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Couples Counselling - The Roadside Puncture Approach

Updated: Jan 29, 2023

An open letter to all couples who know what it is like when the relationship wheels are coming off.

Couples Counselling with CTR - What it's about and how it works.

If you knew you had the tools to deal with a roadside puncture effectively, you probably wouldn’t go looking to get one but knowing you could deal with it would bring you and your passenger peace of mind and reassurance.

Recently a man called me to enquire about Couples Counselling, I spoke with him briefly, gave him some information about what I do and he said, “Well, does it work?”

In that moment, I knew I could talk with him about how it works and for want of a better word, the ”mechanics” of Couples Counselling.

Couples Counselling with is learning how to make the kind of responses that will have a more positive impact on your relationship. It is very hard to see the wood for the trees when the relationship is in difficulty or crisis. My work with you will give you a road map out of that place. From there you two can decide your own journey, equipped with better navigation tools, insights and improved communication.

1) Both people have to show up. That’s enough to get started.

2) Be willing to listen to the other person - even when it’s difficult and when you don’t agree.

Before the session I would ask you both to consider the following questions - separately.

Q1: What do you think will be required of you to become a more effective partner?

Q2: How do you think that might be difficult for you?

The idea is that in your own time you can consider these questions and have time to reflect on your thoughts. The questions move the focus from looking at what is “wrong”. Instead each person can take the time to look inwards to see what they could do as part of being in a more positive caring relationship – even when it’s difficult. I won’t lie, it will involve an element of:

Showing up, Growing up and Owning up. Stay with me here, it’s worth it.

In the session we would start with an overview of:

· The kind of life you want to build together.

· The kind of partner you want to be.

· The blocks to becoming that kind of partner.

· Looking at what it would take to achieve the kind of relationship you want and how to get it, picking a start point from where ever you are at the moment.

· What it will take:

· Being open about the kind of life you want to build together.

· Some independence from each other as part of a shared life.

· Learning how to work as a team.

· Persisting with it – even when it is difficult.

· Reviewing your progress.

The Trade-offs

· Time – It takes time, time to plan a life together, working out personal and professional needs, family time. There are trade-offs to consider.

· Comfort – It is not emotionally comfortable to hear how your partner is affected by your behaviour as your version is probably different!

There is discomfort in taking risks emotionally, speaking up instead of being quietly resentful or angry. This is necessary if you want to become closer again as a couple.

There is effort in being considerate and kind, sometimes we would rather not.

There will inevitably be more ups and down but couples counselling can help you work better together. We start by Interrupting the Cycle, stopping whatever is not working, even temporarily to give you both space to breathe and think. Looking at what can work and starting from there.

An acknowledgement by each of you that you have “go to behaviours”, these behaviours are defences, and the idea of defences is stop getting hurt or feeling hurt. Unfortunately, with these behaviours come collateral damage, for example if a defence is to blame your partner, this is collateral damage.

Let’s talk about blame:

If you understood blaming as a discharging of feelings, it could look like this:

“I don’t want these feelings and I am going to box them up and throw them at you because I don’t want to feel them”.

You will know I am throwing this emotional grenade because it comes with a delivery slip of “You this, you that.." It may include "You always, you never, you should…” or similar words. We all know them!

Blaming is just one example of a “go to behaviour” but we have other "go to" behaviours. The more difficult part is to own what you do, what you do to each other. Decide if you want this to be the way it is, or take the steps and do the work to change it.

It’s not in the big gestures that trust is built and re-built, it is in the small but significant ways:

· Doing what you say you will do.

· Showing up when you say you will.

· Saying sorry and being genuine in taking action to “making amends” in a way that the person you have hurt can see that you are genuine.

· Laying down the weapons.

· Forgiveness - (more on that another time!)

· Aim for the win/win as a team; not the win/lose position – where is the joy in being “right” if your partner has to be wrong?

Benefits of Couples Counselling:

It takes an amount of courage and self-awareness to want to go to couples counselling but the pay-off is absolutely worth it.

· You can learn to communicate better with each other.

· Understand more clearly how you respond under stress in the relationship.

· Understand your impact on your partner – for better and for worse!

· Create a vision for a shared life.

· Get equipped with appropriate tools for when you hit a bump in the road – and you will, that’s the nature of the beast.

A big part of Couples Counselling is helping you to develop more positive ways of communicating, by being seen and heard in the relationship. Getting equipped with more effective ways of dealing with problems, with each other and those things that life will throw at you.

What you can learn here is the relationship equivalent of dealing with roadside puncture. It’s not so terrible when you know you have a good jack, how to work it, a decent spare and you know where to go to fix the tyre (repair/reconnect) or get a new tyre (a new way of dealing with conflict).

Wishing you both the very best.

Warm Regards,


This approach based on The Couples Institute approach Dr. Ellyn Bader and Dr. Peter Pearson

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