Big changes happen across our lifespan, and these changes inevitably have an impact on our relationships. Here are some times you might want some extra support in navigating these changes with your partner(s).
1. When you’re moving in together
Years ago many monogamous couples used to seek out premarital counselling before making the big commitment of getting married. Fewer people are getting married every year, and today, the first big commitment that most couples make to one another is moving in together. Exploring your reasons for moving in together (is it due to financial constraints? A way to deepen your commitment to one another?) can help make sure you’re on the same page. Discussing finances, boundaries, and managing personal space can also be helpful to explore in counselling to ensure that you enter your new space with clear guidelines. Check out this article for ideas on how to start this conversation on your own.
2. If you’re planning to open up your relationship to include other partners
If you’re thinking about changing a monogamous relationship to an open relationship it is a good idea to explore your reasons for wanting to open the relationship. You or your partner might feel differently about opening the relationship after exploring these reasons. Is it about finding other people to meet some of your needs and reduce stress on the relationship? Is it a way to avoid problems between the two of you? Is it about seeking new adventure or connection with others?
It’s also a good idea to negotiate clear and concrete rules about what an open relationship might look like for you and how you might deal with potential conflicts, or one partner changing their mind (one or both of you might discover that an open relationship doesn’t work for you after trying it out).
3. When you’re planning to have children/are pregnant/are adopting
Many people approach parenthood with an idea of the type of parent they want to be and ideas on how they want to raise their children. Making sure that you’re on the same page as your partner, and at least have a rough idea of your approach to parenting can be helpful before you’re in it.
Having small children is often a time of high stress for all parents, and this stress may have an impact on your relationship. Preparing for those times when you won’t have as much time or energy to be present with one another can make the transition a bit smoother.
4. When trust has been broken
There are many ways that trust can be broken in a relationship. It could be a violation of agreed-upon sexual or emotional exclusivity in a relationship (infidelity), lying about how time or money is spent, or a moment of not being there for your partner emotionally when they need you. Regardless of the context, if it is hard for one or both partners to get past a moment where trust was broken it can be helpful to come to counselling and try to better understand and repair this rupture in your bond.
5. At the end of a relationship
It might sound odd, but coming to couples counselling after you have decided to end your relationship can be very helpful. Making sense of what did and didn’t work in the relationship and the significance of it for you can be helpful in processing the loss of the relationship. When you will continue to have contact with your spouse for the purpose of parenting or shared ownership of property or business it’s a good idea to address emotions related to the split and make agreements about future communication. This might involve renegotiating emotional boundaries (what information it is ok/not ok to share), and figuring out when and how to communicate about logistics.