January is renowned as the month when a high number of couples call it quits. Divorce lawyers report a spike in couples requiring their services as hundreds of marriages finally hit the rocks. And as couples counsellors we can also report a higher volume of people in January seeking some kind of reparation for their ruptured relationships.
The Christmas period seems to be an influencing factor in the breakdown of relationships at this time of the year. The pressure for festive family arrangements to run perfectly often becomes the final straw. For relationships that were under strain before Christmas, this pressure can reveal all the cracks that have been there for a while – and the relationship comes to breaking point.
Couples can often have the same argument over and over again. Christmas can intensify that argument. The triggers for the argument may be slightly different each time, but beneath the surface is a deeper issue that goes way beyond the subject of the argument. It could be about needs that aren’t being met, or a core wound at the heart of your relationship. If you recognise that your arguments are on repeat, the start of a new year can be the time to do something about it.
If your intention is to heal your relationship, we suggest the following four resolutions.
1. Stop blaming
If your relationship is reduced to bickering and blaming your partner for everything, it’s time to take stock. Who wants to be in a relationship where your every fault is thrown in their face, and you feel damned if you do, damned if you don’t. So many couples become stuck a rut of blame that can feel exhausting and depleting. One of the key questions we ask in couples counselling is: what can you do to support the relationship? It takes the focus off wanting the other person to change, and puts the onus on what you can do differently in service of the relationship. You can’t change the other but you can change yourself. Even the smallest of changes – having a second of patience rather than sighing and tutting in annoyance – can make a big difference.
2. Start listening
We mean really listening – not only half listening while you’re watching TV or updating your status on social media. Giving your partner true attention, and caring how they think and feel, is one of the markers of a healthy relationship. Ignoring or scoffing or arguing will gradually erode the structures of your partnership. Take time for each other and tune into what they’re really saying. Don’t sit there with your response running, ready to answer back. Try a little empathy to show you care.
3. Prioritise ‘we’ over ‘me’
If you’re going to save your relationship then you need to re-build the foundations and reinvigorate the ways in which you spend time with each other. If you’ve found yourselves practically living separate lives, like ships passing in the night, then it’s not surprising that your relationship has lost its way. What activities did you take part in when you first got together? Can you reconnect with those times? Or how about introducing something new that you can both do? A healthy relationship has a good balance of ‘me time’ and ‘we time’. While you’re in repair mode, it’s a good idea to put more focus on ‘we’.
4. Seek support
Friends and family might be able to support you as you grapple with the difficulties in your relationship. Or they may run out of patience and ideas if the same old arguments are still running. It can be hard for family members to stay neutral, however, and they may want to take sides for or against you. An alternative is to speak to a professional. Couples counsellors are trained to work not just with surface detail of your arguments but are able to delve deeper to help you work out what’s really going on in your relationship. What disappointments and resentments are getting in the way of your happiness. What needs aren’t being met. What childhood wounds are playing out.
Couples counselling can help you look at your relationship, and each other, through fresh eyes. If you come to the conclusion that you’re not meant to be together, a couples counsellor can support you in ‘uncoupling’ in as benign a way as possible. However, if you bring the intention to stay together rather than to separate, couples counselling can help you find ways of communicating better, of creatively resolving your differences, and it can help you identify ways to have a more loving and satisfying relationship.
If you’re ready to take the first step towards saving your relationship, book an initial session with one of our couples counsellors. Call 020 8673 4545 or email i[email protected]. We have centres in Clapham and Tooting, with no waiting list.