It Takes a Village to Raise an Adult

January 24, 2019 | By More

by Steven Fick, M.A. (Couple Coach)

If you wanted to build a wooden cabinet, you would probably feel no shame in arranging to study with an experienced woodworker. Many people feel hesitation, however, or even some degree of shame, about looking for a couple counsellor to help them build (or rebuild) a healthy relationship. The thinking is that everyone should be able to maintain satisfying couple relationships; and if one can’t, it’s some sort of personal failing.

Gender-based roles have been profoundly altered in the last couple of generations, and now even the notion of gender is shifting. Knowing how to navigate the waters of couplehood in the turbulent early 21st century is not something we carry in our genes. It’s a learned skill. And what school did we attend to learn it? For almost all of us, that school was our family of origin, observing the relationship our parents had (or did not have). Maybe our parents had a good, loving, respectful relationship. Maybe we observed them successfully talk through their misunderstandings, resolve their conflicts, and keep their relationship thriving. Or maybe not. And maybe even if they had a good relationship, the work of keeping a relationship healthy was probably done behind closed doors, out of our view.

So, many of us find ourselves without solid role-models. If we are caught in repeated patterns of hurtful behaviour with our partner, or endless loops of unresolved conflict, is it because we are broken and need to be fixed? Or is it that we need the opportunity to build the awareness and hone the skills that will foster a happy, healthy connection?

Couple counselling takes various forms. In many cases, what a couple most needs is skillful, honest, compassionate mentoring to rebuild connection, to provide perspective and support in replacing unproductive patterns with productive ones, and to guide them to speak the truth skillfully and listen deeply to their partner.

They say that it takes a village to raise a child. Certainly it also takes a village to raise an adult. Although knowing how to be in relationship may be the most important thing we will ever learn, many people have no functioning “village” when it comes to learning these skills. In today’s world, a skillful couple therapist can go a long way toward providing that “village.”

My wife Signy Fridriksson and I have been married for over 38 years, and we have faced our fair share of challenges—things we brought into the relationship with us, and things that have impacted us from the outside. Over the course of our marriage we saw three  couple counsellors, each one helpful in their way. One taught us some basic communication skills, which we still use, and another gave a helpful perspective to our relationship. The most helpful one guided us through an important challenge and made an invaluable contribution to our success as a couple. We still see her every few years for a “tune-up.” I recently attended a presentation she gave and afterwards thanked her again for what she had done for us. I told her that when Signy and I counsel other couples, I draw on what I learned from her. 

I can’t imagine providing counselling to others without having gone through our own ups and downs, and without having mentors when we needed them—those who mentored our relationship, those who mentored us as we both trained to be couple coaches, and later those who mentored Signy as she trained to be a psychotherapist.

If your couple relationship is not thriving, don’t make the sad mistake of waiting until things are in deep crisis to seek counselling.  Signy and I sometimes see couples whom we could have helped years ago, but who now face an uphill battle to re-build a healthy, functional relationship.

Give yourself a nudge. Give your partner a nudge. Look around for a good counsellor. Learn what you can from that counsellor. If it is not a good fit, don’t give up! Look for another counsellor who offers what you need. Don’t pass up the chance to create a more vibrant and fulfilling life together! 

www.signyfridrikssoncounselling.ca

Category: Articles, Counselling & Coaching

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