Photo of a happy couple

Resolving Relationship Issues

In last Friday’s blog we promised that we would give you a better insight into how we help couples resolve relationship issues.

Relationships which work are based on “mutual needs satisfaction”.  This means that regardless of what the couples choose to do together or separately, the relationship works best when each is assisting the other in getting their own innate needs met.

Language is very important and sometimes we teach couples that the commonly used phrase “I love you” is actually a very challenging thing to say to someone. It is like tossing a ball to your partner with the implied question: “Now, what are you going to do with that? Will you throw it back to me or ignore it?” Many people feel under pressure when on the receiving end of these three words. A great alternative which can be used when someone wants to express a sense of closeness – but without putting pressure on the other is: “I feel loved by you”.  This is much less threatening and can make a huge difference.

Another language example:

Let’s assume that in a husband / wife partnership, the woman realises that the dustbin needs to be put out for collection. Consider how she might ask her partner to do this.

 a) “It’s bin day tomorrow, can you put the bins out?”

 b) “It’s bin day tomorrow, don’t forget to put the bins out”

Many women will see little difference between these two variations. Many men will see a big difference; option a) throws doubt on their abilities. (“Of course I can put them out! – if you want me to put them out just say!”) They see option b) as more direct and “honest”.

The best question in the world to help strengthen a relationship is: “What do you need right now?” It is open ended, permissive and gives control to the other person. They may say anything such as: “I need you to cook the meal tonight”, or “I need twenty minutes on my own to wind down after work”  – but if you can respond to help make the request happen – it is pretty much guaranteed that the other person is going to feel better as a result – which will always strengthen the relationship. Of course, you have to have “spare capacity” in order to be able to ask this and handle the response (i.e. have your own needs met to a reasonable degree).

One final example of how we help resolving relationship issues is we point out the importance of pattern matching. A previous case illustrates this perfectly:

A man lived with a woman who would “go silent” when she was annoyed with him. He learned to watch his step whenever she apparently turned cold towards him because sooner or later he would find out what it was that he had done wrong. Eventually the relationship failed and years later he met another woman. When she came home from work she would desire 20 minutes without fuss. He matched to his old pattern and interpreted this as “She is quiet, I must have done something wrong”. He would offer her a cup of tea, fuss around trying to be useful. Eventually, through being open and communicating he realised that his emotional response was based on a previous relationship and was completely inappropriate in the current situation.

Pattern matching is an unconscious process – the first output from the process is always an emotion. Thinking happens later – if at all!

These are just a few ways in which we at in8 help couples with relationship counselling.  Remember that “couples” doesn’t necessarily mean husband and wife, couples refers to any relationship between two people.

Please contact us if you would like more information about how we can help you resolve relationship issues.