I provide counselling for couples and those in need of help exploring their relationship issues. This need not necessarily be in a romantic relationship. Often couples counselling can help to support reconciliation between parents and children, siblings, close friends and professional colleagues.
I charge £90 for a seventy five minute session of couples counselling. For more information about how I work and my perspective on the roots of conflict in relationships, read on. This article about patriarchy, intergenerational trauma and power struggles in relationships may also be helpful.
An exercise in empathy
Help with communication, empathy and forgiveness is foundational to the way I work as a couples counsellor. The exercise I offer below is tailored to heterosexual couples in a romantic relationship. It may also be helpful for other couples who are in conflict because it’s quite possible that the dynamics of the particular relationship you’re struggling with conforms to the patterns of relating the exercise describes, irrespective of your gender.
If you’re a man, imagine for a moment you’re a woman who has been told her whole life that it’s her responsibility to take care of the emotional needs of others. You’re highly sensitive, attuned to subtleties of expression and body language, you feel things very deeply but your capacity for thinking and reasoning has been impeded because growing up those skills weren’t considered important for a woman to develop. You often sense there is something wrong in your relationship before your partner does, but without being able to clearly express what it is. It’s just a feeling. When you try to describe it you can’t really find the words, it all comes out in the form of frustrated feelings, which your partner, well meaning though he may be, cannot understand and so can easily discount as a case of you simply being “overly emotional”. Their rationalising and discounting of your feelings makes you doubt your intuition and so often it feels safer to keep quiet about your fears.
If you’re a woman, imagine you’re a man who has been told his whole life that feelings are not manly – that to be a man you have to be hard and strong and squash any feelings of fear and vulnerability you might experience. Your capacity to experience and understand the subtleties of yours and others feelings has been deadened. You don’t really feel anything strongly, except perhaps anger and frustration, feelings which are permissible in our society for men to feel and express. Instead you have developed your ability to think and reason to a “God-like” level – you’re highly intellectual, you can understand the mechanics of all kinds of things and you think this means you understand the mechanics of your relationship too. You can clearly see what the problem is, you believe it’s not such a big deal and furthermore your partner’s strong emotions are just getting in the way of fixing it. You feel frustrated and confused by their emotionality and you cope with this by avoiding sensitive topics, withdrawing or trying to rationalise away their fears.
Couples counselling – help with the stuff that’s getting lost in translation
If these descriptions resonate with you, it’s not surprising. Relationships usually end up in a place of stuckness because communication has seriously stalled, often because our ability to empathise with our partner has completely broken down. When it comes to matters of the heart men and women can quickly end up talking a different language to one another. Trying to communicate across this cultural divide is painful and frustrating and so we often avoid it. Problems end up getting brushed under the carpet, building up until they can’t be ignored any more, by which time they can feel so huge that they’re overwhelming. It’s at times like this that couples sometimes turn to a couples counsellor for guidance, support and to help with translation!
Despite the frequent need for this kind of mediation in relationships which have become stuck, it’s important to remember that often no one is at fault. To a very significant extent, men and women have been conditioned to end up in conflict, and often the root cause can be traced to the underlying damage and trauma caused by patriarchal power relations, which cause men to oppress women with their flawed thinking, and women to dominate men with their powerful feelings. Our society has created the perfect conditions for the “battle of the sexes” to rage out of control. If we’re able to find a way to detoxify and decontaminate our thoughts and feelings then we will be able to see our loved ones clearly enough to understand that they are as wounded, as insecure and as in much need for love and acceptance as we are.