Counselling isn’t just for unhappy couples. Everyone needs a relationship check-up now and again…As nearly 2 billion people around the world watched, Harry and the love of his life Meghan held hands, declared their undying love for each other, kissed and stepped into a horse drawn carriage where hundreds of thousands danced, cheered and sang as the loving couple headed to their castle, to live ‘happily ever after.’
MOST of us go to the doctor or dentist every year for a check-up — we even go to a mechanic to have our cars tested — and I think it’s about time that we took our relationships just as seriously.
I encourage all couples — even those who consider themselves to be happy — to do a yearly check-in with a couples therapist to ensure their relationship is on track.
The main reason is that relationships have a huge impact on our overall wellbeing. Research shows that if you’re in an unhappy relationship, the level of stress hormones in your body increase. This compromises the immune system and can make you emotionally and physically unwell. High blood pressure, heart problems, depression and anxiety are just a few of the issues that can result from feeling stressed in a relationship.
When we first meet someone, our bodies release oxytocin, dopamine and serotonin, often referred to as bonding or love hormones. During that time, being together as a couple feels easy, but after about 18 months to three years, the release of these hormones levels decrease. We then become familiar with each other, and this is often where the real work begins and ghosts from our past can start showing up in our relationships.
We are all shaped by our previous relationships, mainly the ones with our parents, and the things we carry from our past are often provoked into awareness in our new relationships.
For instance, say you grew up with an alcoholic parent, and your partner goes to a lot of parties and drinks excessively around Christmas time. You find yourself being anxious and worried and start arguments with your partner. You may or may not realise it is your past sparking old worries and anxieties, and most often, we don’t know why we react the way we do.
When we are feeling insecure or unsafe in our relationships, we find ourselves in arguments, often without understanding why we are fighting. Please note, I’m not talking about violence in a relationship — if there is violence in a relationship, you should leave or seek help immediately. I’m talking about scaring each other with everyday arguments, which make your partner feel unsafe.
A couple therapist can help uncover what is resolved from your past, and what shows up in your current relationship. We can help couples communicate better, not just with words, but with positive body language, gestures and facial expressions to ensure you both feel safe and secure in your relationship.
The most common mistake I see couples make is waiting too long to seek help — unhappy couples wait an average of six years before getting counselling. Many times, the built-up resentment has by then become too overpowering and one person may have already given up, not to mention the fact that your body may have been under stress for a long period of time.
So, I sincerely believe that the best thing you can do if you want to invest in your relationship and your overall wellbeing is to do a yearly check-in with a couples therapist. It might just be one session, or just like any health check-up, we might need to run a few tests or examine what’s happening to really figure out what is going on and how to fix it.
I have a few happy couples that come to me every year for regular check-ups. Some of them have been in therapy before, so they have learnt conflict resolution, soothing the other party when they’re distressed and have an understanding that the past can impact the present — but they know that the best thing to do is nip things in the bud, and to resolve things before they become deeper issues.
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