Relationship counselling can be pointless. Used properly it is excellent, and there are many excellent relationship counsellors. But it can be 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 motive 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 a wrong one. 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 your eyes. 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 if we are to create really good relationships or exit wrong ones. 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? We could face our most important questions honestly and clearly, but often we run into pretending that there are deep and complicated psychological problems at play - which no doubt there are, but they are secondary to the simple, important questions.
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. At that point I might face complications that require some depth of analysis. As an experienced therapist I don’t for a moment deny that things can be complicated. In fact I often see that better than others, through my training and experience. But complication and analysis are secondary to the main thing, which each person can only do for themselves, and for which they need no sophistication. Primarily we need to face our fears, look squarely at things, and talk straight to the point. And only then, when we have truly done that, can we conclude that further analysis is needed.
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. The danger is less in getting things wrong, than in living a coward’s life. A half life.
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. If we are willing to be brave, then we can flourish, and counseling is an excellent aid in that.