Many times in our lives we experience emotional difficulties and are unsure if our marriage is worth saving. Expert relationship counsellor, Karen Gosling, explores a common situation and offers insight on how to fix your relationship.
John and Lisa agreed on counselling to help end their marriage amicably. Explaining that they no longer “got on”, frequently snapping at each other with rudeness and sarcasm, Lisa said that John no longer filled her emotional needs – to be loved, appreciated and cared for. John acknowledged he was working longer hours at the office to avoid going home and that he was feeling empty and in turmoil. Both said they felt “finished”.
This couple had a combination of poor communication and unresolved past hurts. By improving communication and learning to talk safely about old hurts, there was a chance they could reconnect emotionally and restore intimacy.
Work done in counselling
When I asked, “Why did you both agree to attend counselling?” John admitted that he really didn’t want to leave Lisa, he loved her and hoped to restore their relationship.
In amazement Lisa explained that she also didn’t want to separate. Coming from a broken home herself she knew the pain involved with having estranged parents, and was conscious of the emotional wellbeing of their two young children.
Lisa conceded that she was prepared to stay in the relationship even if John didn’t fulfil her needs.
I taught them a model of communication and each had the opportunity to level honestly with the other about feelings harboured concerning a certain issue, past or present. They had to listen to each other, acknowledging the feelings raised before continuing with the interaction. Due to the model feelings were communicated safely, without sarcasm or defensive responses.
At their third counselling session John and Lisa, who were noticeably more relaxed and interacted with affection, said,
Karen, with your help we’re saving our marriage.
John explained he felt “lighter” and Lisa commented that close friends were remarking on how “connected” they seemed.
Within three months of their first appointment John and Lisa survived the stress of having family from overseas to stay for three weeks and were thrilled by this achievement!
Karen’s advice for moving forward
When couples experience communication difficulties both partners need the opportunity to tell their side of the story without interruption or judgement.
They may need to have a marriage counselling session on their own in order to really “get things off their chest”. If unexpressed, past resentments remain anger triggers and can cause underlying tension leading to arguments “for no reason”.
Couples need to learn how to give each other permission to raise past hurts, and discuss them using the communication rules. Open communication is the key to a loving and trusting relationship.