2014
- Existential Counselling A useful approach or pretentious jargon?1st October 2014
- Counselling, Therapy and a return to work1st September 2014
- Holidays, Counselling and your Shadow1st August 2014
- Couple Counselling and Choice1st July 2014
- Counselling, Jules Rimet and you A therapeutic perspective1st June 2014
- Counselling and Mayday A different take on a familiar story?1st May 2014
- Useful Therapy and not an April Fool1st April 2014
- Counselling, Floods and Pandoras Box1st March 2014
- Counselling and the art of being normal1st February 2014
- The New Year and a time for change?1st January 2014
- Christmas & Counselling The first Noel1st December 2013
- Counselling, Broomsticks & Halloween1st November 2013
- Couple Counselling and just what is a successful relationship?1st October 2013
- Counselling An issue of choice?1st September 2013
- Existential Counselling From Yalom to Basingstoke1st August 2013
- Counselling and the art of reframing1st July 2013
- Counselling - Change or Conformity?1st June 2013
- May Day Counselling - Celebration or Conflagration ?1st May 2013
- Summer Time & the Counselling Room1st April 2013
- Depression a useful diagnosis or an unhelpful label?1st March 2013
- An Emotional Timeline3rd February 2013
- Resolution, Revolution & Counselling1st January 2013
- Christmas, Carols & Counselling2nd December 2012
- Seasonal Affective Disorder and the SAD Season4th November 2012
- Psychotherapy & Counselling A Stoic Perspective17th October 2012
- 10th October 2012 - World Mental Health Day5th October 2012
- A First Meeting Explanation or Exploration?5th September 2012
- CBT, Mental Filtering and the Olympics19th August 2012
- I am not an angry man 14th July 2012
- Art, Counselling & Interpretation26th June 2012
- Murder Mysteries and Psychotherapy25th May 2012
- The importance of choice in therapy29th April 2012
- Reflections on Spontaneity6th April 2012
- A personal trainer for the mind 12th March 2012
One issue which can bring clients into a therapy room relates to those misgivings about what is normal. These concerns can include our thoughts and fantasies, behaviours, perhaps our sugar, alcohol or carbohydrate intake or those interactions with others whether that other person is a child, lover, parent or partner.
There can be very real apprehension that things are not right, that this way of being is not right and perhaps even 'that I am not normal'. Within couple work or relationship counselling that concern can often transfer across into ‘we’. It relates to ‘us’ or ‘our way of doing things’. Are we normal? Is this what other couples do?
I have never been a great fan of looking to the ‘normal’ as a guide for how to live or how to be. And that includes my views on relationships. This is your life, your relationship and it is up to you and your partner to decide how to be together. You can establish your own normal. You can both own your normality.
Perhaps for couples the real challenge comes when there is a discontinuity of view between partners about just what is normal within the relationship. There is something about what we each expect and just what are we okay with. What is our frame of reference and do we still see things in the same way as our partner.
For example when does the verbal interaction which one of us sees as an animated discussion which can be fun suddenly become a destructive argument which is confrontational; and when does sitting together without talking go from being a reflection of warm companionship to instead evidencing a place of stultifying boredom?
Ideally couples will have shared views on what is acceptable and will have established a behaviour pattern which works and becomes a norm for that relationship. Yet sometimes very real differences develope. Marginal differences are acceptable but clients usually walk into the couple therapy room when that gap threatens to become too wide and fault lines start appearing.
It can be helpful to go back to basics. What is going on now against what was anticipated when we first met? What did we expect from each other and from the relationship? What do we want now? And how have we dealt with inevitable changes wrought by passing years such as children, redundancy, loss, financial concerns together with all the other happenings, some good and some not, which life brings? How do we now define normal? And just what do we both see as a successful relationship?
Sometimes when ‘playing’ with ideas in the therapy room including that of the so called ‘failed relationship’ I invite views as to which relationship is the more successful. Is it the couple who live together through to their golden anniversary and beyond, nestling safe in suburbia with 2.4 children plus dog, with a placid gentle relationship with no surprises, no disappointments but perhaps for many years also no excitement; or is it the couple who spend a year together which is passionate, dynamic, deep, incredibly inspiring and stimulating - and which then abruptly ends?
Which relationship has worked and which has not? Which is successful?
Perhaps we will all have different thoughts on this and similar images. There will be the fantasy from the motion picture and the reality of life in the now.
The evaluation, the judging as to whether relationships has been a success or failure is intensely personal. It reflects dreams, aspirations and expectations. If I go back to the sage of my formative years, Dylan (he now of the Nobel prize for literature) writes that ‘there is no success like failure and that failure is no success at all’. That may be nonsense or profound dependent upon your point of view. How we want to view success and failure in our relationship will also depend upon the view that we take.
Donald Winnicott, a renowned paediatrician and psychoanalyst made reference to the concept of ‘good enough’. It is an idea that I often return to. Winnicott maintained a particular focus on mothers and children but this notion of being ‘good enough’ resonates across many different aspects of the human condition including relationships.
Just what is ‘good enough’ as far as this relationship is concerned. And where does that leave the clients who are wondering about what is normal.
It may be helpful to find some quiet time and space to do that thinking. Perhaps that is where the therapy room can be an effective place whether sitting together with a partner or just with the therapist and you.
What did I want? What did I really expect? How close is my current reality to those dreams both past and present? If on reflection the relationship is good enough that would suggest that your normality works for you irrespective of what the rest of the world thinks.
But what if the gap is becoming too great. Your sense of normality, relationships and being, may be moving too far away from that held by the other person. If the chimes of discontent in the relationship are increasing in volume from a faint jingling to becoming a discordant clamour then that emotional noise may be too difficult to ignore?
And in those cases perhaps you do have some decisions to make?
added on 1st November 2016
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