“Love is destroyed when self-interest dominates.” - Ghita
Problems occur in partnerships when reality departs sharply from our expectations, hopes, desires, and concerns. It’s human nature to try and change one’s partner instead of adjusting our expectations. This aspect of human nature is what keeps counsellors in business.
Common Reasons for Counselling:
How to Maximise the Value from Your Couples Therapy Sessions
In order to get the most from your couples counselling sessions, it is helpful to be aware of unproductive patterns, so that you know what to avoid when you go to your therapy sessions. A common, yet unproductive pattern in couples counselling, is focusing on the problem that you have at the moment. This is a reactive (and mostly ineffective) approach to resolving issues.
The Unhelpful Things Couples do:
The hardest part of couples counselling is accepting that you need to improve your response to a problem (how you think about it, feel about it, or what you need to do about it). Very few people want to focus on improving their response. It’s more common to build a strong case for why the other person should do the improving. This is not a good attitude to have when going to couples counselling. If you want to create a win-win solution, you cannot hold a position that has caused your partner to lose in the past.
Learning About Yourself and Your Reactions
How to tell if you are not focusing on your own behaviour: In the session, you will be talking more about what your partner is doing, or not doing, and building a case as to why they should change. There is only one antidote - re-focus back on yourself! What this means is, you get to understand what annoys you, what pushes your buttons, and how to handle things.
To Create Sustained Improvement in Your Relationship, You Will Need:
Trade-offs, Tough Choices and Time
To create the relationship you really desire, there will be some difficult trade-offs and tough choices for both of you. The first trade-off will be time. It simply takes time to create a relationship that flourishes: time to be together, time to be with family, time to play, coordinate, nurture, relax, hang out, and plan. This time will encroach on some other activity.
The second compromise is comfort: That means emotional comfort, like going out on a limb to try novel ways of things, listening (active listening) and being curious instead of butting in, speaking up instead of becoming resentfully compliant or withdrawing. In the beginning, there will be emotional risks in taking action, but you will never explore different worlds if you always keep sight of the shoreline. In addition, few people are emotionally comfortable being confronted with how they don’t live their values or being confronted with the consequences of their actions.
The other comfort that will be challenged is energy comfort. It simply takes effort to sustain improvement over time, staying conscious of making a difference over time, remembering to be more respectful, more giving, more appreciative, etc. It takes effort to remember and act.
Don’t pull the pin on your relationship just because you fight!
Sessions might pass in silence as you and your partner remain angry over perceived wrongs, or you might yell or argue during sessions. Both are okay. Your counsellor can act as a mediator and help you cope with the resulting emotions.
In counselling there is a fair bit of direction from the counsellor. This can be difficult for some people who are sensitive or naturally defensive. For example, if one person is hypersensitive to criticism, and his or her partner is hypersensitive to feeling ignored, it will take a lot of effort to reduce their sensitivity instead of hoping the partner will stop ignoring or criticising.
In all these areas, there is generally a conflict between short-term gratification and the long-term goal of creating a satisfying relationship. The blunt reality is that, in an interdependent relationship, some effort is required on the part of each person to make a sustained improvement. It is like pairs figure skating – one person cannot do most of the work and still create an exceptional team.
Counsellors are Not Miracle Workers
Counsellors try to be neutral as much as possible, however sometimes people need to own up to their own behaviour and this can be hard for some people to do if they are not used to being in touch with their emotions, or they usually blame others to avoid conflict. While counsellors try to appear unbiased and sensitive to both parties, in order to do their jobs properly and to keep therapy on track, they do have to call clients out on their junk and tell clients when their behaviour is counter-productive, or abusive.
You Can’t Fix a Marriage in One Session
Couples should be aware that because there are two people telling their side of a story, it is unlikely that one session will sort out a couples’ issues. Please expect to invest in your healing for anywhere from 4 -12 sessions.
