Couples counselling

By Dr. Dipl. -Psych Sarah Fitzroy – English Psychologist in Berlin

As human beings, we are social beings and seek comfort in relationships with others. We all strive to make and maintain happy and healthy relationships with others. Being in a romantic relationship can provide a sense of safety and security as well as a place for nurturing and unconditional love. However, there may also be times in the relationship whereby, we feel insecure, unbalanced and unsafe. 

The relationship can be seen as a system, with communication being key to how information is processed within the system. The system can be described as functioning when communication processes function well and individual needs are validated as well as the needs of the relationship itself. Systems Theory1 describes how relationships will always seek to maintain a form of homeostasis and conflict can occur when homeostasis is disrupted. In terms of a relationship, this may mean one partner is prioritising their own needs over the needs of the relationship.

The Gottman Method of couples counselling2 describe the 4 Horsemen as conflict sources in any romantic relationship which include the following

  1. Criticism: criticising your partner on a personal level rather than criticising their behaviour which can make your partner feel attacked
  2. Contempt: maintaining moral superiority over your partner and behaving in a disrespectful manner
  3. Defensiveness: attempting to reverse the blame when accused by your partner
  4. Stonewalling: when one partner completely withdraws or shutsdown (this can also be a trauma response if there is a history of trauma from previous relationships)

The first step maybe to see if you can identify any of these patterns in your relationship and to see if they can be resolved by making time to discuss the issue. Indeed, all relationships go through periods of transition such as moving in together; starting a new job or moving to a new country. The transition may temporarily cause imbalance in the relationship that may then resolve itself in time.

However, if you feel that you may need a neutral person to provide a safe space to discuss to talk through behaviour and communication patterns, it may be worth seeking the help of couples counselling to learn ways to positively manage the ‘horsemen’ in the relationship. 

  1. Bateson, G.(1972). Steps to an ecology of mind. New York NY: Ballantine 
  1. The Gottman Institute: https://www.gottman.com/about/john-julie-gottman/
 
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