20
Jul

Lesson 1: How Did We Get Here (Couple Counselling)?

How did we get here, this painful messy question that comes up almost everyday of my life during couple counselling. As tempting as it may be, i can NOT create an exact formula for this question. The reason is simply because every relationship is unique. Just like the fingerprints on our hands.

However, there are some similarities in every marriage that is on the verge of break down. I am going to start sharing general knowledge on how to recognize marriage decay, arrest the decadence and then rebuild a marriage. Couple counselling is a force for good if we can learn to put our defenses and ego down.

Couples usually break down when they fail to repair their relationship. A repair is the positive interaction couples embark on before or most times after an arguement and this isn’t just a “baby i’m sorry” or that quick grope from behind. It’s a bit more. Infact, an apology tendered too hastily and frequently soon stops meaning anything to the receiver. According to John Gottman, a respected marriage researcher, he said

Relationship conflict, or even relationship communication, is not the primary issue in distressed relationships. Rather, couples’ failure to repair from conflict is the real sickness.

Partners who never heal from a conflict through repair and always get into other arguments are most likely in need of help. If you constantly miss this repair process, you create a belief-system that overrides “I love you” with “I’m tired of being taken for granted” OR replaces “I will do anything for you” with “I’m done trying”. This new belief system forms a barrier against any and every form of intervention tacts. This then triggers something called “The Cycle of Reactivity”.

“The Cycle of Reactivity” i liken to a naked wire that can spark at any moment. 

This is 90% of the reasons why couples fight over silly things. Which then escalate to bigger issues.

Have you ever been so angry that you nursed harmful thoughts of how best to make your partner hurt? From not talking to him, transferring his love to the kids so glaringly, leaving her food untouched, staying out so late that her mind goes wild with “untoward” imaginations? I hate to break it to you but you’re in the midst of a reactivity cycle that has more control over your relationship. 

As a young counsellor, i’ve been curious about a lot of things including identifying general signs of the Reactivity cycle. Here are some of the things i could get my fingers on

  • The walking away
  • Being overtly defensive
  • Attacking the partner (either verbally, emotionally or physically)
  • Blaming a partner. 

 

when any of these happen, the other party isolates themselves and this is usually the beginning of issues in a marriage or relationship.

STEP 1 IS TO DISRUPT REACTIVITY CYCLES.

Temple Obike discusses re-activity cycles
DOES THIS LOOK FAMILIAR TO YOU?

How do i solve this problem?

I’ve learnt that a problem identified is half-solved. So my first step is usually to help couples understand where lack of empathy, being overtly defensive, unnecessary anger and every other thing drowning the relationship resides. Once you know the role you play in that cycle, you can then become actively ignited to not fuel the process but rather starve it.

When you understand that your anger is not just about what she/he did to you but also about you getting hurt as well, a certain resolve sets in. This process is a delicate one that sometimes escalates conflict within couples when thy exit the counselling seat and go home Not to worry, it’s all part of the process.  

JUST BE PATIENT.

The brain tries to fight change in every human. Sometimes it tells you that something is changing and this leads to your humanity kicking in and trying to self-abort the process. Be strong because i believe that ;

To rebuild a house that we have no intentions of pulling down completely, we must first take it to a painful point where it’s almost stripped of all covering and trust me, no one likes to be stripped of everything in public view (pride,ego, apparent addiction etc)

At this point, i advice and teach couples to adopt listener and speaker strategies or taking time out’s. Yes it’s allowed to take time out’s. She can go to mama or her siblings house and he can take a day or two off work/business and check into a hotel room where he can get a grasp of situations. However in taking time-out’s, it must be an action both agree on and must be followed up with what i call the “Accountability Mode”.

The accountability mode is a topic i will treat in details subsequently but this is simply a combination of some acts that still builds trust between couples even if they are apart. Things like;

  • Sending a WhatsApp Message detailing how your day went
  • Making your itenary available for your spouse
  • Spouses who have been caught up in infidelity setting up a trust circle with their other half
  • Simply easing up on the way you hold onto that phone when she/he walks in. 

Creating Lasting Change

Change they say is the only constant and it does not come without associated (positive) pain. My next article will be on creating lasting change. I believe you can now recognize the existence of a “Reactivity Cycle”. In the second stage, I’ll show you how to kill this cycle.

It was great sharing some information with you and for anyone eager to ask some questions or book a session, please feel free to send me an email on insafehands016@gmail.com or chat with us on our website.

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