Peter’s couple therapy blog

Readiness – one leans in, the other leans out

Most couples who seek help have taken between five and seven years to get there. The usual difficulty is that one person feels overwhelmed by the issues and withdraws when it comes up. The other person feels overwhelmed by the issues and pursues them when they come up.

One leans away from the problem, the other leans toward the problem and both feel stuck. It is easy to get into the blame game – for example,
one says,

every time I want to talk about this you disappear

The other says,

every time this issue comes up you hammer me into the ground

This all takes time.

Only one in two couples who contact me actually end up coming for help. One leans into the help and the other leans out. It’s about the same number of men who initiate the first call as women who initiate the call. I usually am willing to talk about what I do over the phone for up to twenty minutes. At the conclusion of the call I am fairly sure which caller is one of the two couples that are unlikely to turn up. The giveaway sign is the person asks lots of questions, even technical ones like what modalities I use. Then they tell me they will “have to take this back to their partner” before they can decide, I kind of know the one at home isn’t all that ready to get help – they’re leaning out, possibly withdrawing and hoping.

The couples that I am sure will accept help are those who have sought me out after a number of other relationship counselling experiences. I think my record is of being the fifth therapist a couple had seen in 25 years. I can remember a handful of couples where I have been the fourth therapist they had seen. But more often I am the second or third they have seen over the previous five years. I will never know how many times its the other way around, that is after seeing me they go onto seek one or two more counsellors. I have had my fair share of dissatisfied customers who saw no benefit in returning for a second session. I assume it’s a long journey for all of us to get the right help at the right time when we are both ready.

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