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Is your relationship in decline?

Most of us seek out a meaningful connection with another human-being. Many want to feel that special spark with someone and live the ‘happy ever after’. It is normal to experience bliss in the beginning of a new relationship but for many, reality hits and relationship satisfaction starts to plummet.

Every relationship will experience conflict but the great news is that this process can be an opportunity for personal development. This may sound counterintuitive but conflict can also help strengthen the relationship! Research indicates that marital conflict falls into two categories, a) issues that can be resolved or b) issues that will be part of your life for ever. Most marital conflict is perpetual.

Couples therapy may give partners the opportunity to improve how they communicate; however, both need to be committed and motivated in order to bring about change. Couples therapy also provides education and tools for couples to further navigate healthy relationships, including how to handle conflict, secure their bond and have vulnerable conversations without pushing the other person away.

I had my first ‘couples therapy’ workshop last week as part of my professional development and was surprised when I heard the definition of what constitutes a relationship: ‘A relationship is satisfied when the following needs are met; empathy, intimacy and safety’. All three must be present otherwise you are not in a relationship.

Couples therapists may use road maps to explain the complex nature of relationships to clients. Research suggests that there are 6 stages couples go through in long-term relationships. However, not all couples will have the same experience or sequence.

In the beginning of a new relationship there is an initial meeting and attraction. It is a romantic love that ‘seems to be’.

The second stage is when things suddenly become ‘real’. This is an important stage because adjusting to reality is where the ‘real’ relationship begins.

In the third stage there is the power struggle where the both partners dig their heels and stand their ground – doubts creep in!

The fourth stage is the re-evaluation stage. This is where the question of whether to go or stay arises. The couple may disengage. You may start noticing some differences or flaws.

The fifth stage is the reconciliation stage. The couple may begin to change their mindset and accept that conflicts will exist in relationships and that there will be differences. They also may realise that these conflicts and differences may be viewed as an opportunity for personal development. The couple commits to each other.

The final stage is that of acceptance – very few couples arrive at this stage! Each person has come to understand that they must take responsibility for their lives. Couples recognise that both partners are working to be present and meet each other’s physical and emotional needs in appropriate and meaningful ways.

Other approaches couple therapists use include thorough assessment of the couple’s relationship and research -based interventions. Once the therapeutic framework is established the couple decide on the frequency and duration of appointments.

If your relationship is in decline or feels unhealthy, please feel free to contact us at

The Three Seas Group. We have experienced Relationship Therapists who aim to help couples build stronger relationships and healthy ways to cope with issues.

References

6 crucial stages to gauge if your relationship will last, according to experts. (2021, December 10) https://www.insider.com/stages-of-a-relationship

The Secret to love is just kindness. (2014, June 12) www.theraputic.com

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