Can Marriage Counselling Save Your Marriage?

Reconciled couple smiling at each other

Are you considering marriage counselling to improve your relationship? Every relationship faces times of conflict or difficulty, and it is not at all uncommon for couples to feel that they aren’t connecting.

Marriage counselling with an experienced and compassionate counsellor can assist couples to work through their differences, improve their communication skills, and rebuild trust within their relationship.

What Issues Can Marriage Counselling Help To Address?

There are many issues that can affect a romantic relationship, especially a long term one such as a marriage. Whether you have been married for one year or forty, problems can arise as both people grow and change, and the external pressures of life take their toll.

Some of the common marriage issues that can lead a couple to seek marriage counselling include:

  • Lack of intimacy. A loss or lack of sexual desire within a marriage is not uncommon. Most long-term relationships will experience peaks and troughs in sexual activity, but a lack of intimate connection can put a strain on the relationship.
  • Infidelity. Affairs or incidents of infidelity can create feelings of insecurity, betrayal and a loss of trust within a couple.
  • Infertility. Difficulty conceiving or the lack of ability to conceive can be devastating for a couple, and the strain of this can put pressure on the marriage. Common problems include feelings of blame and breakdowns in communication.
  • Pressure from society or family. When a person’s family disapprove of their relationship or partner, it can make the marriage difficult. This is especially felt within same-sex marriages.
  • Children. The introduction of children, or the normal pressures associated with raising children through different stages of life, can cause conflict in a marriage. Disagreements about how to approach parenthood are common.
  • Mental illness. When one or both members of the marriage are experiencing mental illness, it can be difficult for the other person in the relationship to navigate and understand.
  • Ageing parents. Many people who are married will eventually cope with the ageing of their parents and parents-in-law. Decisions around caring can cause disagreements in a relationship.

How Can Marriage Counselling Save A Relationship?

Even if you are experiencing a myriad of marriage issues and feel that your relationship is under threat, marriage counselling can help to save your marriage and return the love and joy to your relationship.

When you are within a relationship, it can be hard to objectively consider your problems. Communicating with your spouse can become difficult if conversations often lead to arguments. But when you visit a marriage counsellor, you are given the opportunity to talk freely with an experienced counsellor to guide you. Counsellors create a safe environment where both people feel able to share their thoughts and feelings. In this non-judgmental space, couples can often open up about their true concerns and communicate more effectively with each other.

Couples experiencing stress can often harbour feelings of resentment and frustration towards their spouse. These negative feelings can be toxic to a marriage. But in a counselling session, couples are able to unburden these feelings and be guided to understand their true cause. Issues such as infidelity or lack of intimacy are tackled without prejudice or judgement, with the aim of moving past these problems and rebuilding trust in the marriage.

What To Expect At A Marriage Counselling Session

Many people can be apprehensive about pursuing marriage counselling, but the counsellors at Perth Counselling & Psychotherapy will ensure you feel comfortable and safe to open up when you visit us for a session.

When you attend marriage counselling, your counsellor will begin by gaining an understanding of your relationship and any problems and issues you are experiencing. Both people in the relationship will be asked to explain their thoughts and feelings about what has brought them there. Your counsellor will also strive to understand the history of your relationship, including how you met, why you were drawn to each other, and any important milestones in your marriage. They will get to know your individual histories and life experiences, so they can know if any significant events may be impacting your present relationship.

While your counsellor will spend most of their time listening and inviting you to share your thoughts on what you want to achieve and what potential issues you see in your own behaviour and those of your partner, they will also be proactive in providing feedback and sharing their own thoughts. Any escalations towards arguments will be gently interrupted so you can both stay focussed and work together to address issues in a productive way.

Marriage counsellors will also offer couples advice and tips for improving the problem areas of their marriage. Utilising their wealth of experience, they can provide impartial feedback, which couples can put into action when they return home. If the couple is committed to putting in the work and trusting in the process, almost any troubled relationship can be saved.

If you feel like you could benefit from marriage counselling in Perth, or you want to find out more, please contact us for a discussion.

Communication Issues? Could Your Relationship Do with Some Fine-Tuning?

Joyful couple looking at each other

Communication issues are one of the most frequently cited reasons for relationship trouble. You and your partner don’t need to be anywhere near considering separation or dealing with infidelity for communication to be a concern.

A breakdown in communication can be where everything starts and the point at which all other problems can begin to develop.

If you and your partner are experiencing some communication issues, don’t brush it off—don’t ignore it until something more serious develops. There are some easy things you can do now to give your relationship some fine-tuning and improve your communication as a couple and a family.