Attitude is Key
Positive Attitude - You Can do it! When working towards improving your relationship, your attitude towards change is more important than the action you need to take. It is relatively easy to determine what to do and how to do it. The real challenge is getting yourself to actually do it.
Learning how to think differently about a problem is often more effective than thinking about what action you need to take. The fact is, your partner is limited in his or her ability to respond to you and vice versa. Accepting this fact is a huge step towards maturity.
There is a definite possibility that you have flawed assumptions about your partner’s motives and that he/ she may also have flawed assumptions about yours. The problem is, most of the time, we refuse to believe that those assumptions are flawed.
Focus on Changing Yourself Rather than Your Partner
You can learn a lot about yourself by understanding what annoys you and how you handle it. Couples Therapy works best if you have more goals for yourself than for your partner. I am at my best when I help you reach the objectives you set for yourself.
When the Honeymoon is Over
It’s easy to be considerate and loving to your partner when the vistas are magnificent, the sun is shining, and breeze is gentle. But when it gets bone-chilling cold, you’re hungry and tired, and your partner is whining and sniveling about how you got them into this mess, that’s when you get tested.
“The more you believe that your partner should be different, the less initiative you will take to change the patterns between you.” - Ghita
You can’t change your partner. Your partner can’t change you. You can influence each other, but that doesn’t mean you can change each other. Becoming a more effective partner is the most efficient way to change a relationship.
Zen and the Art of Body Language
All significant growth comes from disagreements, dissatisfaction with the current status, or striving to make things better. Paradoxically, accepting that conflict produces growth and learning to manage inevitable disagreements is the key to more harmonious relationships.
Asking the right questions of yourself and your partner, helps you uncover causes beneath causes.
The Importance of Communication
The three most important elements for effective communication are respect, openness, and persistence. Communication is the number one presenting problem in couples counselling. Good communication is much more difficult than most people want to believe. Effective negotiation is even harder.
A couple’s vision emerges from a process of reflection and inquiry. It requires both people to speak from the heart about what really matters to each. We are all responsible for how we express ourselves, no matter how others treat us.
Effective communication means you need to pay attention to:
Sometimes, counselling helps couples to realise that their differences truly are irreconcilable and that it's best to end the relationship. Sessions can then focus on skills for ending the relationship on good terms (conscious uncoupling). It is worth noting that Ghita can refer couples to family dispute mediation (FDR) if they have children (or property), as she also works in mediation.
*Please note that Ghita cannot be mediate the same couples that she counsels for ethical reasons.
You Can Attend by Yourself
If your partner refuses to attend marriage counselling sessions, you can still attend individual sessions. It's more challenging to mend a relationship this way, but you can benefit by learning more about your own reactions and behaviour.
Sometimes, during couples counselling one party will become angry and walk out of the session. Please note that counselling fees must still be paid and appointments require 24 hours notice of cancellation. See ghitaandersen.com for further FAQ.
Your counsellor might suggest communication exercises at home to help you practice what you've learned during your session. For example, talk face-to-face with your partner for a few minutes every day about nonstressful things - without any interruptions from electronics or children. Alternatively, having two hours of no electronics (phones, internet) each evening for family time, eye gazing - a five-minute exercise, or scheduled date nights once a week with your partner.
Some Final Thoughts
I look forward to helping you work to overcome your issues and have the relationship you desire, and for you to be the person you aspire to be in your life. Change is possible!
Thanks for taking the time to improve your relationship by reading this blog.
One thing I see a lot in separations is complaints about unequal workload for household chores. This causes a lot of resentment in parents (often the wife). Sometimes though, it is not too late to turn it around.
Here is a reality check for both parents.
If you blame your partner for expecting you to be supermum (or superdad), but you have - for all intents and purposes, made yourself indispensable for years, ask yourself how that happened?
Some advice for parents:
Balance the chores between husband and wife at home so it is just, equal and fair. Negotiate often. Sort it quickly. Get your kids to do chores.
