Counselling, Psychotherapy and Psychology Blog
“In relationships, believing that we understand our partners and that they understand us is the single biggest cause of trouble” says Westover’s Chiswick based Consultant Couples Psychotherapist and Counsellor Nicholas Rose. In this article Nicholas explains how to keep your relationship in the best of health.
Understanding between partners’ comes from a desire for both security and vitally, safety –often closely associated with the idea of loving or being loved. If we feel there is understanding, we are more likely to trust in our partner. Ultimately partners are the people most likely to be relied upon in an emergency and in emergencies nothing is more important that clear communication – it is nothing less than a need born out of a wish for survival. Potentially it all starts from birth – if understanding does not exist between us and our primary carers then we risk death – therefore the first thing we do as babies is fight for understanding. How we do this varies depends upon what we learn in our attempts to gain attention – is it more effective to be noisy or quiet, happy or sad, laugh or cry, well or sick, tidy or messy, dependent or independent, creative or practical - the list is endless. Therefore what we learn in the early days is the closest we come to have an approach to life and relationships that is “hardwired”. Simply put, we are good at doing or being in ways for which we have felt the existence of understanding.
The implication is we need to challenge our assumption we understand and are understood around the most basic of concepts. For example, love. How love is expressed varies enormously across cultures, communities and families. Just ask your friends how love was shown to them as children and you are likely to get a wide variety of responses from food, fun, talking, not talking, sharing, giving, taking, education, discipline, fairness, holidays the list is endless. Another good example is how people are looked after when sick. In some cultures it is common for everyone to visit sick friends and relatives, in others the patient is cared for by being protected from visitors. Neither is right or wrong but someone who is used to visitors when sick will feel neglected and uncared for if their partner tells everyone to keep away as they need rest! Therefore it is actually the case we only really know how to communicate with those people we have learnt to develop an understanding.
As adults we acquire the ability to enter into relationships on equal terms. Fundamentally a shared language and status provides us with all we need to build and maintain healthy relationships and understanding. It sounds basic and the principle is, however the skills are something to be learnt and developed. Here are some basic rules:
- Words like “love” are short cuts – use them at your peril. Instead never assume that the word means the same to you and your partner.
- It requires commitment from both parties to develop an understanding. (At the extreme, the presence of physical or emotional abuse in a relationship suggests that the commitment does not exist).
- If you feel hurt by something that your partner does or says then (as long as it is not physically or emotionally abusive) it is likely that your defences and theirs are revealing a conflict of understanding. Do not assume that the intention was to hurt you, instead say how you felt and ask if that was what had been intended. Remember relationships often breakdown due to the conversations that have not been had rather than those that have.
- Never underestimate the possible impact of change, difficult times and stress. Anything that changes your routines or patterns can bring stress that triggers defences – at difficult times in life you might find it difficult to recognise each other. Look out for bereavements, fertility issues, children arriving and leaving, career changes, health challenges and traumatic events.
- If you are struggling then do not hesitate to seek professional help. Many couples seek help when it is too late - when there is too much misunderstanding and hurt and not enough energy and commitment left in order to make the changes required.
Nicholas Rose is a Consultant Counsellor and Psychotherapist working with couples. He is accredited with the BACP and registered with the UKCP and UKRCP. A professional member of the Society for Existential Analysis and an Associate of the Metanoia Institute. Nicholas is based at the Westover in Chiswick and is recognised by a number of private health insurance providers including Bupa, PRUHealth and WPA.
Posted by: Nicholas Rose on December 16th, 2011 @ 3:45 PM
When the phone rings unexpectedly or when an unexpected letter arrives from the Inland Revenue do you expect trouble? Do you instantly start to think that something bad is happening? If you are feeling unwell do you find yourself checking websites and end up wondering if you have the most serious illness listed? When watching news items about difficulties in the economy do you instantly start thinking about losing your job? Do you recognise thinking like “I’m stuck in traffic its going to be a terrible day”.” I made that mistake again, I am stupid”.” I always fail at relationships I will never be happy”.” I am in debt, I cannot manage my finances.” Negative thinking is where you are constructing your everyday experience and situations as challenges and threats; you might also describe this as having a pessimistic outlook.