What Happens When You Have Communication Issues?

When we interact with other people, we need to communicate with them, to let them know what we think and how we feel. The more people in a household, the more thoughts and feelings need to be communicated and understood.

If everyone in the relationship is effective at getting their point across, as well as hearing and responding to the other person – awesome! But people don’t really work that way…

Important Communication Factors

There are a few factors to communication:

  • You need to understand your own thoughts and emotions
  • You need to be able to express your own thoughts and emotions
  • The other person needs to hear and understand them, then respond appropriately
  • Then these three things need to happen in reverse
  • And both happen at the same time and on an ongoing basis.

It’s no wonder that sometimes we struggle!

The worse we are at understanding ourselves, or the more stressful our lives become, the harder communication is. The more entrenched our thoughts are, or the more seriously we feel about a topic, the harder communicating about it may be as well.

Easy Fine-tuning Steps to Improve Your Communication as a Couple

Learn how to use active listening. This means focussing on what the other person is saying, rather than working out what your own reaction to it is going to be.

Practise maintaining eye contact and trying to pick up on your partner’s body language. Check in with your partner on what you are thinking about, and how they are thinking and feeling……you may be right, but many times you can be wrong too. In other words: DON’T ASSUME.

Ask questions, especially open-ended ones. Then listen to the answers.

If a discussion is getting heated, don’t try to resolve the issue in the moment. Stop fighting and give each other some space to calm down – then come back to the discussion when you both feel better.

Spend time together in different situations. Don’t always talk – sometimes be physically intimate, or silent. Also, don’t always just have sex – sometimes just talk.

Practice mindfulness on your own, and together as a couple. This means focusing purely on what you are doing in the moment, rather than ruminating over the past or worrying about what else you’ve got coming up.

For help with learning new communication skills, resolving long-standing issues between you and your partner and re-connecting with your partner in a more meaningful way, contact Deborah.

Online Counselling Handy Hints

Female client using laptop for online counselling

Adapting to our dynamic world is certainly presenting new challenges for all of us.

The transition to online counselling for most people has been sudden and a necessity, rather than a preferred mode for counselling. Online counselling is not for everyone and may not suit some issues or people.

For this reason, I recommend that you try at least 3 online sessions before deciding if it suits you.

We’ve put together a few suggestions that might help you get the most out of your online counselling experience and make it as comfortable as possible.

  1. Ensure you are in a private space

    This might sound fairly easy, but if you have children, it may be quite challenging. Some clients sit in their car, others will schedule the session when another parent or carer can be available to help them carve out some private space. You are welcome to negotiate with me for a time that suits you. I have some flexibility across my working days of Wednesday to Saturday each week.

  2. Make sure you have confirmed with me which platform you are using

    I use one of three platforms: professional Zoom, Skype or Facetime.

  3. Try using a headset, ear phones or ear pods

    Using a headset, ear phone or ear pods can significantly reduce distracting background noise and enable all parties to hear each other better.

  4. Have your facial features well lit

    I can see you better and you will see me clearly by placing any lighting in front of you. This way your face is illuminated well. Any lighting behind you, such as open curtains, open doors, or any sort of electrical or other light will make you dark. It is then difficult to see your facial features.

  5. Good connection to the internet

    While a good internet connect is mostly out of your control, you can do a few things to assist. Be as close as possible to your modem or Wi-Fi port; limit other family members being online whilst your session is in progress; use a device that you know works well with your Wi-Fi. If your Wi-Fi connection is not great, you may want to consider using mobile data. In these instances, please check that you have enough data to undertake the online call. I cannot take responsibility for any disruption to the call due to poor internet speeds. I make all reasonable efforts ensure I have a reliable internet connection when undertaking sessions.

  6. Chose the right device

    Your tablet, laptop or PC are best. However, phones can be used. Tablets are best used in portrait mode. Make sure you do not need to hold your device. This way, your hands are free to move as you talk and you can adjust your position comfortably without me having to look up your nose, at the ceiling or at another part of your space you may prefer to keep private. If you use your phone, turn off notifications. This way, you won’t be interrupted during your session. Please consider sending all calls automatically to message bank.

  7. Couples sessions

    These can be successfully managed in a couple of ways:
    1. Both people are seated next to each other and need to be able to turn and face each other easily so a dialogue can be facilitated. It is best to use a laptop or tablet for this type of session.
    2. Both people use their own device, are in a different room (or even a different location) and connect in using Zoom (preferred platform). Being physically located in another space is important to reduce feedback noise.

