Listening versus problem-solving in intimate relationships

Many couples who come to counselling are anxious for strategies and practical solutions to the problems that are causing conflict between them. It's understandable - they simply want things to feel better as soon as possible. In some cases, they want their partner, who they may see as the problem, to be 'fixed'!

Of course, this approach is seldom effective, and oftentimes couples have found this out themselves before seeking professional assistance.

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Is social media hurting your relationships?

Picture this - you're out for lunch together, you and your loved one, on a date. But every time you begin to talk, his phone rings, or yours does. You both feel it's important to at least check who is calling. It may be work, or a friend in need. By the time lunch is over, you've both spent more time responding to others than to each other.

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Good communication and emotional safety in intimate relationships

Many couples come to counselling wanting assistance to communicate better. They are looking for strategies that they can apply so that each is able to feel that their partner has heard, understood and respected their view.

While strategies are important, and can be learned and mastered with practice, the underlying principles are more important to bear in mind. These rest on the idea that creating safety - emotionally and psycholocigally as well as physically - is key to successful communication.

So how is this achieved?

Creating safety relies on the following:-

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Don't just do something, sit there!

"Don't just do something, sit there!" As a starting-out counsellor, many years ago, I remember seeing this caption on a cartoon framed above a colleague's desk. For me, it captures the essence of what it takes to be an effective helper perfectly - the best help we can give someone is to be there for them, not only physically, but with all of our attention, resisting the impulse to fix the issue, change the subject etc etc. I believe that the same principle applies to our most important relationships - those with our partner and family.

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What creates true intimacy in relationships?

What are the things you do, and that your partner does, that nurture intimacy between you?

Many of us may think that intimacy is about having mind-blowing sex at every opportunity. or having romantic interludes away together, or surprising each other with extravagant gifts or romantic gestures.

Of course, these things are wonderful, and when they happen in the context of a relationship where both partners already feel connected and good about how things are going, they may well intensify your sense of pleasure and excitement about being together.

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How can I ask my partner to be more emotionally supportive?

Often couples come to counselling because one person feels the other is not supporting them in the way that they need. We may say things like:-

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How true is the saying 'Distance makes the heart grow fonder'?

Q: My boyfriend and I have only been together for about two months but we've spent a lot of time together and things have moved quickly. Needless to say it's been a great start! However he will be away for work for half a year. It seems like an extremely long time and I am worried that the 'passion' we have now will fade over time. People say 'Distance makes the heart grow fonder' so I'm hoping this will only make him miss me more but I don't know. He'll be overseas so we can probably plan 1-2 trips to visit but nothing more than that.


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What beliefs do you have about the process of change, that may hold you back from creating the relationship you want?

Whether we realize it or not, we all have strongly held beliefs about pretty much everything - including what makes change happen. Often couples come to counselling after a long time of at least one partner trying to create change by complaining, yelling, criticizing....

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Do you and your partner know each other's 'love language'?

The following is a summary of Dr Gary Chapman's best selling book "Love Languages"

Working as a couples counsellor, Dr Chapman discovered that each person has a “love language,” a primary way of expressing and interpreting love. He also discovered that, for whatever reason, people are usually drawn to those who speak a different love language than their own.

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50 ways to listen to your lover...

Most of us know how important it is to listen - not just hear, but really listen - when our loved one is trying to tell us somethng important. If we have already learned some skills in active listening, we might know how to indicate that we are trying to get it (I think what you're saying is.... Are you telling me that......?), to deflect our internal attention away from our own mind-chatter, and to hold an attitude of openess and preparedness to 'not know' (in other words, suspend our assumptions that we already know what our partner thinks or feels about a given issue).

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