Have a weekly date night.
If you need emotional connection to get in the mood for sex, then turn yourself on and turn the social media off.
Put your partnership (marriage) first, above the kids.
Don't over-extend yourself and put yourselves last, and then get resentful when you feel last on everyone's priorities.
Put yourself first. There are no medals for putting yourself last.
It is hard to be intimate and to patch things up when you are in resentment mode.
If you need personal time. Take it. Martyrs don't get sympathy from society.
Go to the gym. Ask people for help.
Have a makeover to feel sexy.
Turn phones off between 6 and 9pm! This is family time.
See a counsellor when you have arguments that cycle. Don't wait until contempt lives in your house.
Remember, a mother or father who does everything for their kids but neglects their spouse, is not in actuality a good parent.
Invest in your marriage. Don't think the grass is greener, because it isn't. And the statistics say that 65% of second relationships fail because of the problems with the first wife, or step-kids.
Something to think about
Got some lovely feedback today from a corporate client I have had for a few years; a Surf Club on the Goldie that send their staff to me.
"...thanks heaps, the staff speak very highly of you."
It is so nice that I can help their staff with stress, anxiety or relationship issues. I am a big supporter of the surf clubs because they do amazing work. I nearly drowned twice when I was young. I got caught in a rip in Coromandel, and one time as a toddler in the bay we lived in (because I couldn't swim yet). I will probably always live near a beach. (Don't tell, but I am totally hooked on Bondi Rescue.)
Ps. This is a photo I took of a Burleigh SLS tower.
Latest Google Blog:
As one the the busiest couples counsellors on the Gold Coast, I have noticed that there is a new trend in counselling. About half of my relationship clients are de Facto couples and I am also finding that lovers who are not living together are seeking help with their relationships too. Those who are in a long-term relationship, and are planning to be together and to eventually live together, are looking for help when they have miscommunications or a crisis in their partnership.
This is a wonderful trend to see. It was only twenty years ago that there was stigma attached to seeking help. I think that modern couples are more careful in considering their long-term plans before marriage or living together. A kind of pre-nuptial planning. Which is excellent. If couples can sort out values differences early, or plan how work, finances and raising children will work, they have more chance of having a successful partnership.
Self-esteem is everything. It is the natural vibe around you that promotes your identity. It says, I am worthy, I can do this, I deserve what I want, I can have this.
Indeed, the view you have of yourself skews your world to being either positive or negative. In psychology we call this thinking 'attribution theory.' An example of this is how some people are always broke or sick. You can bet that their external and internal narrative is negative, and that they literally push away many avenues for getting support, love, abundance or wellness. By talking about something, you reinforce it. The same goes for thinking about something over, and over. A basic idea becomes concreted into the mind and then the automatic pilot (attribution) takes these thoughts as short cuts and runs with them without any effort at all.
The old phrase, "What you think about comes about' is actually scientific. The mind creates, controls, destroys, rejects, loves, hates and ignores before it is even conscious thought. However, you can control the mind with practice and reinforcement. It is not about looking externally to find our self-worth. NO.
No one person can or will give us 100% of what we need.
Therefore, we have to get it for ourselves. I am not saying that you will never doubt yourself again, or never feel intimidated by someone better than you, that is impossible. But, you can weed out a good percentage of of this automatic control system; and when you do feel that you have more control over the outcome of events in your life, there is less frustration, less doubt, and fewer people can take away your power.
I am an expert on self-esteem, it is my biggest challenge. Most people think I am extremely confident; and I am on the outside, but I battle daily with memories of rejection and harsh words heard in childhood. The only person that can help you forward, through the painful limiting beliefs created during your childhood, is one who has overcome the very thing that you struggle with.
Moreover, this is what many people come to see me about for life coaching. These clients know full well what they need to do, but they have an invisible barrier of fear that paralyses them from doing what they need to get the life that the want.
