I really like this summary by Malcolm Gladwell about Dr. John Gottman’s work on couples. Gottman, like previous marital therapists asks the question, “How did you two meet?” This seemingly simple question reveals more than you might think about the patterns and dynamics of your relationship.

In Watzlawick, Beavin, and Jackson’s 1967 book Pragmatics of Human Communication, a similar question is asked: “How of all the millions of people in the world, did the two of you get together?” These types of questions help the therapist get an x-ray of a relationship by revealing how each partner tells the story of the relationship – What is the relationship narrative? What are the most poignant themes from that narrative? What patterns played out right from the very beginning? What role did each partner play in their getting together? Does each partner tell a different story? Do they agree on the main plot points?

The best way to grow as a person and/or as a couple is to understand yourself and your partner from a different angle or perspective. The couples’ therapist can act as a mirror to the couple, helping them see the dynamics of their relationship. Your narrative about how you met gives you many hints about how you see yourself and your partner in the relationship.

If you are interested in better understanding your relationship, there are two options. One option is couples counseling, and the other is individual therapy with a focus on your relationship. Therapists can help you see things you can’t see about yourselves, which results in new perspectives and an increased sense of groundedness and clarity.

We get a lot of calls to our office asking about relationship counselling – What is it? How can it help me? What can it do for my relationships?

Relationship counselling is a form of therapy specifically focused on improving your relationships – at work, at home, with friends, with family, or with your partner.  Unlike family therapy or couples counselling, you engage in relationship counselling on your own. Part of the work is improving communication skills  (including assertiveness) and ability to emotionally connect with the other person, but relationship counselling goes beyond that to include:

  • Better understanding yourself and who you are in relationships
  • Learning about your patterns, games, and dynamics in relationships
  • Better understanding the other person – who is it that you are actually dealing with?
  • Articulating the meaning behind your relationships and better understanding what exactly you are looking for from different relationships
  • Unpacking points of contention in relationships and unmet needs
  • Coming up with creative and intelligent ways to resolve conflict
  • Learning to manage your relationship with the other person in a different way – if what you are currently doing is not working, what else can you try?
  • Overcoming ambivalence about relationships you are uncertain about – should you stay or should you go?