Sometimes an enquiry comes in to Birmingham Counselling Services from someone sounding rather sad and confused for two very different reasons. The first reason is that their (youngest) child has left home and they are grieving for their loss – sometimes to their surprise. The second reason is that they find themselves living with a stranger.
Many years ago the enquirer formed a loving relationship with someone they hoped to spend the rest of their life with. The two of them set up home together and in due course they became parents, by giving birth, by adoption, by fostering, by loving and caring for dependent children who became the focus of their lives. These children have now become sufficiently independent to leave their parental home, and their parents find themselves alone with each other. Could relationship counselling or counselling for couples help?
Is this a situation you recognise? It might be as long as twenty-five years since the last time you and your partner were really alone together, and so much has happened since then. Your time, your energy, all your resources have been spent on nurturing your young, and what used to be your primary relationship has taken second place. You and your partner have changed and developed and grown older – neither of you is exactly the person you were when you first got together.
Sometimes the couple will breathe a huge sigh of relief that they have a bit more space in their lives and their relationship, and they will move on together in a positive and hopeful frame of mind. But all too often the shock of the space feels less than positive, it dawns on you that the children have been a filter/deflector for your communication with each other, that your concentration on them has meant that the two of you have forgotten what it means to have direct contact.
If this is where you fear you might be, please don’t keep it to yourself. If you can, talk to your partner about it. If this feels like a step too far, try asking yourself some simple questions about your partner:
Can you answer these questions? Perhaps you can make it a game. If you can find the courage and the words to tell your partner what you are doing and why, you could both try asking yourselves what you know about the other. Yes, there are risks, and if improving your relationship is your priority, taking risks is what you might have to do.
Make a list of things your remember that attracted you to your partner in the first place. If you really looked for them, would you find that those qualities are still there? Could you invite your partner on a date, and rediscover some of them? And the qualities that s/he found in you? You’ve achieved so much together over the years, isn’t it worth setting yourselves one more challenge rather than giving up?
If all of this is just too scary to think about it might be that talking to one of the qualified and experienced counsellors at Birmingham Counselling Services would help you. Perhaps your partner would come with you – there are counsellors who specialise in working with couples- relationship cousenlling. We can learn such a lot from listening while our partner is talking to someone else.