Having negative thoughts does not necessarily mean you are depressed but it can be an indicator of depression and left unchecked having negative thought patterns can lead to depression. Depression is an illness that negatively affects the sufferers’ physical, emotional and thinking experience. So depression is not just about negative thinking but it is clear that negative thoughts contribute to negative feelings and this puts us under stress, leading to anxiety and providing a strong basis for the development of depression.
The very first step to tackling your negative thinking and, or depression is to accept that recognising your struggle now means you can take action to improve your situation. If you have any physical concerns or symptoms visit your GP so that these can be either diagnosed and treated or discounted. This then leaves you able to start to deal with the emotional and thinking elements. It is time now to recognise that your negative thoughts and feelings suggest that you are experiencing a healthy response to a perceived threat. The task here is therefore not to stop thinking and feeling but to understand and challenge your sense of being under threat; doing this effectively will lead to a change in thinking and feeling.
It is important that you know that you do have the potential to change the way you think and that what you will need will be the right conditions to facilitate this. Having recognised what is going on you may be able to work through and find a solution and there is a quick guide on how to go about this at the bottom of the page. However your ability to do this on your own will depend upon the severity and length of time you have struggled. A common problem is that people can be being reluctant to seek help and this is often a wonderful example of negative thinking. “If I seek help it will mean that I am going to be a burden, a failure, pathetic, wasting people’s time or, I don’t have time or, I don’t have the money etc”. The reality is that everyone struggles from time to time and left unchecked negative thinking will only create a downward spiral, ultimately it must be argued that not seeking help to a recognised and treatable problem is a mistake. As soon as you realise that your own efforts are not succeeding seek help.
A quick guide for challenging negative thinking:
Write down the negative thoughts you are having and the situations in which they occur. What do you notice?
Do you remember the first time these thoughts occurred to you and if so what was going on for you in life at that point. Is it possible that there is a connection?
Consider whether you are being realistic in your thinking. Visualise how you would respond if a friend of yours came to talk to you with this problem – would your advice or judgement be any different to the way in which you are advising or judging yourself?
Now let’s get down to challenging those individual negative thoughts – pick the one that occurs to you first. Does the thought contain any element which is based on assumption and not fact? In the example I am in debt, I cannot manage my finances. The first part maybe fact but the second is an understanding and an assumption that is unrealistic. Now repeat this with other negative thoughts as they occur to you.
Posted by: Nicholas Rose on October 22nd, 2011 @ 3:41 PM
Bupa members can now access counselling and psychotherapy with Nicholas Rose in Chiswick. Members of other health insurance providers including PRUHealth can also access the service in Chiswick and also Covent Garden. Please contact Nicholas Rose for details 07789 488 691, firstname.lastname@example.org
Posted by: Nicholas Rose on May 15th, 2011 @ 3:39 PM
If you are a couple in or seeking counselling you maybe interested in the following opportunity. If you are interested please contact either myself or Kirsty Dougall.
MEDIA CALL: Couples seeking relationship help.
Fern Britton’s new Channel 4 show is looking to talk to a couple whose relationship is in serious trouble. They are still very much in love, but feel that separation may be the only option left open to them.
We want to provide you with all the professional advice you need to help you stay together and work out your differences.
You can be assured that this subject matter will be handled in all seriousness and with the aim to provide whatever counselling and advice works best for you and your partner.
If you would like more information, or know a couple that may be interested, please contact Kirsty Dougall on 0207 091 4733, or email: email@example.com
Posted by: Nicholas Rose on March 10th, 2011 @ 3:38 PM
At times of crisis, people are often nervous to consult counsellors and psychotherapists for a whole range of reasons. Some people are nervous that they will be required to commit to a number of sessions, others feel nervous that they will be told that they are wrong to be seeking counselling, whilst some people feel nervous about how to find the right therapist. I am now able to offer a single "crisis intervention" session as a means to discuss the crisis you are experiencing and decide on the best way forward.
Posted by: Nicholas Rose on November 28th, 2010 @ 3:32 PM
When we are struggling it can be difficult to find help. If you have thought of counselling and psychotherapy but are uncertain whether it might be helpful then we always recommend an initial consultation where we will assess this together however we very much like this self assessment tool - please click on this link.