Relationship Counseling Can Help Many Kinds of Relationships
Marriages and romantic couples aren’t the only relationships that benefit from relationship counseling. Ever hear someone say about a business partner or a sibling, “We fight like a married couple”? Relationship counseling is available to help any meaningful relationship that’s in trouble whether siblings, a parent and child, friends, roommates and yes, even a band (Metallica notoriously did this). And of course, relationship counseling doesn’t have to be limited to just two people.
In romantic relationships, intimacy and disclosure are implied. With non-romantic relationships, there needs to be explicit attention given to the boundaries of the relationship. How are you getting along? How are you communicating? What’s getting lost in translation? Have you grown apart and should you part ways?
Some relationships need help functioning more as professional relationships and limiting more familial interactions. Often with close friends or business partners, the two parties in a relationship need to question if the relationship is “too personal.” Are you not developing relationships outside of work or friendship? What sort of closeness do you want? Should you talk about emotional experiences and difficulties outside of work or friendship?
All Relationships Have Rules And Norms
No matter if you’re business partners, siblings, friends or roommates, all relationships have habits, in a sense. Who gets to talk first when friends get together? How much of your personal lives do business partners share with one another? How do you fight? How do you make decisions?
Relationship counseling can help partners both recognize that these rules exist and then, expose them. Naming is important because it allows for rules and norms to be revisited.
Relationship Counseling For Changes In A Relationship
The business isn’t what it was, you and your college roommate are no longer living together, or your sister is married with kids. The world isn’t what it was. Often so many of these changes are left unaddressed.
The most effective way to grow into these changes is to name them in the right environment like relationship counseling. Sometimes it just takes literally saying, “The relationship is different than it used to be. We’re different people. Now what?” There is frequently grief involved–letting go of a relationship so a new one can be created.
Even Non-Romantic Relationships Carry Hurt Forward
Perhaps a friendship began when both friends were in a different place in their lives. A business was so hectic at the start that these hurts didn’t get addressed. Or the terms of a relationship were set between siblings in a household with poor boundaries or leadership. No matter the specific situation, hurt often gets buried or forgotten and yet, it still holds power, emerging later masked as resentment or jealousy.
We tend to avoid old wounds in relationships because they’re painful, but also because we don’t have a sense that confronting them will result in some sort of progress. “Digging up old wounds” sometimes gets a bad rap. Of course, this shouldn’t be done in public, in front of staff or while drinking. It’s not a good plan when there aren’t conditions to address and heal from them, such as relationship counseling.
Relationship Counseling Can Create An Environment To Confront Conflict
Relationship counseling can reduce conflict, but it can also increase conflict when more is needed. It can bring clarity to difficult decisions (Should we sell the business, should we encourage mom to go into a nursing program, etc). Relationship counseling can also help heal old wounds–we can help partners revisit terms–stated or implied–from earlier in the relationship that might not be working anymore.
Good counseling can create an environment in which these issues can be confronted. How? A person in the room–the relationship counselor–that both people trust, who can help either party (or both) when he or she feels attacked, can push for honesty, can keep things from getting out of hand, can help each person hear one another and can make space for grief and hurt. Sometimes partners need to feel the relief of knowing that they don’t need to take care of the other partner–they can take a break from worrying about his or her feelings and focus on being honest.
Creating The Right Conditions In (And Outside) Relationship Counseling
In relationship counseling, we’re always looking to do two things simultaneously: create the conditions needed to address the matter at hand and help both people understand the practice of condition-making. The first part means understanding that conditions matter–how we assess emotional conditions and confirm what can be done under those conditions (Are you too angry? Did you just get done sorting something else out? Are you under the gun with a work deadline? Do you need another person present to help us keep things under control?).
We help people in relationship counseling understand that you have choice in where you cast the scene, so to speak. Partners learn in relationship counseling how to hold something painful even if uncomfortable until a better time, work together on other things even while holding feelings about a matter not being discussed and sort out who will step up to insist that the conditions aren’t right and how the relationship can develop the capacity to follow that leadership. Not only restricted to the therapist’s office, relationship counseling also helps both parties understand how to create these conditions themselves outside of counseling.