  8. Home isolation and issues for counselling

    Some people like to bring an issue or topic to the session and may worry working from home or being socially distanced will impact this. Please be reassured you started counselling for a reason and that reason is still present, whether you are working at home or in the work-place. In session issues will make themselves known to you. I have never had a client sit for a full session with nothing to say.

Allow a few sessions to see if online counselling is meeting your needs or not. Talk to me so we can see what we can do together to support you during this time of social distancing and isolating for health reasons.

How Attachment Influences Intimate Relationships

How Attachment Influences Intimate Relationships - Couple lying on the beach

There are very few parents who haven’t thought at some time over their parenting journey that some of their responses or parenting decisions may negatively impact their child’s life forever! Thankfully, a significant permanent effect on our children doesn’t really happen anywhere near as often as we fear it will. However, it is important to be clear: what we do as parents does lay the groundwork for our children’s patterns and behaviours as adults.

Does the kind of attachment style your child has developed influence their intimate relationships later in life? Or—if we think about it another way—as adults, how are our own intimate relationships affected by how we attached to our parents? All these questions really have a common theme: better understanding how attachment influences intimate relationships.

It is true that attachment styles and emotional development are closely linked. Attachment, as the bond between a child and their primary caregiver, is the first significant relationship that a completely dependent human baby has. It forms the basis of the relationship that usually lasts throughout a child’s formative years, when most of their learning and exploring and developing occurs.

It is a child’s first experience of trust in another human being, and is where we first start learning our social skills and communication skills. It also helps children to develop their own sense of self-worth. Through the attachment relationship, a child experiences what happens when they need comfort, attention, support or security. How their parent consistently responds will craft that child’s basic understanding and expectation of how relationships work.

Secure attachment relationships teach us that we can rely on other people, and that we are important and safe in this world. Through secure attachment, we grow up being able to recognise and manage our own emotions.

As older children heading off to school, then young adults moving out into the world, or young couples forming friendships and intimate relationships with people beyond our family, how we attached to our primary carer when we were a baby and toddler will have an effect on these relationships.

So, what could an insecure attachment style look like in adult relationships?

If we had trouble with attachment as children, we might have the following difficulties with intimate relationships when we are older:

  • Difficulty empathising with others or being able to see their point of view
  • Inability to trust other people and open up to the possibility of a committed relationship
  • We may have trouble with anger management, depression and other ways of dealing with our emotions. We may be quick to lash out at others
  • We may have difficulty managing our emotions and learned that behaviours such as drinking, drugs, gambling and our relationship with food can help to temporarily soothe our distress
  • We may avoid and not deal with stress or conflict very well
  • We may recreate the kinds of parent-child and intimate relationships that we saw our parents have. This could continue cycles of domestic violence, infidelity or emotional unavailability to our partner
  • We may have negative critical thoughts about our self, making it difficult to reach our full potential and enjoy life.

Don’t let this information scare you – knowing how attachment influences intimate relationships, and that attachment has an ongoing effect can help you be a better parent. It can also help you work out why you might have difficulty in your own adult relationships. We know attachment issues can be worked out in adult life. This means there is always something that can be done. For more information, get in contact with me.


Couples Counselling – Don’t use it as the last resort!

Couples Counselling Last Resort

We can be easily put off by the idea of seeing a counsellor (for anything), that we miss out on all of the ordinary ways that seeing someone can help you in everyday life.

Being part of a couple means that you closely depend on and communicate with another human being – with thoughts and feelings and actions completely different to your own.

You can’t control them and you can’t read their minds.

So even if things are ok in your relationship, it is completely normal that you may not be connecting or you may sometimes misunderstand your partner’s wants and needs. This becomes even harder if you throw in kids, work, financial worries, in-laws and any kind of stressful time like moving or renovating.

Don’t consider couple’s counselling as the last resort.

Couple’s counselling can help in many ways through the everyday trials and tribulations of being in a partnership – to stop you from getting to a point of no return.

Once you get to the place of not being interested in hearing from your partner, you are already in dangerous waters. You may find it too hard to care about the other person’s feelings or have any empathy for them. Relationship counselling before you get to this stage can help you sort out whether you want to put the effort into this relationship or is it really over.

Counselling from an experienced, independent and un-biased person can help both people to better listen to each other and to own how they may have contributed to the current situation.

Relationship or couples counselling can be very effective if you use it to ‘fine tune’ your relationship, a bit like having a regular dental check or car maintenance. It can help in making sure you are both on the same page and not ignoring issues that can gradually become bigger and start to create resentment.

