Relationship counselling can help improve the way you relate to those around you and allow you to break free from old patterns of behaviour.

Counsellors can provide a supportive and non-judgmental environment to help you identify issues or problems in a relationship and find a way through those difficulties.

Relationship counselling can cover all relationships, including couples, families and those at work.

It can support you with small or major relationship issues that are troubling you. But a relationship doesn’t have to be in crisis before you pursue counselling. For some people, therapy is a means by which they can prevent relationship issues from growing.

How to have a healthy relationship

Self-awareness is key as only then will you be able to notice when your buttons are being pressed and find a way to manage that.

“It’s about knowing when you are triggered and owning your own process so you can have a really good idea of what is happening to you rather than assuming someone else is out to get you,” says Cate Campbell, a relationship therapist based in Buckinghamshire.

“This is much more helpful than reacting and blaming someone else.

“When we’re triggered the past comes back to bite us and we often start believing the other person has characteristics they don’t actually possess.

“We relive previous difficult and unresolved situations, but this usually goes on outside our conscious awareness.

“So, when we feel unsettled, it’s important to consider whether this is really about what’s happening in the here and now or whether a past memory has been activated.

“Our early traumatic memories are often experienced like emotions rather than thoughts, so the body becomes flooded with a feeling we attribute to now when it really belongs in the past.

“The person we’re with or the situation we’re in may have brought back the memory but may not be responsible for the feeling.

"Once we realise that, we can find ways to help one another rather than quarrelling.”

How does communication affect our relationships?

Effective communication is needed to manage triggers. In all our relationships, verbal, physical or written skills are needed to connect, to understand different points of view and to offer support.

Cate says you must be prepared to change yourself, rather than just hope the other person will change.

“Recognising your triggers, and thinking about what’s being triggered, help us to manage situations which have the potential to produce conflict,” she says.

Cate says that the most productive conversations happen when people have an objective discussion rather than just taking the opportunity to complain.

“When you sit down to talk, know what you want to get out of the conversation,” she says.

“Use the time constructively, using headline statements which own your experience without apportioning blame and make clear what you want, such as ‘I miss spending time with you. Could we have one or two nights a week which are just for us?’

“When people expect conversations to turn into arguments, they don’t feel safe from the beginning and are already defensive before they start talking. As a result, many couples don’t talk at all or repeat the same old rows endlessly.”

How can counselling help a relationship?

The motivations for seeking relationship therapy might be different in each case. However, major life events, communication issues and the challenges of maintaining a happy relationship are some of the more common reasons.

Cate adds: “One good tip is to smile as much as you can. When people are frightened and triggered, they may recognise a serious face as being an aggressive face, so softening your face and manner is a huge step in the right direction.

“Smile as much as you can, that really helps.”

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