Improve Your Relationship

Insights from Chiswick-based couples counsellors Nicholas Rose and Marybeth Mendenhall

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Nicholas Rose & Associates
The Swan Centre
Fishers Lane, W4 1RX
020 8996 9551

Talking is the Answer with Nicholas Rose

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“In relationships, believing that we understand our partners and that they understand us is the single biggest cause of trouble” says Chiswick-based couples counsellor Nicholas Rose.

“Couples often come where one or both are simply not understanding the other, I often hear ‘It’s like living with a stranger’ and this can happen no matter how long a couple have been together. For even the strongest and longest of relationships there can come a time when a couple can find themselves struggling to maintain the relationship they want, often quite suddenly, understanding each other becomes very difficult,” says Nicholas.

Difficulties can be triggered by either a build up of misunderstandings and or external influences, and both of these bring stress into a relationship. “The importance of this is that during times of stress our sense of safety is challenged, and this triggers coping mechanisms that are built on our assumptions of the best ways to stay safe. Assumptions are based upon unique life experiences and therefore potentially revealing huge differences between partners,” adds Associate Marybeth Mendenhall.

Marybeth Mendenhall

Sometimes a build up of stress is caused by the relationship’s failure to deal with disagreements around day-to-day issues such as parenting, finance, sex, financial management etc. “Couples often struggle to reach a full understanding around a point of conflict because they do not feel heard by the other. A major part of my work is to help couples develop listening and conflict resolution skills.”

“It is also important never to underestimate the possible impact of change and difficult times. Anything that changes your routines or patterns can trigger coping mechanisms – look out for bereavements, fertility issues, children arriving and leaving, career changes, health challenges and traumatic events. Such things can lead to a couple needing to revisit those listening and conflict resolution skills.”

Nicholas Rose

At the root of maintaining your relationship is the need to constantly challenge the tendency to believe that we understand and are understood. “The word love is possibly the best example. It’s a word so common in everyday life and yet in practice it can mean vastly different things depending upon who is using it.”
“And everything changes” says Nicholas. “As we pass through the natural stages of a relationship and as we grow older our view of love and relationships changes – so where we thought we had an understanding, maybe it is no longer relevant.”

Nicholas and Marybeth suggest the following guiding principles:

  1. Words like “love” are short cuts – when talking to each other do not assume that you both mean the same thing.
  2. It requires commitment from both parties to develop and maintain understanding.
  3. Learn how to improve your communication skills. For example, if you feel hurt by something that your partner does or says then it is likely that your coping mechanisms and theirs are revealing a conflict of understanding. Do not assume that the intention was to hurt you, instead say how you felt and ask if that was what had been intended. Remember relationships often breakdown due to the conversations that have not been had rather than those that have.
  4. Never underestimate the possible impact of change, difficult times and stress.
  5. If you are struggling then do not hesitate to seek professional help. Many couples seek help when it is too late - when there is too much misunderstanding and hurt and not enough energy and commitment left to make the changes required.

Nicholas Rose & Associates is a practice of counsellors and psychotherapists offering counselling and psychotherapy for adults, couples and families based on Fishers Lane in W4, just off Chiswick High Road.

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11th May 2012