There are many reasons why a couple may go through a “rough patch”. Unexpected stresses happen to all couples, even the most loving and committed. Whether from stresses outside the relationship such as job loss, illness or loss in children or extended family, financial strain, conflict with children or extended family, or blended family strain, or from stresses within the relationship, such as infidelity, physical or mental illness, addiction, separation or divorce, unexpected pregnancy, moving house, etc, couples that survive such turbulent times tend to have similar characteristics which help to buffer coping strategies.
For example, couples who have the capability of enduring lifes trials tend to be able to communicate effectively with one another. This means they are able to suspend their own interpretations in order to hear the experience of the other. This is sometimes not an easy skill to master, particularly in times of stress, when none of us is at our most resourced or best. It can take reminding and gentle guidance to bring a “fighting” couple, back to solid communicating ground.
Other traits include, holding your partner in high exteem in general, so there is a sense of respect to draw on in times of stress. If you feel disrespect toward your partner it can be difficult to value their opinion. As well, if both partners are able to manage their personal “baggage” and be aware of when it is creeping in to interactions and interpretations, things become much clearer and less reactive. Also, if couples are able to have fun, have a date night or take time out to appreciate the efforts the other in some way, stress can be greatly mitigated.
Aside from life stresses, some couples struggle with unhealthy dynamics and even abuse. It can be difficult to know if abuse is occuring between partners, as it may be subtle, or it may have developed slowly over time. It may be clear that abuse is happening but the abused person may feel trapped, powerless and helpless to make a change. If this is your situation, you may not feel safe at home. Please find help for yourself. You can call police, you can walk into a hospital and ask for help, you can call the Vancouver Crisis Centre at 604-872-1811, you can tell your family doctor, or you can call Vancouver Counselling and Pain Management at 604-734-2779. Even if you tell a friend that you are being abused and need help, that’s the first step to making your life better.
Among approaches to counselling couples through stress, there are two popular approaches, one being lead by John Gottman and the other being based on the work of Harville Hendrix. Both approaches proscribe calm, empathic communication and undestanding bewteen parties, and both are effective at helping couples let go of an adversarial stance with each other and reconnect on the points that drew them together in the first place.
If you’ve come from an abusive relationship, you may need trauma counselling to get yourself back on track. Megan Hughes can help with EMDR for assault or ongoing abuse experiences. She can also help you understand your choice in partners, the dynamics involved, the unmet needs in play, and how to stop the unhealthy patterns you may find yourself in.
For help with your relationship, call Stillwater Studio at 604-734-2779.