Counselling and Psychotherapy with Caryn Nuttall, Providing:
A CCPCP registered counsellor and psychotherapist with my own small, personal and friendly counselling practice in Central Calgary
Relationship Counselling / Couples Counselling / Marriage Guidance
If a couple wants to stay together, my aim in therapy is to help them to connect; it is surprising how many couples don't.
If a couple is ambivalent about whether or not to remain together therapy can help them decide.
If a couple cannot live together amicably, therapy can at least help them to separate relatively amicably. This is vitally important if children are involved.
Regarding difficulties in relationships, very often problems occur when false assumptions are made with each partner having expectations that are not communicated to the other. Most couples sign a marriage contract without ever discussing what marriage means to each of them.
One partner might feel hurt and unloved but pretend they can brush these feelings aside; they cannot. That hurt will likely show itself in a verbal snipe or emotional/sexual withdrawal. Repeated real or perceived hurts lead to accentuations of these reactions - histrionic attacks, separate bedrooms. What the hurt person is usually silently screaming out for his connection, but their behaviour brings about the opposite, and so the ratchet effects of the breakdown begins. The other partner might not understand what despondent feelings of alienation lie under the outbursts and tries to fend off more attacks by, ironically, withdrawing further, spending more time elsewhere so further infuriating the other, and increasing the feelings of abandonment.
What is missing is effective communication leading to a sense of connection, and a sense of safety and belonging in their relationship.
The Welsh word "cwtch" (the word rhymes with butch) is the best word I know to describe this basic need. A cwtch not only means a hug but is also a safe place. It is a magical word as it is exactly what most people need from their partners. We need holding in a safe trusting relationship.
Curiously adults are usually good at intuiting the need of a distressed child for a cwtch, but what happens to that intuition when it is their partner who is in need of reassurance?
A young child securely attached to the caregiver is comfortable being briefly separated, secure in the knowledge the person will return, and all will be well; that they will be lovingly, safely and securely held. Whereas an insecurely attached child will show signs of distress when the caregiver leaves and might punish by ignoring, or by acting out on their return. Babies and young children need this secure attachment, and so do adults. Our basic needs don not change with age.
Frequently one partner may have been silently withdrawing from the relationship over an extended period of time, and then seemingly out-of-the-blue as far as the other is concerned, announce their wish to separate.
This news often comes as a shock to the other who had not picked up on there being such major problems. At this stage they often experience their partner as cold, withdrawn and unprepared to communicate. This can be because the withdrawing partner may have had years to prepare for the dismantling of the relationship, and has done the grieving, and experienced the possible feelings of guilt, privately and silently. The other partner meanwhile is left in emotional turmoil believing they have been living a lie. They cannot understand why their partner had not flagged the problems earlier so that they could have negotiated and worked through their issues together.
Couple counselling can be short-term work. The sooner the problem is addressed the better the chances of working them through. It is common for one partner in a relationship to be reluctant to see a counsellor, but in my experience they most often change their mind after the first session. But if only one is prepared to have therapy I would strongly urge them to come on their own.
BBC television filmed a series on love poetry in which I was invited to
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