Couple Counselling: Repair and Strengthening

At Markham Psychological Services, you'll find help identifying and dealing with common marital issues. Some examples include:

  • Communication problems: listening, understanding, respect and fair-play
  • Affection, emotional and physical needs and conflicts
  • Infidelity: understanding the full impact on your partner; what to expect in the early and later stages of recovery


Many of the strategies we use with couples are ones written about and recommended by Dr. Gottman. Psychologist John Gottman has spent more than 20 years studying what makes a marriage last. His book, "Why Marriages Succeed or Fail…and How You Can Make Yours Last" is an excellent read. This book guides you through a series of self-tests designed to help you determine what kind of marriage you have, where strengths and weaknesses are, and what specific action you can take to help your marriage. Dr. Gottman tells you how to recognize attitudes and behaviours that doom a marriage: contempt, criticism, defensiveness and stonewalling.


Did you know that highly successful couples argue as much as unhappy ones, but if they hurt the other person through a putdown or a harsh word, they are quick to repair the injury? This is one of many books that you can read prior to making the decision to work with a psychologist.


Emotional Disconnection-Isolation-Loneliness in Relationships

A strong, safe emotional connection or bond with a partner is a primary need for most people. We want to feel that our partner has our best interests at heart and will be there when we need help of any kind. We want to know our partner will care and be responsive when we feel insecure and uncertain. We want to feel that we matter and are important in our partner's life. When this bond weakens and leads to disconnection, we are anxious and panicky and struggle to recover the connection. Most of the time, we attempt to do so in unproductive ways. We may become demanding, angry, blaming and accusatory.

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Using underlying theories from attachment theories and the wonderful resource materials written by psychologist Dr. Sue Johnson, we teach couples how to reconnect and strengthen the emotional bond they once had. Reading the bestseller "Hold Me Tight" is advised to understand the basic underlying principles of re-connecting.


Separation Counselling and Support

Sometimes efforts to change and improve one's attitude and behaviour in a couple relationship come too late. A spouse or partner has been in distress for some time and has been asking for change with no or only fleeting change. Some partners ultimately arrive at a point of no return and opt to leave the relationship. The person who has been left behind is overwhelmed by a wide range of feelings that can include: disbelief, grief, a sense of failure and profound loss. I spoke with a man who was in a state of emotional shock when his wife presented him with divorce papers. I asked if she talked to him about what was upsetting her, and whether she had described the changes she was looking for. He replied "oh yeah, she complained once in a while, so when she didn't complain all the time, I assumed it really wasn't a big deal".


Affairs

In my practice I observe primarily two types of affairs.


The first type is not intended or pre-meditated. Often it occurs at work with an associate or client that you like and have a good rapport with. It often occurs during a period in a relationship where a couple has become quite emotionally disconnected. Friendly chats turn into lunches and often highly personal information is shared over time which can create a strong bond. What starts to happen is that the emotional bond and connection can become quite powerful. This often results in a desire to spend more time with the individual. If the feeling is mutual lunches turn into dinners and eventually more. Some individuals may have the emotional strength to see what is happening at the lunch stage and abruptly discontinue the relationship. Others who may have felt neglected or unimportant for a long time may be so needy for attention and connection that they become drawn in and cannot find the internal resources to stop what is happening.


The second type of affair that I observe is more pre-meditated. The individual may be generally content in the marriage, but struggling with a gnawing sense of routine and monotony. Instead of directly addressing this with the partner increased excitement is sought outside of the relationship or marriage. Sometimes "it's just sex", but even a relationship that starts this way can sometimes turn into something more.


"But I Didn't Sleep with Him/Her"

Many people believe that if there is no sex that there was no affair. This is not how your partner will see it. You have to spend a considerable amount of time for emotional intimacy to develop which usually involves lying about your whereabouts or withholding pertinent information. If the emotional intimacy and bond starts to feel stronger than what it is with your partner, you are likely having an affair, an emotional affair. A physical affair is a predictable consequence.


"Can Our Marriage Recover and Thrive After this Affair?"

I have seen many couples recover and develop a stronger, happier, partnership/marriage.


It takes time to recover from the betrayal and to understand what challenges a couple has to address in their marriage.

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