Methods for increasing self-esteem
1. Regression: Look at the specific moments in time that caused the self-doubt (we will get nowhere if the hurdles aren't eliminated)
2. Exercise these events, speak of them until they matter no more than a mild annoyance. (I use a combination of NLP, rehearsal, and CBT for this.)
3. Look at the methods you used to stall or sabotage the progress before (this can then be used in strategies)
4. Exactly specify the goals/ dreams one wants to achieve
5. Create a strategy for achieving the goals at a pace that is comfortable (baby steps work too)
6. Keep up the momentum for the work. Check in, reassess, tweak, tweak, tweak...
Talk to me about overcoming a lack of self-esteem, I will understand completely. I have clients who are discovering themselves and working on their self-love. And you too can work towards eliminating the negative voice (internal critic), and planning the new you. How exciting!!
Call or SMS for a free 10 minute phone chat on 0439 888 070.
Those of you who know me, know that I am blatantly honest at times. Of course, during therapy, this talent gets used subtly, at the right time and in the right way. Therapy is after all, about listening to words, body language and keywords. These keywords lead my mind down a therapeutic path; I instinctively know where to go. This is not something learned at university; for although my practice is based on experience and learning, it also relies heavily on intuition.
However, I have found that during the introduction, before a story emerges, clients behave in two ways, and it is their attitude in the first five minutes, that reveals whether they are there by choice, or by pressure: The first is uncomfortable, and needs to have their story drawn out, and the second type is overflowing with words, emotion and some sense of moral anguish. So, there are clients that want to be there for self-improvement, and clients that don’t. In fact, the ones that don’t want to be there may be aware that it will be good for them in the long-term, or they are in denial about being in therapy - with the stigma that that entails, or have made an assumption that it doesn’t work.
Importantly, it takes a lot of courage to book in to see a counsellor, and I applaud that. The less judgement clients receive the better. Yet, from my side, I can tell the clients who want to be there, and these clients are easier to work with. These clients are grateful, willing to learn and grow, are eager to find solutions and ask a lot of questions. This type of client also makes it easier to assess whether their issues are mental, biological/genetic, historical, time-based, or socially learned behaviours: Sometimes they are a combination of a few. An example of this might be depression. Depression can be caused by an underlying grief for a life that has taken a turn to the left, when the person wanted to go right, or it can be caused by a lack of hormones (serotonin, dopamine) because the stresses of modern life promote a high level of cortisol (flight or fight). Sadly, more people today go to the doctor’s clinic for anti-depressants than for anything else.
The unconditional, positive regard that counsellors offer, is that old social acceptance that we once had while living in small communities. We cared for each other. People did not go into old folks homes, mental facilities or daycare. Odd behaviours were accepted as eccentric, and seriously antisocial behaviours resulted in a short life span. The very thing, we so desperately need when things get stressful, are lessened by family support and solidarity. This has unfortunately diminished now, and until we once again live in small collectives, we will have to turn to friends and family when they have the time to listen, and to counsellors and psychiatrists when they do not. Until then, maintaining, good emotional health should be part of an overall, health plan, together with exercise, nutritional food and fresh air and sunlight.
Consequently, life isn’t easy in this day and age, and sometimes we need clarity or guidance on a situation; a kind word of encouragement from our social networks, or more acceptance and less judgement. However, if this is not forthcoming from the people we spend time with, we need to act like our own best friend, and book in to see a professional.
(Homage to Carl Rogers – the best listener there ever was)
‘When people are listened to sensitively, they tend to listen to themselves with more care an to make clear exacty what they are feelng and thinking.’ - Carl Rogers
Effective, yet gentle probing and listening, allows for the other person to do most of the talking (Afterall that is what they are paying for.) Good questions must be centred on the other person’s experience in order to be meaningful. In order to fully hear what the client is saying, sometimes just responding with questions for clarity, or repeating back the understanding or outlining the dilemma, helps a person to dig a little deeper; revealing their own answers. The counsellor is just the sounding board. It is the client that is the expert on their own life. This beautiful therapeutic alliance can open up ideas, solutions and acceptance.
