An hour of online couples therapy can help couples look outside of their troubles.
By Marian O'Connor, Relationship Therapist and Head of Training, Psychosexual Therapy, at Tavistock Relationships
Couple and family relationships are under strain at the moment. Many couples report feeling claustrophobic and trapped, not only physically in the confines of their home, but also emotionally, trapped inside with their partner without the air of outside contact, other than online or with a shop keeper - at a distance.
Enforced isolation has put couples back to the state where they were at the beginning of the relationship, when they were spending many hours together getting to know one another. However, this time around they feel they already know each other and they may no longer be curious, they may not be talking. In fact they may now be treating their partner more like a piece of furniture than someone with whom to share thoughts, emotions and news.
For many couples it’s no longer just the two of them. They now have to juggle working from home, child care, home-schooling their kids, taking important work calls, and doing all the cooking and cleaning in a small space. This inevitably causes stress and anxiety, and in turn, conflict. The conflict can lead to feelings of guilt about exposing the children to the worst version of the parental relationship. In these difficult times, it can feel that there is nowhere to hide.
Couples have to be able to talk about the logistics of this new situation in a clear, kind and thoughtful way. They can't assume for example that the other knows they don't want to be interrupted or that they are on a really important call; instead they may need to say something along the lines of: “I need two hours for important calls. When would it be best for you to talk around that?” Couples also need to be able to talk about the heightened emotions they are likely to be feeling as the crisis endures: fear, anxiety, loneliness, sadness, anger, even despair at times. The ability to talk through and let go of some of these emotions in a safe way can leave room for lighter emotions – even laughter and fun.
Zoom us not just for friends
Here at Tavistock Relationships we are able to support isolated couples and families experiencing conflict through our online therapy service, which we launched in 2016. Online therapy is available nationwide and can help a couple come together to talk about the issues they find hard to address. Strangely, sitting together in front of the computer and facing a third person (the therapist), can allow the couple time to think beyond the day to day irritations and business of life, and to get a wider picture about what is working and what is not.
Containing it all in the therapeutic hour usually means couples are efficient at addressing what is really important to them, rather than leaving it until tension builds up and it becomes very hard to talk about. As part of the therapy, we work together to find ways to improve communication outside of the therapy sessions as well as within, leading to a better understanding and a reduction of anxiety.
For more information about the online therapy services available at Tavistock Relationships, including free support to parents in four counties and seven London boroughs, visit www.tavistockrelationships.org or call 020 7380 82888.