Couples: An introduction to Marriage & Relationship Therapy

Marriage & Relationship Counselling

John Farrelly, Director of Counselling for ACCORD Marriage & Relationship Counselling Services, and author of “The Good Marriage Guide”, provides some insights into marriage and relationship counselling for perspective couples .

My name is John Farrelly, I’m a clinical psychologist and author of the good marriage guide. I’m here today to speak to you about marriage and relationship counselling.

The main problems people present with couple counselling are; communication, conflict, financial issues, parenting and infidelity. In terms of communication, very often what can set in a relationship is that the “demand-withdrawal” pattern. What happens here is that the woman, particularly, can feel isolated, alone and want to communicate more with her husband or their partner and let them know what going on. The husband or the male partner on the other hand then feels then they are being criticised and they withdraw away and what happens over time this demand-withdrawal cycle sets in and very often the love that brought them together can turn into a deep freeze love. One of the key concepts in relationship counselling is getting people to communicate effectively.

In terms of conflict, this is another area that couples bring time and time again. In any marriage there will be at least ten areas of disagreement. The trick is to work these out, without pummelling your partner into the ground. There are number of different types of communication and conflict styles. The first is a volatile style. This is the idea that “I’m passionate, and speak my mind and I put everything that I’m thinking out there straight away”. The second type is an avoidance style, where, “really when I was growing up, we didn’t need to fight and there’s no need to fight. You can see where these two styles when they are working can set up the demand withdrawal pattern. The style that we try to work and get the relationship to work on is the validating style, where you can accept the difference in the person your married to and you can appreciate the different point of view, and you know what, even though they are a pain sometimes you still love them.

The issue of parenting really brings really brings a lot of problems into relationships that a lot of people don’t anticipate. If you think you have grown through your life as someone son or daughter, you’ve a psychological safety net and you have a place to go, generally speaking, no matter what’s going wrong. However, when you become a mother or a father, and always remember it’s not just about a new baby it’s about a new mother or father. All of a sudden that psychological safety net is gone. Very often what can happen with the couple is they drift away from the couple-centred relationship to the child centred relationship. And in a nutshell in counselling what you will learn is this idea that before you attend to the child you must have fixed your own oxygen and look after each other.

Finally is your sitting out there and wondering about relationship counselling, what I can say to you is, the best thing is really to get in touch with an organisation and a person straight away. Most people spend about nine months thinking about coming to relationship counselling and don’t forget in that time, demand and withdrawal is setting in and some of the issues that are very very solvable are ingraining themselves in the relationship. They will help you and bring you into a safe space, where hope can be restored, healing can begin and love can grow again.