Empathy by design, evokes in us deeply-felt responses from our own life experience, which is why clients (myself included) prefer older counsellors with life experience. The power of change must be with the client, not the therapist; moreover, a person-centred counsellor will work give the client the lead.
‘Listening, when it is open and non-judgemental, is a way of validating others and becomes a powerful force in human relationships. It can build teamwork, trust and a sense of belonging to a group.’ - Madelyn Burley-Allen
One of the best things I was ever taught at uni was by my professor Dr Jodie Bradnam, who taught the 'Love, Sex and Relationships' class.
Jodie taught me her secret for marriage and it really stuck with me. So much so, that I use it with my couples counselling clients.
Anyhow, the 'Marriage Jar' is a simple concept that the mind can easily 'get.' It is amazing how this simple idea can adjust one's behaviour every day. Basically, it works like this: When you are first together, the jar is full. As time goes by, the jar empties. For every kind gesture, kiss, supportive comment, intimate moment, lunch pack made, etcetera, a marble goes in. For every sarcastic remark, episode of not listening or avoidance of connection, five marbles come out.
The “Marriage Jar” can even be a real jar. Some people put post-it notes of gratitude in for the other person. So that the partner knows they are appreciated and the little things do not go unnoticed. Notes that say, 'I love it when you bathe the kids without me asking.' 'You looked so hot the other night when we went out. ' I was impressed at your skills changing my car battery.' 'Thanks for paying that parking fine.' These little notes can mean so much to a couple that are under financial strain, have little time for date nights, or have a multitude of pressures.
When a jar is running on empty for long periods, it cannot be sustained. One person will inevitably ditch, or release the pressure of conflict with a third party (cheating). These simple concepts are preventative measures. The marriage jar needs to be replenished regularly. It should be cherished and fed daily.
What else fills the marriage jar?
Kindness, thoughtfulness, appreciation, nurturing and encouragement are just a few things that can fill a marriage jar.
Say, "Thank you." Say, "I fancy you." Say, "I think you are beautiful."
Instead of noticing what your partner does not do, focus on the positives. We can't control another person, but we can reinforce behaviour that we like.
Sometimes in life, we are forced to change. Something happens that makes us peel back the layers we have built around ourselves. We are forced to confront our true essence. During this time, we are given the opportunity to feel deeply, the good and the bad; to examine who we really are, and what want to achieve with the remainder of our life.
With this profound and honest awareness, we will start clearing, releasing, and letting go of things that blocking us from finding and fully feeling our truth. We have no avenues left to avoid this. It has to come out and be dealt with.
This compulsion requires us to surrender and accept. We feel it in our lower chakras, and it hurts. Yet, it is only through surrendering and accepting this honest discomfort, that we can accept and move on. In order to let go, we have to fully accept all the shameful faults and the ego tricks. When we have learned to sit with the parts of ourselves that are really uncomfortable, we are not only brave, but we are survivors of major scary events from childhood.
This black emotional goo, bubbles up, to be exposed and to breathe. Ninety percent of consciousness is beneath our awareness, and as we sit in this discomfort and accept it in all it’s horror, it suddenly has no power. Yes, you are healed.
Additionally, this work allows you to be ready for deeper stuff. The beauty of life, is that it never throws anything at you that you can’t handle. Yes, you might think it is too much at the time, but then there are counsellors and psychologists to help you through it. No one said you have to do it all alone. The maze has a light if you reach for it.
The beauty of this transformation, is that as you release the old hurts, residual guilt and old shame. It simply releases from the physical body, and mind, and so that you look healthier, calmer, more centred and relaxed. Not only will you accept yourself more, but you will be more empathetic of others going through something similar. By accepting that within you, that you never wanted to face, you will lead the way for others to be brave, making the world a kinder, more humanistic place.