Having practiced counseling for the better part of 20 years I have probably learned more from my numerous clients than I have from my formal education or the many workshops I have attended. As I have learned, who is a better expert on you than you? That being said, I have also learned in my years working with couples, who would be a better expert on what a relationship both troubled and untroubled looks and feels like than the couples themselves? In this writing, I would like to share with you what I have found to be the primary characteristics of both the troubled and untroubled relationship. While this may not be a complete complication and a couple may not come in and describe it word for word, rather they just know something is wrong. It may take time for these underlying characteristics to be vocalized by the couple. Conversely many couples may have a vague idea of what the untroubled relationship looks and feels like but they have become so focused on the troubles that they do not seem themselves capable of attaining a healthy, loving relationship. The goal of counseling is to help the couple identify and voice these troubles and then to help them develop the hope and strategy to move from being troubled to a healthy, loving relationship
Characteristics of a troubled relationship:
1. We constantly criticize and argue with each other.
2. We become defensive at the slightest provocation.
3. We keep score aka. Quid Pro Quo..
4. We have to have the last word.
5. We hold our partner responsible for our happiness or unhappiness.
6. We hold ourselves responsible for our partner’s happiness or unhappiness.
7. We can’t tolerate our differences.
8. We are not able to live in the present, rather we cripple our relationship fearing the future and unable to let go of the past.
9. We communicate, if at all, indirectly and negatively.
10. We have lost our perspective and live in despair.
Characteristics of a healthy relationship:
1. We learn we are allies and friends.
2. We do see positivity in of our partner’s actions.
3. We do things for our partner without seeking a payoff.
4. We accept responsibility for our own happiness and allow our partner to accept responsibility for their own happiness.
5. We learn that we do not have to win; it is a partnership not a contest.
6. We accept our partner’s differences and learn to negotiate the autonomy and interdependence that’s right for us.
7. We live in the present without fear of the future and can let go of the past.
8. We communicate directly with love and listen with love
9. We commit ourselves to the relationship daily and constantly seek to understand our partner and to be understood by our partner.
10. We have perspective and live with hope.
Next: How to make counseling work for you.