Updated: Mar 29
What you can expect and a few things that may surprise you ...
GUEST BLOG – written by Emma Crossland
There are a few ways counsellors advertise that they work with people in relationships: mostly they use the term Couple Counselling or Marriage Guidance Counselling. It is good practice to use the term Relationship Counselling because some people are in relationships that involve more than two people, such as those in open or polyamorous relationships.
In this blog I will refer to people in monogamous relationships of two people, although it is important to remember that many people choose relationships that differ from traditional monogamy.
The relationship counselling course I attended was run by a psychosexual therapist called Cabby Laffy at The Grove in London. I was pleased to see that there was a whole section on LGBTQ relationships in the syllabus and this was one of the reasons I chose this course. This section of the course covered several interesting insights into LGBTQ relationships that I had not considered before.
The struggles LGBTQ people face when realising they feel differently to others as they grow up can involve self-scrutiny, questioning and experiencing discrimination and it is likely this results in a resilience, openness and compassion for others that can then lead to more open, compassionate and resilient relationships. It is also worth considering the idea that LGBTQ people cannot automatically slip into roles or tasks prescribed by gender. They are less likely to fall into unconscious assumptions about who does what and therefore things are more likely to be negotiated and agreed on explicitly and changes made when needed, leading to more equal relationships.
As a counsellor working with LGBTQ people in relationships, I have met people navigating many different situations and struggles, some of which are related specifically to their relationship and some are life events that have come crashing into their lives and derailed them. Having a confidential space where they can explore what is going on for them without interruptions can be of great benefit to their relationship. We live in a world where we often do not get a chance to sit, talk and reflect with our loved ones.
Most relationships experience conflict at some point and it is through conflict and tension that we learn what each other needs and wants and can then move towards resolution. However sometimes the way we communicate with each other is detrimental for our relationships and doesn’t lead to new insights and understanding but instead can tear relationships apart.
Relationship counselling can help people see what happens when they argue and what patterns they find themselves in. Does one of you tend to become quiet and withdrawn in an argument and the other more animated, trying to get a reaction? Do you both go silent when you disagree, leading to the issue getting swept under the carpet? Do you both react to feeling hurt by shouting and trying to be the one who is ‘right’? If you recognise yourself and your partner in any of these patterns don’t worry you are not alone. All these ways of responding to conflict are common and behind them is the wish for connection with your partner or to protect what you already have.
Our ways of relating are influenced by what we saw growing up, how our parents or care givers related to us and each other, and experiences in past relationships. In relationship counselling we can become more aware of how our pasts impacts us and our partners. We can have more understanding for why we and our partners may behave in certain ways and how best to support each other when past hurts get activated.