Relationship counselling can be pointless. Used properly it is excellent, and there are many excellent relationship counsellors, but often it is a waste of time because of how people use it. There are many people who go to relationship counselling with the pretext of addressing issues, when the real, hidden aim is to avoid those issues. They tell themselves that their problem is one of understanding. That they need more information, more insight, better techniques. But they are hiding behind these as a way of not facing their problems. Today I want to give a wake-up call to the most important thing, after love, for creating a good relationship or ending ones that needs it. I am talking about the C word.
I mean courage!
If you want to hide something, put it in plain view. Nothing is as hard to see as that which is before our eyes. Ludwig Wittgenstein revolutionised 20th century philosophy but showing us how we were blind in this way. It is not only philosophers who are blind. Many of us tell ourselves that our problems are deep and require much analysis and cleverness. Sometimes this is true, but mostly what we lack is courage. We have to be honest with ourselves and one another. That is much, much harder than sophisticated analysis. Am I really committed to this relationship, or do I keep one foot out the door? Is my partner committed, and can I face the truth if they are not? Are we willing to confront our own flaws? Do we put in real effort to do better?
Do I really want this relationship? If the answer is yes, but there are problems (as there usually are) then I need to find the courage and determination to commit and to make things work. In doing this I make myself into a more purposeful and strong person. I have taken a further step in creating a concrete, good life. And if I need to leave, the same applies. When we sit on the fence we live the half-life of a shadow. People fear regret when they are older, but as research shows commitment gone wrong does not lead to soul-corroding regret, rather it is the failure to commit and actually live that creates that. Do you want a life free of regret? Do good to others, but also, commit with courage and make something real out of the time you have.
When Freud invented psychoanalysis it was effective because people had courage and willpower, but lacked insight. He offered them what they lacked. Now we have the opposite problem: people have access to bucketloads of insight but we lack courage and willpower. We need the courage to act and so create something substantial of our lives. In both work and love. And courage means facing and overcoming fear, pain, laziness, excuses, and so on. If we are unwilling to do that, then all the analysis and relationship counselling in the world will be for nothing.