What is the most difficult thing in counseling? It is to take in to account the third dimension: WE, a couple. You must detach from the individuals that compose the couple, omit accusations such as “the other one has a problem”, not reject responsibility for a dysfunctional relationship, or entertain masochistic thoughts like “I am not good enough” or “he/she deserves better”.
A couple is on a higher level, compared to the individuals. Two people may feel bad on an individual level but understand each other in the relationship (and vice versa).
The first question we try to answer, is whether there still is “a couple”. Many couples seek out a psychologist with doubts about if they still exist as a couple. Partners may wonder “What is the point of being in a couple?”. What is it, that still connects them? In psychology we refer to a so called “casing”. So, what encases them both? When thinking of this “psychological casing”, imagine a thick, fluffy blanket they are both under. Perhaps one’s foot is sticking out, one is not under it at all, or one is more covered then the other (accusations such as “I contribute more to this relationship then you do.”).
When it comes to couple’s counseling, we strive for development rather than change. We want the “WE” to move in a certain direction. That is possible only if we work accepting ourselves, our partner, and the couple simultaneously.
For me, as a psychologist, helping each partner grasp and comprehend the third dimension (“the couple”) is the greatest satisfaction. Partners should be proud and enjoy the fact, that they both contributed to their third dimension. However, we cannot fall victim to the image of an “ideal relationship”, that suffocated it in the first place, but establish a new, healthy dimension of a lively relationship.