Relationships – More of the Same or Something Different?

relationship counselling sussexEver thought to yourself as you argue with your partner – “here we go again, same old, same old”? Perhaps you’ve got stuck in a downward spiral of hurt, blame, anger and frustration. And then it will be all right for a while until the whole thing starts up again. Somehow, the more you try to make things better between you, the worse it seems to get.
In 1974, Paul Watzlawick, John Weakland and Richard Fisch* wrote about how a relationship problem could be improved (I hesitate to say solved…) by looking at the dilemma in a different way. These three American therapists were interested in how to help people in conflict make the kind of changes that make a difference to their lives.
Often, couples (and particularly those in non-violent relationships) seem to get locked into patterns of relating where each partner is trying really hard to get to a place where they feel emotionally safe but the very act of one of them doing this makes the other feel unsafe – and vice versa. They both keep doing ‘more of the same’ in order to get to a more comfortable position and all that happens is a kind of stalemate where both parties blame each other and both feel miserable. Sound familiar?
Watzlawick, Weakland and Fisch argue that it is the attempted solutions to the dilemma which are the problem, rather than a fault located within one or both of the parties. Attempted solutions are usually logical and natural reactions to a difficulty. However, what is needed is something different – the kind of step-change solution (in psychotherapy this is referred to as a second-order change, see my post of 5th October 2012) where a new pattern of relating is put in place.
Working with a therapist either as an individual or as a couple can uncover a problematic pattern of relating and allow time and space to consider that pattern in new ways. For example, we might begin to see how our attempts to draw closer to someone are actually pushing them away. Each of us will have different sensitivities and by highlighting these and working together, what may seem to be a frustrating or hopeless situation can be turned around.
If you live or work within reach of Brighton and Hove and my approach to counselling and psychotherapy interests you, please contact me via email or telephone 07585 910742 for more information and to arrange an initial consultation.
Image courtesy of Wischakorn at
* ‘Change, the Principles of Problem Formulation and Problem Resolution’