We all start with a dream, hope, and expectations. What most of us begin to realize is that we have never been taught the important skills of loving negotiation to make sure we each get our needs met in the relationship. Also, we are hardly taught relationship maintainance skills and techniques. Most people spend more time and effort maintaining their cars than their relationships.
Couples come for counseling for a variety of reasons. Most often because it feels to them that communication has broken down. Other reasons include affairs, almost affairs, parenting issues, fighting, substance abuse, etc.
When we are in conflict we can often let our feelings be in control of our behavior. This can lead to people not behaving at their best during these times. However, the best in us is still there, we’ve just forgotten how to keep that part of us in charge. We start with each person identifying their best intention toward the other. Being clear in how they intend to treat each other rather than letting their anger or hurt determine how they behave.
We then get to work looking at what future the partners want to build. Rather than “fix” things we work toward gaining the skills needed to negotiate getting each person’s needs met to build a new future.
One of the problems that arises is when someone has been hurt or feels betrayed. They are often encouraged to accept the apology and “just get over it”. We don’t get over things, we get through things. The way we get through things is to have new experiences that can change how we see things. So one of the things the couple negotiates is what kind of different experiences they want to have to create the future they want. This can often take some skill building in negotiating with each other as well as relearning how to keep things running well.