No intimate relationship is without sad moments or difficult times. If a relationship is important to you then it is worth taking that extra step to help it. Talking to a counsellor can help you remember why you fell in love in the first place, as well as renegotiate your commitments to each other – you may be very different to the people you were when you first met. But this doesn’t mean the relationship has to end, you may just need to move the goalposts a little.

Seeing a therapist for couple’s counselling can help because:

  • You will have an external, objective opinion to help you connect with each other
  • You will have access to a toolbox of strategies and tips for dealing with problems that you wouldn’t have thought of
  • Problems like difficulty in communication, money stresses and problems with sex or intimacy can be resolved by listening to each other and being willing to compromise on the issues you know you can move on
  • It can help you each as individuals as well – improving your own self-confidence and helping you to find happiness again.
  • It can be very helpful to have someone acknowledge and normalise what you’re going through – your relationship isn’t that weird after all!

Some basic, everyday issues that relationship counselling may be able to help with:

  • Pre-living together sessions to sort out your core values and know you are both aligned on these
  • Same sex relationships and societal, family responses and pressures
  • Parenting and intimacy
  • Separation in a respectful way
  • Separation and co-parenting
  • Blended families
  • Managing physical or mental illness
  • Infertility
  • Lack of intimacy
  • Ageing parents

A couple in any kind of conflict extends further than just them, and can affect your family, children, and work as well.

Seeing a counsellor brings any conflict into a safe appropriate space and helps you to keep the conflict separate from the children and provides support for the other areas of your life as well.

For more information or to make an appointment contact Perth Counselling & Psychotherapy.

Why we can feel so easily hurt by our partner

two men talking

Being in an intimate relationship is very rewarding and also very challenging. How can it be that the one we love most, is the one that can hurt us the easiest? Seems a bit unfair…….

Relationship is actually where we can work out many of our issues from the past. Not being in an intimate relationship often means there is no one to ‘press our buttons’. While we  have longing for intimacy, we do not long for the other side of it, which is how quickly we can feel hurt by our partner. In relationship we can feel totally blissful and loved and we can also feel infuriated, unheard, criticised or unimportant. These last feelings are very deep and painful and when we feel them, we blame our partner for making us feel this way. This response of blame on the other, actually can leave us feeling like we are at their mercy NOT to feel like this again, a sense of not being in control of our emotional responses.

Gestalt therapy is a gentle yet incredibly effective way of finding out where these feelings come from and what they are about. Exploring these feelings can provide you with knowledge and awareness which can take the blame off your partner and allows you to be choicefull about your emotional responses.

Contact us to make an appointment.

What to do when your partner wont attend couples counselling

couple counselling - woman looking sad

Are you considering separation? Are you wanting to try couples counselling but your partner is reluctant to attend?

The stress of relationship difficulties can sometimes result in a situation where one or both people feel that separating is the only answer. This is a big step to take and it is often at this critical stage of the relationship that couples seek help. But what if one person doesn’t want to attend counselling, for whatever reason……….should the other go ahead by themself?

Too frequently what stops one person from attending counselling at this time is their opinion that if their partner really cared and valued the relationship they would attend counselling together. It is not always this black and white and there can be many reasons why some people are reluctant and not wanting to attend counselling: they my be fearful they will be judged in some way by the counsellor; they may find it difficult to able to say clearly what is happening for them; they may feel uncomfortable having to talk about personal issues; they are using denial of problems as their way of coping, seeing a counsellor makes this coping strategy hard to continue with.

The simple answer is YES there is real value in one half of a couple seeking help whenever there is any type of threat to the safety and stability of their relationship.

Just as relationship or couples counselling can assist both people to gain insight into their present difficulties, individual relationship counselling can be of benefit for the same reason. Issues that are affecting your relationship can be discussed and the counsellor can help you improve your communication and listening skills and help you to become more aware of how you may promote or inhibit effective communication with your partner at times.

Increasing your understanding of who you are, how you got to be the person you are and communicate the way you do all, along with the acquisition of some practical skills you can use at home, all are valuable in assisting you to support better communication between yourself and your partner.

Contact us to make an appointment if you would like to explore your relationship concerns.

Perth Counselling and Psychotherapy Logo

As restrictions surrounding COVID-19 begin to ease in Western Australia, Perth Counselling and Psychotherapy is once again offering face-to-face sessions, in addition to online sessions. For those of you visiting us in-person, rest assured that we are strictly following social distancing regulations and will not have any physical contact with clients. If you have any questions, please contact your therapist for more information.